Watching Emma playing with her friends has brought me to a few conclusions about childhood, adulthood and everything lost in between.

As we get older, and supposedly wiser, we seem to lose the ways of a child, the ways that make children so magical. We replace child-like wonder and wonderment with judgement, paranoia, mistrust, dishonesty and rigidity. We lose touch with our feelings and emotions and gradually build layers and layers around ourselves, like an onion. We carry our hurts around with us like a child carries a binky, blankie or teddy. We look back at ‘what if’s’ and ‘if only’s’ and we’re always waiting for that one special thing that’s going to make our lives so much better – the new job, the right guy, the bigger house, the fancy car. We are never in the now. We never look at our lives and where we are with a sense of contentment, we’re always wanting more, needing more, wishing for more.

As adults we take things personally, we blame, we accuse, we point fingers. We lie, we belittle, we weave webs so intricate we don’t know where it begins or ends. We forget the good so quickly but allow the bad to become etched into our hearts, our minds, our souls. Children on the other hand, the very people we think we’re teaching and guiding and raising, could teach us so much if we stopped preaching and started watching, listening.

I’ve learned a few things from watching Emma interact in social situations and if I could do as she does, and not as I say, I know I’d be a better person.

Emma has a lot of friends. Black, white, tall, short, skinny and plump. She has Jewish friends and Greek friends, Italian and Afrikaans friends. Some are Catholic and some are Methodist. Some are non-denominational. A few are rich, some are middle-class, some are very rich and some extremely middle-class. You see where I’m going with this? Children don’t see colour. They don’t see religion. They don’t see money. They see a person and as a toddler, seeing is believing. That’s enough for them. Children need nothing else.

Occasionally Emma has too many friends around to play with all at once. So she’ll play with Charlie and Luca for a while and then spend some quality time with Virginia. If she sees Khensi she’ll dash and play with her. If at any stage she feels like playing with Charlie and Luca again, well, then she simply joins in where she left off. There’s no hard feelings. There’s no resentment. There’s no questioning why. As adults we seem to want keep special friends to ourselves and we get jealous if they happen to spend time with someone else.

As mentioned before, adults are always looking back or ahead. We’re never just. We seldom spend time in the now. I watched Emma recently. She’ll be playing in the sand pit and decide she wants to swing. Off she goes to the swing. After a while she’ll make her way to the slide. And whatever she’s doing, it’s because that what she feels like doing. Children don’t sit in the sand pit wishing and hoping to be on the swing. They take action. They do.

Unlike adults, children deal with their emotions. If they don’t have the words to express themselves then they throw a tantrum, and that’s okay. Sometimes I would LOVE to be able to throw a tantrum and get everything out of my system in one foul swoop. How nice would it be to be able to tell someone “I don’t like you right now” and know that come tomorrow we would be starting off on a clean slate. When children can’t speak or express themselves we send them to OT, PT, ST, not realizing we’re been OTT. Yet as we get older we stifle our feelings. As an adult we would rather die before we tell someone how we actually feel. We tiptoe around issues and people and then spend sleepless nights wondering why we’re misunderstood.

Emma is kind and caring. The friends she plays with are kind and caring too. They feel sad if their friend’s sad. They look worried if their friend’s worried. They play together and share freely (most of the time), often giving you the very thing they just had in their mouth. The hug and kiss each hello and goodbye. They tell each other how much they love them and cry a little when their friend leaves.

I hope we’re doing a fairly good job preparing Emma for the world. We’re strict with manners and it shows. Emma says “please” and “thank you”. She says “you’re welcome” and “bless you” if you sneeze. Emma is so loveable and she gives the best hugs ever. If she sees I’m a little sad, she immediately gets concerned, perching herself on my lap, asking “what’s wrong mama?” and giving me a reassuring kiss, telling me “you see, it’s better”. Emma has a pure heart and seems to be a sensitive soul. She’s funny and clever and compassionate and caring. She’s aware of her surroundings and the people within it. She is the apple of my eye and the love of her daddy’s life. She loves animals and people and will greet a close friend the same way she says hello to an absolute stranger.

As an imperfect parent with an almost-perfect toddler I’m aware of the damage I can do with my thoughts, words and actions. Sadly I can destroy the very things that make Emma such an amazing little girl. But I’m trying the best I know how…

Today, Emma and I were reading and there was a picture of a sad looking little monkey. Emma immediately said “Shame, monkey’s sad mama” and leaned forward to give it a kiss. “There, all better.” Watching her I whispered, “You must always have a kind heart. Always be good to be people and let your light shine through.” Almost finished with my little soap box moment I added, “Good manners will get you far. So will kindness and love. Promise me you’ll always have a good heart?”

Emma stopped smooching the monkey long enough to look up at me and say “It’s a deal mama!”

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