As a gymnastics coach and a dad, I am always on the lookout for those “teachable moments”. I remember when my nearly grown children were teenagers and would moan and groan about how “everything with Dad has to be a ‘thing’ a ‘learn from this’ moment” but I can’t help myself; I’m a processor and I like to think that helping my kids think through everyday events will fortify them with valuable life lessons.
Over the years, I do believe I have taught my children and my gymnasts some great lessons about such things as the importance of kindness, teamwork, leadership, and goal setting as well as our responsibility to protect the Earth, and the power of love. What is more profound, however, are the lessons my children and gymnasts have taught ME. Far beyond anything I have learned in high school, college, graduate school, or any of my experiences in between, These kids have taught me lessons about how to really live.
I love to go on walks and hikes. I would love it when my family comes with me. Whether we are walking around the neighborhood or around the lake or through the woods- when I start walking, my mind usually goes right to my destination; where does the path lead to and where does it end?
Some of the finest lessons my teacher-children have taught me is to put aside the destination, and focus on the journey. These children have taken my black and white world and splashed so much color into it, that it’s like I’m seeing with new eyes. Furry animals, colorful flowers, teeny bugs, pretty leaves, you name it, they see it (and pick it up, and name it, and want to keep it). They remind me to slow down and notice the world, rather than just walk right through it. I love that about them!
As a gymnastics coach/club owner and a speaker at many conventions I spend a lot of time listening to people. Helping them problem solve. Whether it is a business issue or a technical issue in the gym. What I’ve never completely mastered in school or in practice, but have learned by being a student of my own children, is to REALLY listen. Because of my children and those I work with, I finally realize that it is better, more selfless, and so much more helpful to put a lid on my own speech, and just purely listen to others. I wish I had always known that. What a gift to give — allowing others to feel heard and understood. When I ask a question- give people the time to think and answer. It is the only way to get to know them.
If I had to sum it all up, these would be the two words I’d use. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am “efficient.” Even my easy days are busy- writing, planning, scheduling, then everything at home, shopping, cooking, cleaning and god forbid if I have to fix something. (somebody must ask me someday about how Matt and I fixed the bars at the gym. Still stunned it actually worked). But what my children and gymnasts have taught me is that it is better to just be a human being and slow down. When we walk together or spend an extra 20 minutes at the dinner table laughing before everyone has to go their separate ways or before bed laughing and playing music, we enjoy our finest moments. My lists, errands, tasks, and must-dos will always be there, but children are only young once— and for too short a time. They will soon be moving out and moving on. How often we can forget.
Many years ago my son and I were alone in the house. He was maybe 4 or 5 years old. I sent him to his bathroom to wash up and get ready for bed. I got distracted with other tasks and all of a sudden I realized that he had been in the bathroom for 10 minutes. I went up and said- “Hey buddy- what’s going on?”
“Sorry dad- I was just looking at the sunset”
I looked out the window and there was the most beautiful sunset. I picked him up- and we went out and sat on the back deck and watched with an unwavering gaze, as the sun slowly sank beneath the horizon, threads of light lingering in the sky, mingling with the clouds, dyeing the heavens first orange, then red, then dark blue, until all that was left was a chalky mauve. I carried him up and set him into bed. We looked out the window and watched as darkness took over the sky. He looked at me and said- “thanks Dad. That was great.”
No – Thank you for the lesson. Children can be our greatest teachers. When I am ready, mine are always there to show me what I really need to know in life. And for that, I am thankful.