My daughter is truly the best kind of person. Now, before you go on thinking –well, duhhh, she is your daughter so of course you’re going to say that- Just hear me out for a second. I honestly believe that all children are better at this life stuff than we are, and maybe it’s because of their innocence but we really could learn to take a cue or two from these little humans we’re raising. They have a knack for viewing the world in the most magical of ways and I believe that if we all lived in the world the way they see it, we would absolutely, 100%, be better for it.
I cannot tell you how many times I think to myself I wish I had as much energy as Olivia has, I wish I was always as happy as Olivia is, etc., etc. Because of this, I have decided to write down exactly the kind of person I would want to be, based on the kind of person she is. The life lessons that my daughter is teaching me, and the life lessons that everyone else could use as well.
1. Wake up happy. If Dominic and I have gotten into an argument the night before and go to sleep still upset (that rarely happens because we kind of made it a rule to not go to bed angry -or at least without saying I love you- but sometimes my
pride stubborn-ness wins), I’ll wake up unsettled and in a funk. If I wake up with a sore neck, I’ll start my day off on the wrong side. If my little friend who may or may not be named Olivia decides that she wants to toss and turn in our bed all night, resulting in zero sleep, I’ll wake up a not so nice person. Not Olivia! 95% of the time, she wakes up with a huge smile on her face, ready to take on the day. Even when she’s sick, even when she hasn’t slept much, even when she gets woken up. Can you imagine having that “ready to conquer the world” attitude every morning when you wake up? We’d be unstoppable….like Olivia.
2. Run around at least once a day. I honestly wish anything made me as happy as Olivia gets when she is running around. Seriously. Running around our yard -with or without a ball, with or without someone chasing her, hell, with or without someone playing with her at all- makes her so incredibly happy. As long as she gets to do that once a day, she is satisfied. So the takeaway is one, something as simple as running around should be able to make us happy and two, running around, getting that heart beating fast, getting that blood pumping, is something that can make us happy and feel better.
3. Bubbles cure a bad day. Can you imagine a world in which you’re having a bad day and ALL YOU NEED is a nice little bubble sesh with your BFF (me, obviously) to rid that bad day? That’s Olivia’s world. So much better than gaining two pounds from all the cookies I’d stuff my face with to rid my bad day ;)
4. Milk, water and tea are all you need to drink. Olivia won’t drink anything that’s colored. No juice, no smoothies, no lemonade, definitely no soda. I’m totally not complaining about this, although I wish she did like smoothies to make up for the fruit and veggies she won’t eat (but that’s what popsicles are for ;). This is one life lesson we actually do follow, besides coffee of course (which she sometimes gets……aka vanilla milk from Starbucks or the occasional hot chocolate.). Maybe she gets all the energy and happiness from all the processed crap she isn’t drinking!
5. Be a cuddler, but also know it’s okay to space. Olivia is definitely a cuddler. And oh how it is one of my most favorite things ever. “Mama, I hold you?” “Mama, come cuddle me!” Music. To. My. Ears. Her ratio of cuddling to not wanting to cuddle is seriously probably 80/20. On the flip side, she’s not afraid to tell you when she wants to get down, or when she doesn’t want to cuddle. And we don’t push it either. We would never ever want her to feel like she has to cuddle anyone….that includes Dominic and Me. Lesson here: Cuddle more, but it’s okay if there are days when you’re really not feeling it.
6. Love and talk to everyone, don’t discriminate. If I had a penny for every time Olivia said hi to a complete stranger, or hugged a fellow toddler/baby, I’d be rich. I cannot take this girl anywhere without her making an instant friend. She has no conception of Stranger Danger and she never detects when someone is being rude to her. Are you a baby hating old lady standing behind us at the grocery store? Guess what, my daughter doesn’t care. In fact, she is going to say hi to you until she’s blue in the face so you’re better off saying hi right off the bat because she’s not gonna stop until she gets that Hi, and I am definitely not going to make her.
