Gratitude

1 Year in a Child’s Life

July 10, 2011
Brandon and Caelan on Day 1

One year ago today, I watched my Godson, Caelan come into the world and glimpse the first sights of life outside the womb. Fast forward a year, and the two of us were playing together in the pool while he kicked, slapped, and splashed around in pure joy.

I’ve heard parents talk about how the experience of having a child changed everything for them, but I’ve never been quite so close to it and seen the transformation in such profound ways. I can say with total certainty that little Caelan has been a blessing to everyone whose life he has touched, including my own. I’m forever grateful for the opportunity to be actively involved in his life.

Watching him grow is fascinating. If I don’t see him for a couple of weeks, I feel like he’s a different kid. He’s taking tentative steps now and will be walking in earnest quite soon.  It was only a couple of months ago that he started crawling, yet now he’s ready to take it to the next step, literally.

Brandon and Caelan on Day 1I could write all day about all the reasons I’m grateful for him, but instead I thought it would be a good idea to reflect on the reasons why his life inspires me to do more with mine. The world that he is living in is much more complicated than the one I grew up in, and I hope to make a positive impact with my time here that he will be proud of when he’s old enough to consider these kinds of things.

The past couple of days, I’ve found myself contemplating what he’s going to be living with as he comes of age.  There are big issues on the table that will have to be addressed by the point he reaches high school.

Climate, Food, Water, Energy – you name it.  Big stuff. 

Caelan isn’t yet figuring out calculus equations (that we know of anyway), but he’s making incredible progress in other ways. Seeing him stand up and take a few steps on his own before falling back down or grabbing onto something for stability reminds me of how societally we seem to be paralleling his development stage.

Arguably, we were here at this turning point a few decades ago and then regressed back to crawling for a while. Either way, it feels like we’re about ready to take off and really start running toward a brighter future for humanity.

Let’s hope.

Kids can teach us so much if we stop and pay attention. They grow and adapt to new realities constantly. They test themselves, fall down often, but dust themselves off and keep going.

They evolve.  Quickly.  

If children can evolve so quickly, can’t resourceful, wise adults do the same to make the world a better place for the kids that will follow them? Interesting thought, isn’t it?

Beyond just wanting a better world for Caelan, I want his life to illuminate things that will help guide me toward making a better world for everyone else, too. I can’t think of a better gift to give him.

Think about the kids in your life.  What do you see as you watch them grow?  Do you consicously think about making things better for their future, beyond just buying things to make them temporarily more comfortable or happy?

Can kids teach us how to live, and more importantly, how to dream?

Are we capable of living life with the infinite possibilities that kids live with?

I think we can.  Are you with me?


Photo: Me and Caelan on his first day

22 Comments

  • Reply Kerry Murray July 11, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    Beautiful, Brandon!  I love examples of people who matter in a kid’s life without necessarily having to be the biological parents.  I have a godmother whom I’m very close to and have been close with my whole life without having ever lived in the same country.  She’s amazing and amazingly flawed, and we have a bond that is strong.  She offers me mentorship and guidance in ways my parents never could or did and I am the daughter she never had.  

    I appreciate your raising the big issues around bringing kids in to this world.  I’m thankful every time I can show my son a wild place or wildlife living in that wild place and am very concerned that those places are being wiped from the planet.  Yet, what my child has taught me the most these 6 years, is to suspend those worries and the rushing and the getting from place to place and just be in the moment. 

    My little guy just came home from a dust up at his best buddy’s house and was sporting a red mark on his cheek and some seriously hurt feelings.  I’m pretty sure my little person was not entirely innocent in this interaction, so is this a teachable moment or do we just deal with the here and now and not speculate too much on the why?  Today’s parental decision went towards back rubs and kisses (while he still lets me…), going with his flow and just being there.  He’s now tucked in with the family dog, munching on a snack, watching some Scooby Doo.  And the world is just fine for now 😉  We’ll be working on the conflict resolution skills soon 🙂 but for now, some cuddles and marauding zombies.

    Happy Birthday to your Caelan!

    • Reply Brandon Sutton July 11, 2011 at 6:41 pm

      What a wonderful comment – thanks, Kerry. I’ll be sure to pass on your words of wisdom to his mother. She wasn’t too thrilled to hear about my plans for moving to Portland.  😉

      It’s great that you’re showing your son wild places. After all, how can we expect kids (or anyone for that matter) to appreciate them and protect them for future generations if they never have a direct experience of it. I’m grateful that we spent a lot of time outside, in the woods, playing in the creek, etc. when I was a kid. It makes me appreciate it all the more now.

