Sunboy and I recently started a bedtime ritual where we each share two things about our day: one thing that made us feel happy or thankful, and share another thing that made us feel sad.
Tonight he said, “I feel happy that Airplane (the cat) let me pet him for a long time.”
“That’s really special. You two are really becoming friends,” I replied.
“Yup. My sad thing is that Daddy took a car away from me.”
“I’m sure he had a reason. Why did he take it away?”
“I don’t know. Something about sharing.”
“You know,” I said, “a punishment is given to teach you a lesson. It’s important to focus on the reason for the punishment. It’s not about the car, it’s about the sharing. We want you to be the best Sunboy you can be, although you’re already pretty great.” We snuggled closer.
At this point I paused. I wondered if we were expecting something from him that is challenging for adults to grasp. How often do we understand the lesson that life is trying to teach us? Like losing a toy car for not sharing, the lesson often isn’t an obvious representation of the mistake that we made. Plus, it’s difficult to avoid inserting ourselves and our inherent biases into the interpretation of a lesson that life has for us. It’s easy to lose perspective and wallow in subjectivity. Lesson lost. Mistake to be repeated at a future date.
Well, that seems rather dismal, doesn’t it? And besides, we know that isn’t true. Most of us make it out of the primordial soup.
So, I thought about it a bit more. Obviously, we learn our lessons and evolve. Or, at least we try. Some lessons are learned easily. The worse the mistake the easier it is to avoid repeating.
Other lessons are a slow evolution of subtle changes and assessing the results. Relationships are like that.
My favorite lessons are learned suddenly as an epiphany. The sudden shining down of knowledge from the universe, bright as a million suns. I stand in the shining brilliance of an epiphany as I steady myself on the furniture. Wonderful.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter how we continue to learn life’s lessons and grow. It’s more important that we learn them, and that we never stop growing. Adults struggle with learning lessons because adults are a work in progress, like overgrown children. It’s a good thing too. A stagnant life is the ultimate in lessons lost.
Perhaps the best lesson to teach Sunboy is this: try to identify the lesson in a mistake. Take it as sunlight from which to grow, all the days of your life. And don’t forget to share both the happy and the sad with someone you love.