Twelve (banal) things I learnt from my son in our first twelve months together

1) When babies are sleepy, they cry. And every time my son cries because he is sleepy, I think: “Leone, why are you crying? If you are sleepy, why don’t you just sleep? The more you cry, the more you get tired.” That may seem banal, but it’s not. Because ever since I realized it, I also realized how many times when faced with a problem (from not being able to sleep to having a creative block), I myself am prone to complicating everything (instead of choosing the easiest way) and therefore I end up having a bigger problemi to solve than the one I had at the beginning.

2) Thumb-sucking is not instantaneous. It took more than two months for my son to learn it, and yet it seems so easy to me. What does it take to put your thumb in your mouth? It takes more time to write it than to do it. But in reality it is not like that. My son didn’t teach me how to suck my thumb, but he taught me that everything takes its time and that if you have the right time, you can learn everything.

3) The light can be marvelous. And not just the light. Even the shape of a window can be marvelous. Or black and white colors that alternate on a chessboard. Or the shadow of a tree on the kitchen table. They all seem banal to me, but not for my son. Seen through his eyes, everything contains within itself the marvel. And now, staring at him, I can see it too.

4) Children are not machine. Even though this may seem banal, every time I read a book about how to be a good father it looks like there are many people who think that children are machines which can be fixed just reading the instruction manual. There are no universal rules. No big plans. Love is what really matters. Wisdom. To be willing to stay together and listen to each others.

5) Time for ourselves is extraordinary. I studied, I worked and I studied while I was working. Nevertheless I have always had time for myself. So much so that I used to consider it banal. But it is not. For nothing. Having your time to read a book, to run, to stay on your own, to watch a movie, to think and so on, is extremely valuable. It is something that we would never take for granted.

6) Everything can happen but (almost) everything passes. And be aware of that is not banal. Especially for people (like me) who tend to be hypochondriac. The first flu, the first concerns, all the bacterias and the strains of flu that linger everywhere and all the accidents that might happen to a child, helped me to realize how useless and irrelevant it is to worry for something bad that is not happening, and how important and relevant it is enjoying something good that is happening.

7) Learning is a very fun game. Banal? Maybe. But it is not if I only think of how many years I spent sitting on a chair at school getting bored, listening to lessons that I don’t remember and reading books that I forgot. Everyday, my kid learns something new. Just playing and having fun. Nobody forces him to learn. His learning approach is only driven by a natural inquisitiveness that we (adults) often tend to loose while we are getting older.

8) Children pollute a lot. And that is not a banal point because it concerns their future. If you only think about how many stuff (wasted food, diapers, packaging, single-use tools…) parents consume everyday to take care of their babies, the environmental impact of every single child is devastating. And clearly that is not their fault. Children are not aware of their environmental impact, and they are allow to. But not their parents. Parents’ life should be changed in order to balance the environmental impact of their children.

9) As long as they are children, children have the right to remain children. Banal? True. Then why are we living in a society where children are asked to grow and learn as fast as they can? The more I look at my son growing, the more I understand that nature gave him more than we (adults) think. Skills like children’s spontaneous generosity, their desire to discover and to love the world, their social being, their curiosity and so on, are all qualities to be preserved as the most precious gift.

10) Most of the time, the most beautiful toys are not toys. My son plays with everything. Actually the less it looks like a toy the more it is fun. A light bulb, a broom, a box, keys, a cardboard tube, a book, a handle; everything in his hands turns into a toy and it takes on a new and unique meaning. In this perspective, I wonder if my son really needs all those toys that can be bought in any children’s store. Because maybe his imagination is the most wonderful toy he already has.

11) Children need to be thought, staying with them is not enough. And here my son always unmasks me. If we are together but I am thinking of something else, he always gets it. For him being together is not enough – and he’s right – he wants me to think about him and about what we are doing together. And that’s a very good training. We live in a world full of stimuli and tasks, we do a lot of things together, we are asked to be multitasking but this approach is leading us to loose our ability to stay focused on just one thing and do it the best way.

12) The important matters don’t need words to be communicated. My son doesn’t talk yet. Just a few little words like “mamma” or “papa”. Yet, he totally makes himself understood. With his eyes and gestures. So when we (adults) talk, I realized how many words are wasted every day in useless emails, phone calls and meetings. And that generates a word’s pollution that ends up obscuring what really matters. And that makes me understand how true is the algebraic expression: menus * menus = plus.