      I remember what it was like to have those little dust ups as a kid. It doesn’t take long to get past it, especially if it’s a really close friend. I’m sure he’ll be fine.  Who knows, maybe he’ll learn something from Scooby Doo.  I’m surprised that it’s still on – that was MY show!  😉

  • Reply Sandra July 11, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    I have a niece who is almost 2 and she is the light of my life.  Everything thing I do, I do with her in mind.  It is scary to think about the world she will be living in when she is my age.  Right now all she cares about are toys and cookies.  But its never too early to start teaching children about easy things such as recycling, turning the water off while you brush your teeth, turning the tv off before you leave the room.  So…after she is done couch jumping and dancing around the living room to Clifford we turn the tv off.

    Sandra

    • Reply Brandon Sutton July 11, 2011 at 6:45 pm

      Great to hear you’re teaching her early, Sandra. Thanks for taking the time to show her the ropes. What’s interesting to me is how sometimes it’s the kids that are teaching the parents about being more mindful about things like water use, wasting energy, recycling, etc.

  • Reply Jelena July 11, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    We NEEd to invest in children , to let them find who they are and help them to grow. No matter how many tests we have to find out the possibilities or talents in one childe ,we don’t use it and don’t help them to grow with it.
    Or we put them in the box  or we let them to “do what they want” ,without understanding that children just observe and absorbe all what happpen around and it is to much for them.
    Children are really sanctity ,children are our future and we need to pay more attention than we do.
    Great post , thanks 🙂

  • Reply Jelena July 11, 2011 at 4:21 pm

     Love your children , but don’t forget this:Parents and children by Khalil GubranYour children are not your children.They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.They come through you but not from you,And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.You may give them your love but not your thoughts,For they have their own thoughts.You may house their bodies but not their souls,For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.You may strive to be like them,but seek not to make them like you.For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.You are the bows from which your childrenas living arrows are sent forth.The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,and He bends you with His mightthat His arrows may go swift and far.Let our bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;For even as He loves the arrow that flies,so He loves also the bow that is stable.

    • Reply Brandon Sutton July 11, 2011 at 6:48 pm

      Love this – thanks for sharing it! I especially like the idea that kids come through us, not from us.  Very insightful. 

  • Reply Simone Lipscomb July 11, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    We must put our children as a top priority. When we give them our time, energy and attention we are creating the future. It really is up to us, isn’t it? What kind of future do we want for our children? Our grandchildren? It seems generations keep leaving messes for the next generation to clean up and deal with. At some point we must do the difficult and challenging work NOW and stop being irresponsible consumers and inhabitants of this beautiful planet. 

    • Reply Brandon Sutton July 11, 2011 at 6:51 pm

      It’s up to us to pay attention and be proactive, yes. I think we can do that by remembering where we came from. Kids are like a mirror in that way. If we approach it from a place of love and not fear, I think we’ll be more successful. 

  • Reply Tracy Nunnelley July 11, 2011 at 11:35 pm

    I’m with you! My niece and nephew inspire me each time I see them. I love how they are never afraid to look a new person in the eye, never afraid to run up and say hello, and never afraid to tell you exactly how they feel. Kids believe they can do anything and will tell you so! They say I’m going to be superman when I grow up or I’m going to be a teacher when I grow up and they really believe it. How did we lose that? I’m determined to get it back!

    • Reply Brandon Sutton July 12, 2011 at 2:08 am

      What I’m realizing more and more is that not only do kids believe they can do anything, but they ARE doing things.  It’s more than talk.  We can all learn from that unbridled optimism and appetite for new experiences. Here’s to getting it back ourselves! 🙂

      • Reply Lisa Robbin Young July 13, 2011 at 1:03 pm

        It’s funny you said that, Brandon. I’m watching these 20-somethings coming up quickly – making big waves, taking no prisoners and essentially DOING regardless of what society says “should” be possible at their age. It’s impressive and occasionally intimidating to this 30-something “old fogey” watching them take charge… and knowing that my own kids are hot on their heels!

        • Reply Brandon Sutton July 13, 2011 at 1:28 pm

          Yep, I’m with you Lisa.  I find it incredibly inspiring to be around this kind of energy. The initiative I’m working on now that I teased you with on Twitter is going to harness that energy to facilitate a BIG movement, and hopefully a positive shift in public policy on a topic that is very near and dear to me. Stay tuned!

