“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.” —Angela Schwindt
Children add joy, purpose, and fulfillment to our lives. They bring us smiles, optimism, and cheerful attitudes. And given the chance, they will teach us valuable life lessons.
Certainly, growing children (physically, socially, intellectually, and emotionally) have added a new dimension to our minimalist journey, but I would’t want it any other way. In fact, some of the most important lessons about life and minimalism have been learned by watching my children.
1. One neighborhood friend is worth more than a basement full of toys. My two kids can spend countless hours with their neighborhood friends running from yard to yard, playing tag, catching bugs, or swinging on swings. They can spend every afternoon and evening together without being bored. But take them away from their friends for one Saturday at home with their toys… and boredom almost immediately sets in. The joy of playing alone in a roomful of toys quickly fades.
LIFE LESSON: Relationships with others are always more exciting and fulfilling than possessions.
2. Clothes are not worn to impress others. My First Grade son has two requirements for his clothing: 1) that he can get them dirty and 2) that he won’t get too hot. He has never worn a shirt to impress a girl or a pair of slacks to impress his teacher. (He has worn a shirt and slacks because his parents asked him to, but that’s a different subject). I don’t think the idea of trying to impress others by wearing the latest fashions has ever crossed his mind. He feels no pressure to conform or impress. And thus, he’s simply content with a clean tanktop and shorts.
LIFE LESSON: Wear clothing for its usefulness rather than as an attempt to impress others.
3. Life’s pains are healed best by a hug and a kiss… not new toys. My daughter falls down often (as most four year olds do). And when she skins her knee, she only wants one thing – her mommy to pick her up, give her a kiss, and tell her that everything is going to be okay. She doesn’t ask for a new toy… she only desires love and security. She has found the antidote to pain and wouldn’t trade it for anything else.
LIFE LESSON: Don’t look towards “things” to soothe the pain we encounter in life. Instead, seek love, acceptance, and security.
4. Fancy possessions and character are completely unrelated. I love helping in my son’s First Grade classroom because Kindergarten and First Grade may be the only places left on earth where labels don’t exist. At age 7, everyone is accepted and everyone plays with everyone else. Each person starts the day on equal footing. Nobody is pre-judged by the house that they live in or the clothes that they wear. Oh, that our world would begin to resemble a first-grade classroom.
LIFE LESSON: Judge people by their hearts and character, not by the meaningless externals of life.
5. Too many toys in a box only get in the way of the good ones. A funny thing happens after holidays. A mountain of new toys enter my childrens’ lives. The toys are initially meant with incredible excitement. However, after two or three days, they are pushed to the side as my kids return to the tried-and-true toys they had been playing with long before the holiday ever occurred. The new toys we thought would make them happier, don’t. Instead, they just start to get in the way.
LIFE LESSON: We often think that material possessions will bring lasting excitement into our life, but most of the time they just end up getting in the way.
6. The more toys you play with, the more time you spend cleaning them up. Because we clean up every night before bed (well, almost every night), our kids understand this pretty simple equation. The more toys we pull out of the closet, the more time we spend cleaning them up. And conversely, the less time we spend actually enjoying them.
LIFE LESSON: The more possessions we own, the more of our time is required to care for them, clean them, organize and sort them.
7. A hike in the woods beats a new video game any day. Video games simply can not compete with the graphics, the full-sensory experience, or the relationship of a family walk through the woods. Never have, never will. And for that matter, nothing else produced on television can compete either.
LIFE LESSON: Turn off the television. Go outside. Live life, don’t just watch it.
Perhaps children are in this world because we as grown-ups have so much left to relearn.
Neha goyal says
I completely agreed with each and every statement of yours. Even me and my husband have the same philosophy about life and raising our son.
Going to subscribe you to learn more and more from you.
Thanks for writing this beautiful piece.
I think the clothes thing is typically little boy. Girls really like to get dressed up from pretty early on. And I designed/drew clothes from about 7 years old. I liked to mix patterns, too, even earlier. I agree it isn’t to impress…but stylin’
yes, little girls like pretty clothing, little boys don’t care unless it is their favorite action figure, or movie theme. I love pretty clothes also, and I wear them for me, not for others. I do save my favorites for going places, but even my hang out at home, or hiking clothes are purchased because I like the look. I have always loved colors and textures.
I have to disagree. Girls do not naturally like to dress up. From very early age they learn that it is important to look nice and cute as a girl in our society. Often the parents dress them up. To a girl we often say: ah, you look cute, while we tell a boy how strong and brave he is. Kids learn fast. So girls learn that they get a lot of positive attention when the look cute.. I tried to work against it, my girls also wore “boy clothes”. They don’t like to dress up, because we told them that other things are more important- what they do, not how they look.
Linda Ede says
I mostly agree, however everyone likes to express themselves in individually creative ways. Some just like to dress up, boys too.
This is all so simple and so profound. I love your statement about the outdoors beating television any day. It does indeed!
oh yes. We took advantage of our beautiful county parks, we lived within walking distance of one, mostly because it was free (we did have high property taxes), and our children always loved it. Now they and we hike alot with our grandchildren when time allows.
The most important lesson I learned from having children was realizing how selfish I am. Having to be totally responsible for precious and helpless children really made me take a good look at my self. Still learning this lesson! I am a better person for having had them. My older brother reminded me today that it is relationships that matter. Nothing else will stand the test of time. Oh, and playing in the dirt is good for us.
I love all of these lessons and its absolutely true; we learn just as much from our children as they do from us.
I enjoyed this post. It’s a reminder about the important things in life.
I have 2 boys aged 10 and 12 who love computer games and tv. They spend a lot of time on both.
I’m not worried though. They have opted for the type of console where they can talk to their friends while they play. Not only those they are at school with but those who have left for pastures new. – they know the value of friendships.
They also recently asked for, saved for and researched about new pets. One son has fish (which have recently bred) and the other is preparing for a gecko. We also walk our dog and play with the cat every day. – they know the importance of looking after each other.
They help around the house with jobs appropriate to their ages, usually alongside me and each other. – they appreciate the value of teamwork in keeping the house ‘together’ and being part of a team.
I think we have the balance right.
I’m very proud of my children and learn from them every day. :-)
As a pediatric physical therapist, #5 really rings true. The best toys I have are super old but kids come back to them over and over. No matter what is new on the market. It takes a trained eye to see this. Unfortunately there are so many gadgets but the classic toys we grew up with are still the best. And they get lost among the masses.