Lesson on Being Human from a 3 Year Old

I know it is a cliche to say that we learn as much from our children as they learn from us, but 3 year old Fox is different. From a very early age, we called him the “Little Buddha,” not just because he looked like a Buddha–large forehead, big long ears, and long half-open/half-closed eyes, but also because he would just sit calmly and contently for long periods of time.

Fox Sitting

I can honestly say that I have learned as much from this little soul as I have from any enlightened master. Here are a few highlights:

Apologize quickly, even if you were not at fault–Fox apologizes at the drop of a dime. Even before I notice that he spilled the milk, he will say, “I’m sorry, Daddy.” The other day, I was putting him in his car seat and I hit my head on the door frame–“I’m sorry, Daddy.” Sometimes when my wife and I are sad or upset, he will apologize. He always seems to recognize the pain of others and never questions that pain. Sometimes when my older son gets hurt, I found myself saying, “That didn’t hurt.” Fox never makes this mistake.

How do you get mad at someone when they apologize even before you realize that you have been offended? The penitence and empathy he feels at every moment is his saving grace. He rarely gets into “deep trouble.” We just want to hug him for being so considerate. What if we started apologizing as quickly and sincerely?

I don’t really like the phrase, “I’m sorry,” so when he gets older, I’m going to teach him to say, “Please forgive me.” I probably won’t ever have to give that lesson though, because I have a feeling that when Fox gets older he will be saying, “Please forgive them.”

Let others know when they have hurt you, then forgive immediately–If I ever step on Fox’s toe or accidentally knock him down, he will say indignantly, “Ouch, You did that!” Remembering the previous lesson, I will immediately say, “I’m sorry, Fox. Are you OK?” To which he usually always answers, “It’s OK, Daddy.”

Why do we often let others hurt us without telling them right then and there that we are being hurt? Then we wonder why it is so hard to forgive. I know that some of us have been hurt in situations where we could not tell others that we were being hurt. Or maybe we tried to tell, and no one was listening. I have found that through blogging, I have been able to tell others about my hurt, even if they weren’t the ones who hurt me, and this telling makes me feel so much better. The telling make forgiveness possible.

Fox seems to intuitively know this. He has no problem telling others when he is hurt. Thus, he doesn’t see a problem forgiving those who take responsibility for the hurt.

Hold the ones you love by the ears–Ever since he was young, Fox would hold us by our ears. I never thought about it, but the ears are the only true handles for the head. Even now, on the verge of his 4th birthday (which happens to fall on MLK day), he still grabs the ones he loves by their ears. Pick him up; he grabs your ears. Give him a piggie back ride; he pinches your lobes. Hug him; he cups your entire outer ear.

son sleeping

ear cuddles

“To  touch can be to give life.”~Michelangelo

Dacher Keltner, director of the Greater Good Science Center, argues that touch can bring us emotional balance and better health. Yet, I can easily think of times where I felt the desire to touch my wife on her hand, yet I resisted. Maybe I didn’t think that she would reciprocate the touch, maybe I felt self-conscious of how this touch would appear to others, maybe I have a social conditioned aversion to touching.

Keltner mentions a cross cultural study where psychologist Sidney Jourard counted the number of times friends touched each other in a one hour conversation over coffee. In the US, we touched each other twice, but in France they touched 110 times and in Puerto Rico 180 times!

I bet Fox would touch over 180 times in less than an hour. He reminds me of how important it is to reach out and touch someone.

Don’t let anyone talk badly about your loved ones, even when the person talking bad is someone you love–A few weeks ago, I got in a fight with my wife. Fox and I were left alone, so I said, “Mommy always has to be right, and when she is not right, she is mean.”

Fox immediately countered, “NO! I love Mommy.”

I replied, “I love Mommy too, Fox, but sometimes she can be really mean.”

“NO! I love Mommy,” insisted Fox.

It took me a while to realize that Fox was feeling the redemptive love that Adyashanti talks about, the unconditional love that Amma displays, the love beyond reason that John Ortberg writes about. None of these loves have a BUT. Whenever we say, “I love you too, BUT,” we are not loving unconditionally. Whenever we complain or criticize someone or something, we are trying to condition others, reality, and ourselves to fit into a box of what we can love. True love is beyond all boxes. It just is, no questions asked. No conditions. Just love.

Dwell on the good times–Whenever Fox and I do something that he really enjoys, he will always say, “Again.” For example, the other day I was doing a “crazy dance” (little do my sons know, that is the only dance I can do). I was wiggling my butt, shaking my arms, and singing “Like the ceiling can’t hold us.” Every time I stopped, Fox would say, “again.” Finally, I got so exhausted that I had to say, “last time, OK?”

In Hardwiring Happiness, Rick Hanson explains how the brain has a negativity bias. If 10 good things happen at work and one bad thing, we will remember the bad thing right before we go to sleep.

“The brain is like Velcro for the bad but Teflon for the good.”~Rick Hanson

To combat this negativity, Dr. Hanson offers a practice called “taking in the good.” He uses the acronym HEAL:

H–Have good experiences

E–Enrich these experiences

A–Absorb the good in these experiences

L–Link these good experiences with times in your past that you have problems with

Fox doesn’t know anything about neuroscience yet, but he practices “taking in the good” every day. By asking me to repeat something that he finds enjoyable, he is enriching the good times. He also absorbs these good times. Sometimes he’ll ask me to repeat something that made him happy months after it happened.

“Daddy, do that funny dance you did when we were setting up the Christmas tree.”

“No, not that dance. The one where you jump up on the couch and do a front roll.”

