Lessons from little ones

September 01,2009
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath( )

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

If you’d seen me yesterday you might have noticed I walked around my day floating on a cloud of contentment and happiness over the outpouring of well-wishes about my birthday I received all day long. Say what you will about Facebook and Twitter and the likes, but the internet is a great place—a rich place, a warm place--to be on your birthday. ************ On Sunday night, the eve of my birthday, I tucked T. into bed after stories and songs and just before I left her room she asked, “how old will you be tomorrow, Mama?” “Forty!” I said, as cheerfully as I could manage. I was still fighting a healthy case of Mixed Feelings about the birthday business, and fighting the melancholy and very melodramatic feeling that I had closed the door on some of the best years of my life. T. clasped her hands together in excitement. She sat bolt upright in her bed, her still-wet hair sticking out in a poof at right angles to her face, her bunny pajama shirt hanging off one shoulder. “Oh, Mama! Forty! Aren't you proud of yourself for being so BIG?” And you know what? Right then and there I was proud. I was proud of everything I've done, all the years I've lived so far; proud of the family around me, the hard work that's gone into the creation, the shaping of it all; proud of my job, my home, my world. I was proud of me, myself--not just the me who had spent this past decade birthing and nursing and loving and mothering and worrying and celebrating and weeping, but the me who has created other things around me; the me I've always been. I've always said that one of the most rewarding things about being a parent is that you get the chance to see the world through the brilliant and unfettered eyes of children. No matter how much I try and teach my own kids, how much I worry about the bittersweet value of "teachable moments" and "hard lessons" and "life experiences" sometimes I wonder, really, if all of that will ever--ever--come close to touching the heaps of wisdom they have closed their little hands around, and handed on to me.