ok so for the last month i have been on outreach through latvia and lithuania with families, and without a keyboard, so i have been reposting some blogs i have recently written and now i have a keyboard to type on and so this will be interesting. but here is some things i have learned about families, babies, cultures and travelling.
firstly, children have no filters. this is mostly a great thing. it means they are honest and creative and excited.
we saw a shirt on a kid that said “i cant be calm, im three” which is perfectly exemplified in one of my current child friends. his filters are non exsitant so when he sees people he likes he goes into “hug and kiss everyone” mode. and it is soooo cute. he will greet everyone loudly and wave and run around laughing because he is awake and amongst people he knows and likes. this occasionally gets out of hand with hugs toppling other children over, or face touching ending in eye poking. this filterless joy also can end in him pulling your beard or hitting faces if his energetic emotion turns to confusion or fear. but in the most part, his lack of filters bring excitement, which can usually be funnelled into running around trees laughing or puzzles and dancing. his parents have told me that children under a certain age dont produce lactic acid so they can literally run all day without cramping. but then if one hasnt napped, unlike most adults with filters, unfiltered children with break down and cry very quickly. this is also quite refreshing because its an honest way of saying im soo tired and i cant keep going. but then watching one of our babies try and convince you that he is not tired is also hilarious. because his eyes close and then he freaks out and is like “you didnt see that. i am not sleepy”
another amazing filterless moment is when children ask questions. for some reason, us big people have convinced ourselves that some questions are dumb and should not be asked.
one day i was in a car and a dutch child asked a question that his father translated to me as “why do we need billboards, why cant we just tell each other things” and i was floored. i have never asked that question. and just imagine a world where we just told each other things, like where the shops were, or what the newest movie that we should see was. like why do we need giant signs.
later he asked why his dad lost him in the shop. like why did that even happen. not accusing, he just wanted to know. and his father explained that it was more like the kid walked off. but in conversations as big people, i can easily ask questions as an accusation. when dialogues are helped so much more by genuine curiousity.
another day we were playing on some swings and one child hadnt slept great but she wasnt going to let that stop her from playing, so from afar i watched as her emotions swung dramtically from giggling loudly on the swings to crying and back to the laughing on the swings. i understand the time and place for keeping our emotions in check, but sometimes big people have no clue what they are feeling or why. this child was clearly tired but also very much wanted to play with her family at the park. and had fun i think. in the midst of moments of tears which were quickly comforted by her father who then continued to push her on the swing.
the cycle of getting tickled and running away. of getting picked up high into the air and then returned to earth and up again. one day i ran up the stairs so i could scare two of the children as they got out of the lift, and there were screams and laughter and then i remembered that there were sleeping people around. hahahaha. i still havent found the balance between fun and quiet. im not sure i can do that, and thats another filter. one of our babies will clearly tell you when hes not having fun. he balls his hands into fists and screams. like a mini tantrum. he doesnt have the full language yet to explain “please mum i want to eat that thing i found on the ground” but he knows what gets attention. and its so the best in one way, because its a sign that he knows he is loved and he knows theres good things and not so good things that can be decided.
one night discussion we had was around the fact that one of the children was uncomfortable about our new living situation and has begun to test the limits of his parents patience and authority by doing the opposite of what they asked, or literally pushing the boundaries of how far away from them he could get. before running back and being comforted. and they had decided that he could not go anywhere without them. that he was to stay close.
an almost perfect picture of my life with God. i know god loves me. i know his standards for my life, but sometimes i feel uncomfortable and i start pushing the boundaires, either through abject rebellion or through cheeky line pushing. and God more than not asks me to wait. to not go anywhere without him. to be with him so he can comfort and dialogue and play with me.
and watching this dad of late, when he plays with his kid, when he holds his kid and eats with his kid, its the best. (the mum is awesome also, but im mainly watching dads of late)
its also fun watching the parents give their kids freedom, but not too much freedom. like keep to the path, or one dad even built a fort so that his son could roam as much as he wanted because he couldnt climb over the fort. but as soon as the kid figured out how to climb the walls…. he had to rethink construction.
also watching others gain trust of the parents. i have no children of my own so i personally dont feel all that trustworthy because im very clueless. but we have a grandpa in our team and he has quickly gained trust to hold and entertain babies so much so that as soon as one of the babies sees him they hold out their hands to be picked up or held. and it is soooo cute. and now i have gained the position of after lunch baby holding. and its the best because i eat quite quickly, so i can hold the baby whilst the rest of the family eat. i also got to hold him during a dolphin show which made me have to quickly think up ways to protect him from stray waves.
children have smaller filters to teach us a lot about God and friendship i think. and after carrying a 3 year old through a tour yesterday and a few different hour long baby holding stretches, parents bust secretly be the strongest people in the world. because babies get bigger and then they start talking and running away and freaking the parents out. and most parents have never been parents before so its the steepest learning curve ever just to get these little humans to be responsible bigger humans whilst they themselves are sometimes still trying to figure out how to be buigger humans as well.
parents are the best. the amount of love that these parents around me pour into their children is incredible. it makes me want to kiss all parents faces in gratitute. but thinking about my own parents silences me with awe. i was defs not the worst baby but i have not been the easiest or most traditional of people to raise. after carrying me for 18 odd years, what it must feel like to watch your son move out of home, then move out of the city, then move out of the country and to the opposite side of the world must not be the greatest moment ever. and although i know i am supposed to be here, it still makes me wish deep down that travel doors existed so i can go have tea with dad and learn how to book bind with mum any moment i wanted to.
be nice to your parents. they are great. and not just because they were nice to you when you were a jerk.