Sandalwood blessing we accepted for all Bloggers for Peace

Daddy and Me

Fox has a clear memory of all these fun time because he enriches them and absorbs them. For all I know, he links them together in a memory file called “Daddy and me.” This memory file helps him love me unconditionally when I accidentally knock him down.

Thank you for reading, smiling, and/or sharing.

Who or what has taught you how to be human? Please share.

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52 comments on “Lesson on Being Human from a 3 Year Old

  1. smilecalm says:

    sweet little Buddha!
    yes, i see little ones
    teaching dharma
    as i cycle past
    school yards 🙂

  2. What a fabulous post! My favourite bit is “Hold the ones you love by the ears”.

  3. NotAPunkRocker says:

    What a wonderful post to wake up to this morning. I also especially love the “ear cuddles”.

  4. diannegray says:

    He is one very special and beautiful child! 😀

  5. kasturika says:

    Letting others know that you are hurt is very important… sometimes I expect others to apologise even though I have never let them know that they have hurt me… and when they do not do so, I get disappointed… which really makes matters worse…

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Yes, K. My son never lets it get to that point. Why do we adults make things so complicated? I’m trying to practice Non-violent communication where you tell someone “when this happens, I feel this, so I’m requesting that you do this.” So simple. {{{Hugs}}} Kozo

  6. I work with little kiddos – they teach me to live in the moment.

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Yes, Fox is always in the moment, even when I try to get him to think about the future–“you better go pee now because we are going to be in the car for a long time.” “But Daddy, I don’t have to go pee.” haha. {{{hugs}}} kozo

  7. Teachers come in all shapes, sizes, and forms! Namaste Hug! 🙂

  8. Love the ear cuddles. You have darling boys Kozo. 😀 Clearly you are doing a mighty fine job sir!

  9. Robert says:

    I can relate to this, when people bump into me I apologise.

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Such a wonderful way to not get upset or take things too personal, Robert. I’m going to start doing the same when people take cuts in front of me or cut me off in traffic. {{{hugs}}} Kozo

  10. Anonymous says:

    He is going to do great things, this little one.

  11. He is going to do great things, this little one.

  12. Sandy says:

    Still smiling broadly – thank you for that! You’re kids, as you know, are pretty amazing – you are blessed! Much Love, Sandy

  13. Indira says:

    Excellent post Kozo, loved every word of it. Children always love without discrimination. Its we who taught them about, religion, cast and creed. We want to teach them what we like or dislike and take away their innocence. Hugs and blessings to little Buddha.

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      So true Indira. I’m reading a book that argues that when we teach children dualistic thinking we rob them of the Being that they are naturally. Then we spend our whole lives trying to get back to this oneness. Trying to keep my son in his blissful state for as long as possible. {{{hugs}}} Kozo

  14. What an exceptional child. He does indeed seem like a little Buddha. A person we can all benefit by having.

  15. Dilip says:

    Oh I loved this post and do believe in learning from children! is so true!

  16. Eileen says:

    Love this. Just chock full of important things. Hit me between the eyes with the “I love you, BUT.” what a challenge to grow beyond that. Brings home a truth I like to ignore: The things that absolutely drive me crazy in others are the things I work hard to suppress in myself…..my shadow. At some level my reaction is :
    I struggle to not do that, why do I have to put up with it in you?
    Thanks as always for sharing so freely and deeply with us. You are giving blessings even to old ladies.

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Thanks Eileen. I love the honesty of “I struggle to not do that, why do I have to put up with it in you?” Yes, we like to hide from our shadow. Richard Rohr calls confronting the truth shadow work. I really believe that blogging gives us a chance to real and honest which leads to openness. {{{Hugs}}} kozo

  17. KM Huber says:

    This is one of my favorites of your posts, and yours, too, I bet. Thank you for sharing Fox with us for in reading about him, we see ourselves quite clearly. Quite a mirror, your son, but you know that. Great post.
    Karen

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Thanks, KM. Yes, it is a favorite post as well as the follow up about my older son. I realize that both my sons have lessons to teach me in very different ways. {{{hugs}}} kozo

  18. What a kind, gentle soul he is and he will grow stronger as time progresses and he will be a positive light force upon so many —who will meet him along his life path.

  19. Cathy G says:

    What a precious gift! Kozo I will be linking to this post very soon! Peace be with you and your family, my friend.

  20. […] Lessons on Being Human from a Three-Year Old. […]

  21. rubles1968 says:

    …ahhh such sweet lessons from the wise, how often do we miss the opportunity to really connect and learn from children. I liked this post so much, I had to follow. Thank you for sharing

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Thanks for the like, comment, and follow. Yes, we miss so many opportunities to really connect and learn not just from children, but from everyone. I’m trying to stay open to all my teachers. {{{Hugs}}} kozo

  22. seaangel4444 says:

    Beautiful post! As I see Fox sitting there he indeed may appear to be a child, but yet most definitely his wisdom is as old as the ages. Wise soul indeed! Thank you! Cher xo

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Thanks, Cher. Yes, he has been here before. I’m grateful for every minute I get to spend with him. He is singing “the muffinman, the muffinman” right now. 🙂 {{{hugs]}} Kozo

      • seaangel4444 says:

        Awh, bless! You can see the wisdom of the ages in his sweet, little face. It’s almost as if he is saying, okay, I remember what it is like to be a child; and yet, I cannot forget what it is also like to be a wise elder. Isn’t that the sweetest? *LOL* Now the muffinman is resonating his remembrance of the innocent child. How endearing and precious! What a special soul! Hugs, Cher xo

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