Children learn so very fast. I have such a long list of things I want to learn that I sometimes look with envy at the little people around me and their miraculous brains. How can I make time for my studies? As I have watched little children there are two little lessons that greatly impact my ability to learn.
Lesson number 1: Childlike hope-the parable of falling down
When children are learning to walk, they fall down a lot. It drives me crazy as I try to catch them and help them. It’s impossible to prevent them from ever falling down. At first they can’t even stand stably. They wobble and wiggle. When they can finally take a step, it is amazing and applauded. Through the whole process, we take it for granted that they will someday walk. We raise them up when they fall with words of encouragement and hope.
Learning anything is like learning to walk. I will wobble and fall. How do I talk to myself when learning? Can you imagine speaking to a toddler that way? Can you imagine a baby learning to walk, who falls and you say “you stupid baby! You’ll never learn to walk!” We would never do that! It’s crazy to even think it! We know the baby will be able to walk. Do we know that we will be able to learn?
What if we started speaking to ourselves like we speak to a toddler learning to walk? Our falls and failings are no less a part of the learning process. What if, when we fail, we said “You can do it! Hop up! It’s okay!” When I accept that falling is inevitable, with childlike hope I can focus my energy on learning instead of beating myself up. Hope keeps me learning longer. It helps me learn faster as I am willing to try things that despair would prevent me from trying. We would never expect an infant to go from crawling straight to running . . . what if we had hope in our own natural ability to learn and the patience of hope to allow ourselves time?
Lesson number 2: Childlike clarity-drop everything for what you want
My little son had a little wooden engine. He carried it everywhere. When he finally fell asleep we would pry his pudgy little fingers open, to remove the train and smooth his cheek from the indents the wheels had made. If it was ever lost, the world stood still until we turned over everything to find it. He loved that engine. No matter how much he loved that engine, if I walked up with food when he was hungry, he would drop it for something as simple as a strawberry. There wasn’t any thought, or debate. He just dropped it immediately and reached out for the strawberry. Childlike clarity.
How quickly can I identify what I want? Once I determine I want something, am I willing to sacrifice for it? I have found that choosing between studying and laundry is easy. Laundry never wins. What about Facebook, or games or email or watching TV? If I only sacrifice my duties that is unsustainable. At some point the dishes have to be done and bills have to be paid. I have to learn childlike clarity to identify what I want and what I should drop to make it happen.
I am still learning these lessons. I got a guitar for Christmas. I’ve wanted one for ages. I can just see myself sitting around a campfire playing and singing with my family. I’ve had some bumps along the road in the past month. It took longer than I wanted for my fingers to grow calluses so it wouldn’t hurt to play. I’m not as quick as I’d like and apparently fingers can trip over themselves as surely as feet can. In my determination to learn well, I still only know three chords. Tuning the guitar has been a challenge and I’ve broken strings . . . it’s only been one month! I feel I understand childlike hope.
I’m still learning about clarity . . . just the other day I was attempting to learn how to play “Lean on Me”. As I was sitting there enjoying my eight-year old-singing along and my little baby dancing to the music, my oldest daughter walked in. “Mrs. B was wondering if she could come in and chat for a few minutes, Mom.” she said. Good feeling gone. The room was a mess. I was still in sweats and my hair was in its unaided glory. Mrs. B and I chatted, took care of the business at hand and she was off. I put my guitar up and started getting to my more pressing business of the day . . . frustrated that I didn’t have more time to play guitar without guilt. I had sacrificed laundry and housekeeping to play guitar. I had not sacrificed Facebook or the non-essential emails I had written. I had watched a basketball game. Hop up. I can do this. I can figure out how to balance my life. I can figure out what needs to fall out so I can do what I want to do.
What do you want to learn? What will you need to sacrifice for it? How are you going to embrace the many falls along the way?
About Britt Kelly
Britt grew up in a family of six brothers and one sister and gained a bonus sister later. She camped in the High Sierras, canoed down the Colorado, and played volleyball at Brigham Young University. She then served a mission to South Africa. With all of her time in the gym and the mountains and South Africa, she was totally prepared to become the mother of 2 sons and soon to be 9 daughters. By totally prepared she means willing to love them and muddle through everything else in a partially sleepless state. She is mostly successful at figuring out how to keep the baby clothed, or at least diapered, though her current toddler is challenging this skill. She feels children naturally love to learn and didn’t want to disrupt childhood curiosity with worksheets and school bells. She loves to play in the dirt, read books, go on adventures, watch her children discover new things, and mentor her children. Her oldest child is currently at a community college and her oldest son is going to high school at a public school. She loves to follow her children in their unique paths and interests. She loves to write because, unlike the laundry and the dishes, writing stays done. Whenever someone asks her how she does it all she wonders what in the world they think she’s doing.