He who taught me life is good

I am writing about #MyRoleModel as a part of the activity by Gillette India in association with Blogadda.com.

I had a million things to do. And yet, I sat and watched him squinting in the sun, digging up the soil in the sunflower pot with his fingertips, with all the concentration of a seasoned scientist on the brink of an earth-shattering invention. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from him. I just sat and watched. He probably felt my eyes on him, because he turned and looked at me. And then he broke into one of those smiles. The kind of smile that always makes me wonder what I possibly did right to deserve something like that.

Mamma! He chimed. The one word that is so musical that it makes you want to ask Beethoven and Mozart and the lot of them why they even bothered…

When I look at my 21-month-old, apart from feeling that inevitable pang of love (except for when I see him developing his fingertip muscles at the cost of my books), I want to be like him. And not just because he can get away with sleeping through the day if he so wants (and people actually want him to sleep as much as possible!) or because his biggest possible worry in life would be how to get the ball out from under the bed. I want to be like him because he has got so many philosophies of life nailed to the core.

Life isn’t about hiding from the storm; it’s about dancing in the rain! To think about it, it’s only as adults who need shoulders to cry on, closed doors, and even shrinks to help us back on our feet when we fall flat on our face. When my son was beginning to walk, he would fall ten times in three minutes, and shuffle to his feet, ready as ever for fall number eleven. At the most, he would take a short crying break and move on all recharged. And all of a sudden, all those forwarded emails (Failure is the pillar of success, Failure is not in falling but in not getting up, and so on) were starting to make sense.

He also taught me to set short-term, achievable challenges for myself, and he was leading by example: Crawl two feet (Check); Crawl without falling off bed (Check); Stand up grabbing on to cot railings (Check); Stand on own for ten seconds (Check) … and not rest till the challenge is met. Some challenges would be met in a few hours, but some would take days, or weeks. But just plow on fearlessly and confidently, one baby step at a time (literally!) and you will get there. Give up? What’s that? And for God’s sake, stop beating yourself up over a mistake. Move on, improvise and try it another way next time.

Alongside, he was reminding me to not be so obsessed with the challenges that you miss out on the other lovely things in life. Climbing onto the sofa at one go was important, very important, and needed dedicated practice. But that certainly didn’t mean he wouldn’t take time off for a ten-minute session of throwing random things off the balcony!

While my weekends would be spent sprawled across the unmade bed, feeling too lazy to even pick up the book from the bedside table, he would examine and experiment, observe and learn without a break. Even when he might seem to be finally resting his legs, in reality, he is either engrossed in a line of marching ants or learning the hard way that a patch of sunshine cannot be captured in the fist.

I wish to cash in on his endless bounty of energy, his unquenchable thirst for learning and his ability to view the world as an amazing place full of incredible things that must be explored right away!

If he could speak, he would sum up for me what he believed in: Life teaches something new everyday; so don’t bunk the class! Always keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities to learn. When you take a break from learning, you take a break from living.”

Money can’t buy happiness; because babies are not up for sale. I used to visit an old-age home back in my hometown from time to time. On special occasions, the inmates used to be taken out on trips around the city. You know which trip they never stopped talking about for years after? The trip to an orphanage. Children who never saw grandparents had spent the day snuggling with grandparents who hadn’t seen their grandchildren for months, maybe years. The old, frail, diseased men and women giggled and clapped, hugged and told stories. The children looked like they were in a trance. At the end of the day, there was not an eye that wasn’t sparkling, some with tears of joy, some with unsuppressed excitement, and the rest with the wonder of witnessing the love that flew thick in the dilapidated building.

At one time, my mother was slowly but surely drowning into an inexplicable sense of dissatisfaction with life, which leaned dangerously towards chronic depression. Medical professionals were consulted, pills prescribed, refused, forced; long counseling sessions followed with various family members, some of which made matters worse, while most remained ineffective. Then my son was born. And since the day my mother took him in her arms, she has never needed to go back to a doctor. That tiny, wailing, pooping bundle did for her what the huge family, the line of doctors and expensive pills had failed to.

The reason I brought up these two snippets from real life is to prove that children have this gift of scattering happiness wherever they go, without effort, without faking it. How do they do it?

We, the adults, need a reason to be happy – finally saving enough money for a big screen TV, a well-deserved promotion, an exotic holiday – and as soon as the reason starts losing its charm, the happiness starts slipping away; and we spend all our time chasing after it. Children have never needed a reason to be happy. They just are. And it’s difficult, even for the toughest of us, to not be happy around little beings who are always happy but don’t know why.

What a blessed life it would be, if I could borrow this horde of happiness from my child, and spread it wherever I went. What I wouldn’t give to have the prowess to light up eyes just by holding someone’s finger in my fist and smiling up to them, and remind someone why life is worth living, simply with a sloppy kiss or a sudden hug.

Dance like you don’t care who is watching. It’s very simple. Hurting? Just cry. Feeling bubbles of laughter pushing up from the stomach? Let it come out. Loud. Learnt a new word? Say it every second of the day. That foot-tapping song coming on TV? Well, just tap your feet, wiggle that rotund, diaper-y bottom and throw those little arms in the air. Want something? Ask! What else is there to do? What does it matter of your dad’s boss is over for dinner, or it is the ungodly hour of three in the morning? Children grasp the blissful concept of spontaneity and lack of inhibition many years before they would learn to spell them, and the irony is, by the time they do learn to spell them, they would have lost the gift.

Only if I could learn from him to not keep my emotions and wishes bottled up, to express myself clearly and fearlessly, and avoid that one not-so-fine day when it all bursts out in the form of an ugly, destructive monster.

Love like you can’t help it. My child goes Wooweee! at the sight of the three-legged stray dog at the gate every morning. He goes Woweee! the exact same way when I pick him up at the daycare in the evening (only, I also get a drooling kiss, in which I score over the dog). The look of adoration in his eyes for his grandma is matched by the love with which he looks at the maid. He will spread his arms out as soon as the milkman is at the door, and he can’t leave to go about his job without picking him up once. He loves our neighbors and relatives of all age and sizes and has a charming, dimply smile for just about everyone. His love is amazingly unconditional, not altered by insignificant factors like whether they know his name or the price of the gifts they brought him.

At which point in life exactly do we start rationing our love and giving only as much as we get? And why do we carry the heavy burdens of grudges and hatred when we have role models of forgiveness right in front of our eyes? Have you ever met a child who refuses to give his mother a hug because she forgot to feed him at the right time (*cringes*) or often serves cereals for all four meals (*cringes again*), or hold it against a dad who scolded him for trying to reprogram his iPad?

Well, my role model is still in his diapers. But that doesn’t make him any less qualified to impart a few lessons that probably all of us were born with but lost somewhere down the line, along the busy road called living. And if only I can improvise a little and implement his philosophies in my life, I would be able to live a truly king-size life. Or baby-size. They are just the same thing.

20140209_092830           #Selfie with my little role model

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