Lessons from a Three-Year-Old

1. Use Nice Words

Connor will keep talking through an entire meal, whether the adults are listening or not. My sister told a story during dinner and I responded with my reaction. As I was talking, my sister’s and brother-in-law’s eyes widen & they tried to conceal their smiles. I wondered what I missed until Connor declared, “Bad word, Al.” I realized that I used the word “stupid.” Connor continued to scold me, “That’s bad behavior, Al.”

While my bad-word-barometer might be more lenient than Connor’s, I have to say that most curse words sound bad (and taste a little icky), whether they come from a well-behaved three-year-old or an oblivious twenty-four-year-old aunt.

2. Give Someone a Hint

Connor’s new game is hide & seek. He counts to ten while I hide in an obvious location so he can find me. When it’s his turn to hide, he says, “I’m going to hide right here & you come and find me.” I protested and told him that this defeated the purpose of the game. To prove my point, I scampered away under a blanket while he counted. As I begin perspiring under that quilt, I began to think that maybe Connor was right…. Sometimes, you have to give someone a hint about where you are or how you’re feeling. And if you don’t, you may end up trapped in an uncomfortable hiding spot for a good ten minutes while your easily distracted nephew finds a new game to play.

3. Be Imaginative, Never Pretend

Whenever I go to Connor’s house, I am immediately instructed to put on a Woody costume while he dons an elaborate Buzz Lightyear get up. Buzz declares that we’re going to “infinity and beyond” so I get on his spaceship, do laps around the living room and shout “someone poisoned the waterhole.” Connor’s imagination is impressive, yet he never pretends. While adults are constantly pretending to be happy, interested in a conversation or busy at work, Connor’s good mood, sleepiness or frustration is always obvious. Connor may wear a Buzz Lightyear costume (daily) but he never puts on a face that he doesn’t feel. You have to admire someone who can be so authentically himself, in any given situation.

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