  • Reply Josh Dunn July 12, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    Dad’s perspective: I remember the day my daughter Lilly was born was one of the most terrifying moments of my life. This little tiny human is now completely dependent on ME? I’ve since come to realize that this isn’t entirely true. For the first year or so, yeah, but now I see that Life has a way of taking care of all of us if we let It. Yes, be “child like” and open ourselves up to the infinite possibilities. Yes, make all of our decisions with the welfare of the next seven generations in mind. And yes, trust in Life, cause things have a way of working out. Thanks for the thoughtful post. Good stuff!

    • Reply Brandon Sutton July 12, 2011 at 3:09 pm

      Thanks, Josh. I was hoping to hear from some Dads.  I was there the night Caelan was born and remember seeing how my friend (the father) responded. It’s impossible to explain, but there was an immediate change in him. The first night was rough – there were some complications with Caelan and his mother. Dicey there for a few hours.  But everything turned out great in the end.

      I love your point about life taking care of us if we let it.  One of my friends commented over on G+ that it’s not so much about us learning from kids as it is remembering what we already know. Kids can effectively serve as a mirror to get us to remember. I think the two of these ideas go hand in hand.

      Thanks again for the feedback!

  • Reply Ken July 12, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    Godfather of the Year!
    Wonderful simile reminding us of the limitless possibilities that we have in front of us, if we can only see them. When we look into Caelan’s eyes and feel his energy and the hope and expectations he represents, little ones like Caelan have the power to change the way we look at things. And then it’s up to us to act on his inspiration. Thanks for your messsage. Daddy-O

    • Reply Brandon Sutton July 12, 2011 at 7:06 pm

      Thanks, Grandpa! 🙂 I couldn’t agree more.  Special thanks for hosting his first birthday too.

  • Reply Mark Silver July 12, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    I have to admit that as a dad of twins, now toddlers, it’s hard to find time to be very reflective. Just this morning we had the all-too-normal situation of one puddle of pee, an upturned jar of jelly, both kids crying and frustrated about totally different things, all while the eggs were close to burning on the stove.

    Stop. Breathe.

    What I have learned, quite humbly, is where I am most impatient. Where I lose it. Where I get attached to outcome and schedules. Where I forget to listen.

    I’m (re)learning how to play. How to be present in the midst of overstimulating chaos, how to truly listen even when I can’t understand (what word is he trying to say?)

    It’s all amazing.

    For us as human beings, I see us as teenagers, as a race. I think our physical abilities have far outstripped our consciousness and ability to make decisions. And we have no role models of a race of sentient beings who have already grown up into maturity.

    It’s a big leap, folks, and it’s going to take a lot of sincerity, humility, and interdependence to get there. 

    • Reply Brandon Sutton July 12, 2011 at 7:16 pm

      Thank you Mark for this very thoughtful comment. I love that you framed this in the context of re-learning how to play. What an incredible gift.

      What you mentioned about the lack of role models is quite thought-provoking. I’ve never thought about it in quite those terms, but it makes perfect sense.  Fortunately, the wisdom of ancient cultures that understood the concept of interdependence and living in harmony with the natural world seems to be on the rise.

      Perhaps in lieu of role models that have truly grown up and matured as you mentioned, the combination of this ancient wisdom along with our own remembering/re-learning can help us bridge the divide. 

      Always wonderful to connect with you, Mark. Thank you.

  • Reply Mark Silver July 12, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    I have to admit that as a dad of twins, now toddlers, it’s hard to find time to be very reflective. Just this morning we had the all-too-normal situation of one puddle of pee, an upturned jar of jelly, both kids crying and frustrated about totally different things, all while the eggs were close to burning on the stove.

    Stop. Breathe.

    What I have learned, quite humbly, is where I am most impatient. Where I lose it. Where I get attached to outcome and schedules. Where I forget to listen.

    I’m (re)learning how to play. How to be present in the midst of overstimulating chaos, how to truly listen even when I can’t understand (what word is he trying to say?)

    It’s all amazing.

    For us as human beings, I see us as teenagers, as a race. I think our physical abilities have far outstripped our consciousness and ability to make decisions. And we have no role models of a race of sentient beings who have already grown up into maturity.

    It’s a big leap, folks, and it’s going to take a lot of sincerity, humility, and interdependence to get there. 

  • Reply J.D. Meier July 14, 2011 at 5:32 am

    > why his life inspires me to do more with mine
    That’s a great place to start from, and flourish.

    • Reply Brandon Sutton July 15, 2011 at 5:02 am

      Thanks J.D. It’s interesting that the timing of his birth closely paralleled a sort of rebirth within me as well. Love the word flourish also – nice choice.

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