7. Laugh more than you’re mad. Olivia’s first thought in the morning is happiness. Laughter. Excitement. She definitely has her moments, and sometimes she really does get mad at the silliest things (as humans do), but she makes up for it with how much she laughs. Everything is fun and funny to her. If someone spills my plate of food, I’m like “Um…WTF?” but if someone were to spill Olivia’s food, she would seriously just laugh and go, “It’s otay!!” I really love food so maybe that wasn’t the best example but you get where I’m going with this… Can you imagine if you laughed more than you were mad? Adults take everything so seriously. Not children though. They think it’s funny and chances are, it probably is!
8. Go with the flow and don’t complain. (she totally gets this from Dominic.). Dominic and I have this really expensive past time where we like to drive around and look at houses that we’ll one day live in. We stop and get some coffee (expense #1) and then drive around for an hour or so (expense #2) and breathe in the fresh air and just talk. Most of the time we’re in our PJs, so we don’t get out anywhere but I really love it. Olivia doesn’t complain at all. She never cries to get out, she never says she’s bored, she just rolls with it and cruises along with us. (PS: We’ve since switched our habits a bit and ride our bikes to get coffee and ride around our town, but we definitely still look at houses….and she still sits in her bike seat without complaint, even on hotter days.) She also doesn’t complain if we have to switch around our plans. I try really hard to plan out our days, but sometimes they spiral out of control and really, I’m the only one that’s upset in the end. Olivia and Dominic are both teaching me to just go with the flow, enjoy life and not stress out about things that you can’t really control. I know that I’m not the only one that needs to be taught this lesson!
9. Books are more important than electronics. Do you remember what life was like before Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/anyoutletofsocialmedia? Do you remember having to actually read a book that you borrowed from the library rather than buying it on your Kindle? I do. Sometimes I miss that life. That is Olivia’s life. Granted she’s almost three and wouldn’t have social media outlets anyway, I see a lot of kids with iPads in their hands, or locked in a daze staring at the TV. I don’t want that for Olivia. We have a rule that she doesn’t get to play with cell phones (except to take pictures because she really loves it) and if she does ask to play on the iPad, we monitor her time. Usually about a half hour to an hour, but never more than that. The best part though, is that she doesn’t mind it. She doesn’t NEED those things the way we may feel that we do. And even better? She would happily choose a book over playing with the iPad. Olivia LOVES books. And we plan on encouraging that for as long as we can. What I take away from this is that I need to put my iPad/iPhone down a lot more and read a damn book….and that does not include the five times a day I read If You Give a Pig a Pancake. Especially because I used to fly through books like it was my job!
10. You really shouldn’t sleep past 9 unless you’re not feeling good. Gone are the days that Olivia and I are still snuggled under the covers, just waking up at 10:30 am. Oh how I miss those days, I loved those days. Now, we’re up no later than 8am. I know that some kids wake their parents up so much earlier than that, so I know I’m lucky. But, I am just so not a morning person. Olivia on the other hand, she doesn’t know what “sleeping in” means, she doesn’t know that she can lay around and that her mama would totally be okay with that ;) Nope, when she’s up, she’s up. The only way she’s sleeping in, or falling back asleep a little after she wakes up is if she’s sick. I have a whole new appreciation for mornings though, and I realize now that I don’t need to sleep in. I don’t need to be sleeping my morning away. I need to be up. I need to get going. I need to eat breakfast and then play outside. WE need these things!
11. Be blunt about your feelings. Because Olivia is finally starting to understand her emotions, you will now never not know how she’s feeling. That’s a promise. Sad, mad, happy, excited, angry, surprised, scared, cold, “kinda chilly”, hot, and many more. She’s gonna tell you exactly which one she is, whether you ask or not. Why shouldn’t I be the same way? Why does Dominic have to ask me more than once what’s wrong with me, or vice versa? Why can’t I take a cue from my daughter and just always be upfront and honest about exactly the way I’m feeling in that exact moment?
