As adults, we often think we know more than our children. After all, we've been around longer and have had many more life experiences. But sometimes there is a wisdom that comes from deep inside a person. It's not something we can learn from a book or develop as a result of what we've gone through. Instead, it's a knowing that comes from clearing our heads and allowing our souls to speak. And many times, the voices that deliver these powerful messages are not "experienced" adults, but rather pure and innocent children.
A few recent conversations with my young daughter prove this point. Our family has had a very challenging year, full of struggles. There are many days when I wake up and wonder how our lives got to be such a mess. During these moments of sadness, I long for the better days we once shared. One day, while I was talking about how I wish things could be they way they were before, my daughter offered this:
"Sometimes you just have to go where the river takes you.
You can't paddle backwards."
Such a simple statement, but so powerful. Why do we grownups always feel we need to control where we go and where we end up? Why must we dwell on the events of the past, rather than just seeing what life has in store for us next? I can only imagine how less stressful life would become if we all released our pasts and just let the river carry us to our next destination.
Sounds great, huh? Unfortunately, few of us have mastered this way of thinking. It seems we're on a lifelong quest for happiness, which is often equated to that new job, new house, better relationship, dream vacation, financial gain, etc. We're convinced that if only we reached these goals, then we would be happy. However, if and when we do achieve them, we quickly realize that our so-called happiness is fleeting. The reason: we have the wrong idea about what happiness is.
During one of my down days, my daughter again shared her innate wisdom:
"Mom, you know why I'm so happy all the time?
Because I don't think about the past or worry about the future.
I live in the present."
Sometimes the words that come out of her mouth amaze me. She seems to know a thing or two about life without anyone telling her. She's never meditated, never learned about mindfulness or living in the moment. She hasn't read books about how to let the past go and not worry about the future — she just does this, naturally, because it feels right to her. She embraces the moment and enjoys it to the fullest. It never even crosses her mind that there is something else she needs to do next.
Of course, her philosophy is in stark contrast to my way of living. I'm an achiever, always thinking about what I need to accomplish next and trying to get everything done as quickly as possible. The problem with my approach is that I often miss out on enjoying the present. And sometimes, my problems overwhelm me, and I wonder if things will ever be okay again. My daughter has a message about that, too. She recently told me:
"When you're traveling down the river,
sometimes you hit a few rocks or even go over a waterfall.
But smooth waters are always ahead."
Life does indeed present many challenges. But we can take faith in knowing that our struggles do eventually pass. Calmer, happier times do come again. In the meantime, we should look to our children as perfect examples of how to live. Enjoy and embrace each moment as it comes. Don't look back on past traumas or mistakes, but instead live each day to the fullest. Let the river carry you whenever you are meant to go.
Has your child offered some unexpected words of wisdom? Please share his or her insight in the comments below.