I hear children teach adults many wise life lessons. Less than two months old and Siddhartha has already taught me (inadvertently, I think) a huge one. I will be much happier if I simply accept that things will not always go according to plan. Not yet able to speak and he has already demonstrated for me the basic tenets of Buddhism. The difference between the way things are and the way we want things to be causes suffering. If we want to end suffering, we must eliminate our desires and accept things as they are.
Simple as it sounds, it is a complex philosophy. How do we end our desires when they are often the very things that motivate us? Does this mean we shouldn’t try to better ourselves and our world? What kind of life is one without desires and subsequent fulfillment?
I could go on and attempt to hash out the many questions and difficulties associated with Buddhism, but to do so would take a lifetime. Instead of striving for complete understanding and perfection, as much as I desire them both, I am better served in realistic small steps in my every day life.
This is where my kid comes in. Although it has been said that babies don’t come with an instruction book, it is not hard to find books, forums, DVDs, etc that instruct on the subject. Recently, I was concerned about Siddhartha’s nap-time. It’s usually difficult to get him to take a nap and I found myself feeling guilty if I didn’t put all the effort I could into getting him to sleep. Not surprising considering I have heard that babies at his age should not be awake more than 2 hours at a time, they should be sleeping 12-16 hours/day, if they get over-tired they’ll be cranky and have even more trouble getting to sleep and they grow when they’re sleeping. Plus, Sidd’s nap-time is my time to do dishes, laundry, write and generally have time to myself. Who could blame me for wanting him to nap, for hours, frequently?
I mentioned my frustration to Dave and he sent me an article about a woman who wants to go back to work because of her frustration over nap-time. The advice was simple. It is normal for babies to be finicky nappers. Don’t give it too much thought.
Huh. That’s it. Just don’t worry about it. He may not nap much one day or he may take short cat naps and wake easily. He’s not going to turn into an ax murderer because he didn’t nap 2-3 times during the day or for longer than 50 minute stretches. I may not get the dishes done or get a chance to write, but eventually he will sleep and it really doesn’t matter if the dishes pile up once in a while or I don’t write every day.
Enjoying my time with him and being happy with things as they are is better for my mental health than getting things done. And if I really need a feeling of accomplishment, I can revel in the fact that I made a person. Not only that, but that I made a person who is pretty darn happy and healthy, largely because of the effort I’ve put in.
So Sidd, when you’re reading this ten or twenty years from now, thanks buddy. Going to the temple, participating in discussion groups, and reading books couldn’t teach me as much about the eight fold path and its applications in my every day life as you have already.
What lessons have your kids taught you?