Lessons Through Her Eyes

Note to readers: All photos of my niece have been used with the permission of her parents.

I have just dropped off my 16 month old niece with her parents. My hubby and I were babysitting her this past weekend. Mukoni is delightful and we adore having her around. My home is suddenly quiet now that she is home with her parents. We have spent the last 4 days with her and she taught me a few things…

Slow down and enjoy the moment. My niece is on the move most of the time. She is consistently learning and discovering the world around her. Normally when I wake up, my mind goes to what I need to do and off I go with my morning routine. Today when Mukoni woke up, she was in no hurry. I was ready to change her nappy, get her dressed and fed. You know normal daily routine things. She had other plans. She recently discovered that she can cover her eyes with her hands or a towel, remove her hands/towel and say “boo”. It makes her belly-laugh. She played like this with us for about 20 minutes. She loved watching us interact and pull faces at her with every “boo” she said. The excitement sparkled in her eyes every time she did it. She laughed from her belly and grinned from ear to ear. She enjoyed the moment.

I thought about how many times I have rushed to get something done instead of deliberately taking in a moment. I have taught myself to rush. I have probably missed out on some excitement and wonder of a moment because I had my tick-list to get through. Even when I have had an accomplishment, I know I have not spent time delighting in the payoff from my hard work. I have acknowledged it and swiftly moved on to the next thing.

It was beautiful to have this little girl remind me to slow down and enjoy the moment. Not every thing I do needs to be in a rush. Life is to be enjoyed and I am going to make an effort to slow down, celebrate the moments and enjoy every day living.

Be present in the moment. I remember going to see my niece just mere hours after she was born. I was there for her first steps and even her first holiday. I was present in these moments and fully engaged in them – that is why they are precious memories. Over the weekend I had some work I tried to do, it wasn’t a necessity, but I wanted to do it. Anyone who has a little one will know kids have a funny way of demanding your full attention. Mukoni is happy to play by herself. She occasionally “checks in” by coming for a cuddle before scurrying off to keep playing. A few times I found myself giving her a generic response or passing the nearest toy or snack while trying to complete work and watch her at the same time. She would look at me all confused because it is not what she needed in that moment. In hindsight she was trying to share something with me that she had done – she loves sharing her moments of discovery.

It’s easy to get caught up in the humdrum of daily life and let my responses become generic. It happens that I overlook the need of the person I am interacting with or miss out on the joy of the little things because I am not present in the moment. Opportunities can be missed. This was a little reminder that while there are things to be done, people are more important. To be the best version of myself and to give of my best to others, I need to be present in the moment. It payed off being 100% present in the moment with Mukoni because she turned to me a few moments later and whispered “wuv oo” translated “love you”. We had been practicing saying “I love you” most of the weekend. Now that is a memory I have because I made sure to be present with her.

Happiness can be found in the little things. When preparing to have my niece this weekend, I got the “kiddie” toys out. I wanted to make sure she had “options” during playtime or when she needed to be occupied. Her mom sent over her favourite doll and a toy cellphone. While she enjoyed the toys, she constantly said “hallelulah”. I tried over and over to explain that none of the toys she had were called “hallelujah”. Her mom texted that she loved the song “Raise A Hallelujah” by Bethel. As soon as I pushed play – Mukoni lit up. She jumped up and said “woah” followed by lots of twirling in the middle of all the toys.

Happiness is not necessarily found in the hype or the big moments. It can be found in the little things, too. As I slowed down this weekend and looked at moments from a child’s perspective, I became appreciative for the little things. These small moments brought smiles and laughter. I was happy as I watched her twirl around to her favourite song. The mere fact that she was enjoyed herself made an impact on me. It made me think of how I can share my happiness with others – a small gesture can go a long way. It can be the small thing that someone needs to find happiness in their day.

Be yourself and love it. With her favourite song on, Mukoni danced and danced until her little legs couldn’t anymore. She sang the words that she knew at the top of her lungs. These words included hallelujah, louder, sing and roar. She did these things without reservation and self-conciousness. She would occasionally look up at me and grin as if to let me know she was being herself and loving it. Once or twice she took my hand and said, “round, round”. I twirled with her and remembered how much I once loved to dance. These moments of her dancing and singing without holding back made me realise that self-consciousness is not a built in emotion. I have been conditioned to “care” about other people’s opinions of me. While I have grown and become more confident in who I am, there are still areas where I can grow in being myself, owning and loving it.

There is a simplicity that children have which is so precious. They keep things uncomplicated even in their adventures and discovery. I am going to try remember to keep it simply – childlike simplicity. This weekend has been filled with reminders of this!

To my precious niece, you are so loved! Thank you for these reminders this weekend.

Be bold! Be Brave! Be You!

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