12. Whenever you hear music, you have to dance….no matter what you’re doing. Olivia is a dancer. But she never dances alone. Can you guess who her dance partner is? That’s right. “Mama! Let’s dance!” “Mama, can you dance with me please?” “Mama, I love to dance. Do YOU love to dance?” Whenever she hears music, she stops whatever she’s doing (not even the potty can hold her back), and she just lets loose. Just the other day we were twirling around IKEA. If a little person asks you to dance, you dance. You don’t ask questions either, you just do it. And then thank them afterwards because you won’t even believe how much better of a mood you’re in after you shake what your mama gave you in the middle of aisle 6.
13. Forgive and forget. There are some days when Olivia is a little more difficult. There are some days when my fuse is a little short. And then there are the days that Olivia is a little more difficult on the same day that my fuse is a little short. Those days are hard. We both act in ways that we normally don’t and I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not pretty. Remember how I said in #1 that if Dominic and I end the day upset with each other, sometimes we’ll wake up, still upset? That’s not how Olivia works. In fact, give her five minutes and she’s fine, she doesn’t even need a whole night to sleep it off. If she knows it was her fault and that she was acting out, she really will come up to me and apologize, kiss me, and tell me she loves me. I WISH that I was half as graceful as my child. She forgives and forgets in a second. With me, it takes a little longer. Although, I can honestly say that this is one area that I have definitely improved on because of her.
14. See the best in everybody. I know this kind of ties in with #6, but there’s a specific story here. A few weeks ago, we were at the mall, watching a movie in their park area. Out of nowhere, this little group of kids starts running around near us. Olivia got up and ran over to them, instantly expecting new friends to run around with. Except this group of brats (mama bear comes out reaaaaaalllly quick with this story.), decides to purposely not include her. They stood right in front of her, the four of them holding hands, purposely isolating her and started to play ring around the rosie. Olivia LOVES ring around the rosie. What does my beautiful, kind hearted, totally unphased child do? She runs around on the outside of their circle, laughing from her toes, singing the song and falling down right on cue. It broke my heart but also made me so proud. She didn’t even once think that these kids were giving her the cold shoulder. She played with them anyway. I won’t lie, I went home and cried to Dominic that night because my mama heart was so hurt. But not Olivia’s. She had “so much fun!” I want to live in a world where things don’t bother me, and I just continue keeping on with my bad self.
15. Be spontaneous. She jumps in puddles whenever the hell she pleases, she ALWAYS wants to dance in the rain (totally my fault ;), she sings whenever she wants, dances while everyone watches her, (or when no one is watching her at all), wants to race through rooms at IKEA…. Being spontaneous is what keeps us young. That sudden impulse to do a certain thing, it’s what keeps us feeling alive and happy. It’s a reminder that we don’t always have to have a plan, we don’t always have to have a rhyme, or a reason. Sometimes it just feels right, you know? Why wouldn’t we want to be spontaneous? I am more spontaneous because of her.
16. The little things are the best things. If only we could all live in a world where nature walks and blowing out candles and putting laundry in the dryer and loving on stuffed animals and eating spaghetti were labled as “The best things EVER”. Wait a minute…..why can’t we? Why shouldn’t we? Olivia doesn’t care about the iPhone3000, that’s not the best thing to her, that’s not what she’s talking about right now. Nope, Olivia would rather be enjoying the sweet taste of invisible tea at a tea party with her mama, thank you very much. That’s her idea of the best thing. In my opinion, we’ve all become a little too materialistic, myself included. We should make more time for the little things because, like children know and prove every single day, those are really the best things in life.
