When your big sister is a cancer survivor and in the hospital, you learn to share attention. Scratch that. When you are the little brother of a sister PERIOD, you learn to share attention. AJ and my daughter, Brynna, were born 9 days apart. We call them the not-so-twins because from Day One they have had a strange connection we still don’t understand. When one is sick, the other soon follows although they live on different continents. But for all the ways they are similar, AJ is the antithesis to his sister and cousin. They are loud and dramatic; he takes it all in stride. They are performers; he’s a dreamer. They move at full speed; he takes his time. The girls are bossy; he follows where they lead. He is our constant reminder that while you don’t always pick the crazy situations life throws at you, there’s always something pretty to see if you stop to look for it.
I got to spend the afternoon with AJ this week, just the two of us. We bounced a ball, colored pictures, read books and made up stories. And as I put him to bed, I realized that I have far more to learn from this little man than he does from me. He’s smarter than me. And I’m guessing he’s smarter than you, too. Here are a few reasons why:
1. He enjoys his food – I watched AJ eat a single piece of pizza with more enjoyment than I sometimes give a 3 course meal. (I’m too ADD to sit through more than 3 courses…) He savored each bite slowly, piece-by-piece. He explained in detail the taste of his flavor straw and how cool it was that his milk tasted like cookies-n-cream. When was the last time you let yourself enjoy a meal? And I’m not even addressing our crazy infatuation with weight and dieting. When was the last time you just slowed down enough to appreciate each bite?
2. He goes to sleep – When his body is done, AJ is done. He doesn’t fight it. (Another way he differs vastly from Brynna!) He doesn’t whine or complain. He doesn’t try to prolong the inevitable. When he’s tired, he goes to bed and lets his mind rest. How much stronger would you be if you listened to your body and let it rest when it needed to? How much more creative would you be if you started each day truly refreshed?
3. He’s curious – AJ doesn’t just notice things. He wants to know everything there is to know about it. I bought each of them a light up bouncy ball at the grocery store. I’m pretty sure Zoe’s is under the coffee table where it rolled after the one time she played with it. AJ has played with that ball every day. He’s told me all about Star Wars (because that’s the logo on it). He’s described the colors in detail. He’s learned exactly how hard you have to tap it to make it light up and exactly how hard to bounce it so I almost fall over trying to catch it. (Which makes him laugh hysterically every time.) When did you last ask questions not because you HAD to know but just to know something new?
4. He’s honest – AJ doesn’t mask his feelings – happy or sad. If he loves you, he loves all of you with all of himself. If he’s angry, he tells you. While he was excited to see me when I first arrived, he was upset with me for the first day and a half. And he finally told me why. I didn’t bring Brynna. He didn’t care about schedules or plane fares. His buddy was missing and that was unacceptable in his 5-year-old world. The older we get, the more concerned we become with what everyone else thinks. We consider all the other factors before we are honest about our own thoughts and feelings. What if you just let yourself be real?
5. He dreams about what he wants his life to look like – In AJ’s world, Brynna lives does the street and he rides in Papa’s big truck on the weekends. In the real world, Papa and Brynna both live in another country. Those limitations don’t restrict his imagination, though. AJ has super powers and another home that he calls his “other Adelaide.” (Just FYI. You can only get to his ‘other’ house if he uses his shrinking powers so you can go with him underground past Candy Land.) He dreams big and chases those dreams. What about you?
How much better would we all be if we took a lesson or two from AJ?