The lessons of kids - FamilyEducation

The lessons of kids

July 08,2008
We knew it was a bad idea, but we let “cute” get in the way of “practical.” “Let’s let the boys sit together,” was what our friend said. “It’ll be so cute.” And, for a while it was. Right up until the point when K-Man’s friend, C-Dude, didn’t want to share his airplane and responded by sweeping his silverware, bread plate and (full) water glass off the table – the glassware shattering on the floor. C-Dude proceeded to melt down as only a two-and-a-half-year-old can. K-Man, now basically soaked in cold water, responded with his own tribal scream and shrieking cries.

It was a quick, destructive and noisy exchange that ended up with two kids outside (one of whom – not mine – was getting quite the talking-to from his grandmother), a restaurant full of gawking customers, multiple breakfast orders being taken off the table to-go, and the tested patience of the entire restaurant staff (who, by the way, passed with flying colors – though a couple of the servers may now refrain from ever having kids). It was an ugly scene, with a capital UGLY.

Needless to say, our friend was mortified by her kid’s behavior and promptly apologized 1,000 times. (I’m guessing. I lost count of her apologies around 437 – might only just seem like 1,000.) At one point, she even called and suggested that C-Dude wanted to come over to apologize to K-Man in person and give him the very airplane that caused the commotion in the first place.

This, of course, wasn’t necessary at all. Why? Well, for starters and most importantly, K-Man had forgiven and forgotten the incident (as anything negative) shortly after it happened. That’s one of those gifts that kids have – unquestioned forgiveness. And, the inability to really carry any sort of long-term grudge. (That’s one of those “precious traits” we get and perfect as we get older.)

Sure, K-Man talked about his friend later in the day, during his bath: “C got me wet today. He poured water on me.” But he wasn’t complaining about it. In fact, he was almost talking about it as if they were playing. He wasn’t mad anymore. He wasn’t scared anymore. He was just recounting a story.

As we get older, we get more jaded. And, yes, many (most?) of the rifts we find ourselves in are bigger than what amounts to simply spilling water. So, we have more trouble forgiving and forgetting. Still, what we really need to do is take the lead from our young offspring (and their young friends) and realize that, regardless of the divide, it’s important (and healthiest) to forgive and move on. Like my father-in-law always said (and as I’ve written here while honoring him) – life is short.

But, life also isn’t that simple. So, there is a reality to accept, as well. Because we’re adults, forgiveness doesn’t mean that we’ll necessarily continue to be friends like K-Man and his buddy C-Dude. And it also doesn't mean we should just forget. That's not realistic, either. I read this great book that talked about forgiveness in a wonderful way. Forgiveness, the author said, doesn’t necessarily mean whatever happened was okay. It just means you’re freeing your heart and the other person (whoever that may be – and it might even be yourself) from any negative feelings (just like K-Man did with C-Dude as soon as he got home).

So, perhaps the lesson here is to mash together two time-honored, self-help clichés: Forgive & Forget and Live & Learn. What we’re left with is Forgive & Learn. We shouldn’t forget who we wronged or how we were wronged, but we should learn from these mistakes. Forgive in order to live healthier and more settled. And Learn in order to avoid making the same mistakes again. I think that’s something I can live with.

I hope that K-Man is able to hold on to this gift for a VERY long time – forever even. I know kids can get mean as early as elementary school and especially in high school. But, I hope that K doesn’t jump on that bandwagon. I hope he maintains his ability to forgive and forget. Just as he did with C-Dude.

And…that may very well be how the teacher has become the student. (Or something like that – I never watched those David Carradine movies. That is the line, isn’t it?) Whatever…it’s a good lesson from the kids.