17. Say thank you. The other day, I was giving Olivia a mid-day steam bath (baby colds suck!) when she said, “Mama, can I please paint in the bath?” Of course I said yes, not only because she was sick and could’ve had whatever she wanted ;), but also because she said please. About a half hour later, I took her out of the bath, lotioned her up, brushed her hair, changed her and blah blah blah and as I’m carrying her down the stairs to have a snack, she kisses me on the cheek and says, “Mama? Thank you for letting me paint in the bath.” She really does appreciate everything we do and it’s nice to hear, and know. The other night she told Dominic, “Dada, thank you for reading me my Olivia book.” His reaction was priceless, he looked so touched by her words. Being appreciated is nice. I credit this one to Dominic and I. We don’t ALWAYS do it, but we do it often. Like I said, it’s nice to be appreciated. We know it, and are more than happy to pass that down to her to know it too.
18. Appreciate the beauty that surrounds us. Olivia loves nature. She is happy when she’s outside, she loves the clouds and the stars and there are even some nights where she won’t even think about going to bed unless she gets to say goodnight to the moon. We absolutely love to show and encourage this stuff. Because nature really is so beautiful. Our surroundings are the purest form of beauty and Olivia gets that. She appreciates it. She loves it. Olivia, you have the right idea, girlfriend.
19. Accept a compliment. If you complement Olivia, she’s going to say thank you. She’s not gonna reply with, “oh thanks but I really hate my hair today” or “ew, no I don’t. I’m so fat!” She knows she’s beautiful. We make sure that she knows it now and we’ve also vowed to make sure that she knows it as she gets older, too. We always want her to know that she’s beautiful inside and out. If only we could all practice the same thought process. If only we all knew our worth and that we are beautiful, every last one of us. Olivia is on a kick right now where she takes pictures of everything, including us. At all the wrong angles of course and usually, I’d just delete them. But lately, I’ve found myself not bring able to delete even (what I think are) the worst pictures of myself. My daughter takes pictures of me, she thinks I’m beautiful. She tells me I’m beautiful. She shows me that I need to appreciate the exact person that I am and stop pointing out all of the so called “flaws” that I claim I have. She also gives complements like it’s her job. “Mama, I lovvvve your hair.” “Dada you look soooo pretty today.” I think giving complements when you feel like it is just as important as accepting them. Women complementing each other is so much classier than bashing each other, and sadly, that fact is becoming less and less. I don’t want Olivia to be one of the mean girls.
And above all:
20. It’s okay to have a bad day. Olivia is a beautiful soul. But even beautiful soul’s have bad days. And I think that it’s important to know that. If she’s being a little whinier than usual, I’ll tell Dominic, “She’s just having a bad day, that’s okay. We’re all allowed bad days.” And then there are the days where I’m feeling frustrated and he has to remind me that it’s okay that she’s having a bad day, or it’s okay that I’m having a bad day. You are not required to feel groovy all day every day. If you wake up and you’re not feeling it, that’s okay. We want her to know that, and like I said, I think it’s important that we know that too.
If I’m being honest, most of these, I totally know she got from either myself, Dominic, or both of us and our actions and our views/attitudes toward things. It’s something that we take pride in. I mean, how can we not? No one else is teaching her this game of life, we are. So of course we are going to give credit where credit is due. Sometimes we may not always follow them as well as she does, but we are working on it. Since day one, we have tried our hardest to be intentional parents. We are seriously always talking about how we want to raise Olivia, what we can improve on, what else we’d like to be teaching her, so on and so forth. If we want to teach her to be the best version of herself, then we have to be our best versions as well. I will say, however, that some of these, I have no clue where she got them. (actually reading back, I can only list two that aren’t from either of us: #2 , because we really hate running and #10 because we both love to sleep :P ) Either way, I’m glad she did because all of this makes up the most perfect and scrumptious little girl and we are so happy and proud to call her our daughter. Like I said, we could all definitely take a cue or two from these babies. My daughter truly makes me a better person and I am so thankful for that. Dominic and I both are.
P.S. Dominic read this and said “I want to cry because I love our baby so much.” Me too, babe, me too.