Life in the Fast Lane


Learning from a One-Year-Old

By 12:45 PM , , , , , , , , , ,

My nephew, Mateo, is a day short of approaching what many people call the dreaded "Terrible Twos". And it's amazing how much he has grown — not just height-wise! — since he turned a year old 364 days ago. It's as if he reaches milestone after milestone, just in a week's time.

And really, I have loved every moment I got to spend with him these last 12 months. I've gotten to know more of his personality, I've seen glimpses of what he may be interested in someday, and we've carved out our own "Nanang and Mateo" ("Nanang" being his nickname for me) bonding sessions.

In any relationship, even one you have with a toddler, there will always be a two-way learning dynamic. And not only have I learned things about my nephew as his personality develops; I've also learned life lessons that could've only come from this energetic, now wavy-haired little firecracker.

These are just some of the many, many things I've come to learn from this little dude.

(Photos taken from different stages of him as a one-year-old; not necessarily in the right order.)

1) The Beauty of Family

Mateo is unique in the sense that he regularly does what we'd like to call "roll calls". Like a class President, whenever he visits or whenever we're out in the mall or at a restaurant, he starts rattling off everybody's names: "Mum... Dada... Nonna..." and so on and so forth as if he's doing an attendance check. And you have to reassure him that you're there by saying, "I'm here!" or tell him if someone isn't there (i.e. "She's at work, sorry!") This happens for our side (Mateo's Dad's) of the family, and even for his Mom's side of the family. He knows which family members belong to which side of the family, and he will always ensure that he says everyone's names; sometimes he'll repeat the process over and over again within a span of a few minutes. 

It's because he's happiest when he's surrounded by all of his family members. He enjoys putting on a "show" (getting people's attention, making everyone laugh or clap, or even cheer for him as he shoots a basketball), and he loves giving hugs and kisses. 

The fact that he feels complete and completely at ease when he knows he's in the company of his loved ones reminds me to treasure everyone in the family and not to take them for granted.

2) The Beauty of Creating

One Sunday several months ago, my family (including my brother, sister-in-law, and Mateo) and I were in the mall after church. We had gone our separate ways and agreed to meet up in a certain restaurant for lunch. I happened to be at a bookstore, and since Mateo was already interested in learning the alphabet at that point, and he already had a set of favorite cartoon characters, I decided to get him a sketchpad and crayons. When we met up for lunch, I showed him the sketchpad and started drawing his favorite characters and writing the letters he already knew. His eyes would light up with every stroke of the crayon against paper.

This is how we would bond the first few months of this year. Whenever he would ask for a drawing of Elmo, or "a-poos" (apples), an "e-funt" ("elephant"), or when he'd shout random letters, shapes, or numbers in succession for me to write out, I wouldn't mind. In fact, I'd ask what else he wanted me to do. Because his reaction was always the same: how he loved seeing his favorite characters and letters coming to life with every line, curve, and point. 

We don't draw as much these days, because his attention has shifted to basketball. But the times we do draw together reinforce the wonder of creating something; whether it's a story that I have to write, a drawing or artwork that I get inspired to finish, or even a recipe that I want to master. The gift of being able to create, to make something out of nothing, is something that should never be taken lightly.

3) The Beauty of Simplicity

We celebrated 2nd Mateo's birthday as a family over the weekend, days before he would actually turn two. But what was fascinating to me was how he didn't seem to care for any of the presents given to him (in fact, he got stressed over all the wrapping paper that was ripped and torn into shreds, haha!). Yes, he had new clothes and toys, but he was seemingly happier with the fact that he got to play basketball with all his loved ones. 

Mateo laughs when he finds something funny and he feels sadness when he knows that something's wrong. While he's usually dressed up in a cute shirt, matching shorts, joggers, or jeans, and either Adidas or Nike kicks, he is most comfortable when he gets to play in his pambahay attire; without the necessary "bulk" of jeans with lots of pockets, and barefoot, where his feet can feel the floor. 

Life is complicated enough as it is. Watching him be completely himself, completely free in a sando and shorts, running around the house on his two chubby feet, reminds me to strip all the layers that make life unnecessarily complex, and just be.

4) The Beauty of Endless Learning

Like most toddlers, Mateo is a sponge when it comes to absorbing information. In a week, his vocabulary increases by leaps and bounds. Now, he talks in four- to five-word sentences most of the time. When he was 22 months old, he already knew how to count in English, Filipino, and Spanish. He is also done learning his shapes, even complicated ones like hexagons. 

I wish I were that keen on learning. Sometimes, I feel like I'm already too tired from work (and even from training, haha!) to keep learning something new; to read up on new technology, new innovations, new ways of doing things. Admittedly, I can be complacent, thinking that what I know is enough to take me from one day to the next. I hope that his excitement for learning rubs off on me.

5) The Beauty of Childlikeness

Matthew 18:3 says, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." It's one of the verses that remind me about how we should treat our relationship with God: that of a child fully dependent on His Father, fully trusting in His Father.

Mateo's relationship with each of us is the same way. He trusts us to ensure that when he swims with his floaters, he won't drown; he knows that when we feed him this kind of food, it is good for him; when we say that we'll play later, he believes wholeheartedly that we mean it. 

There's something magical about maintaining one's sense of childlikeness: that ability to trust easily, to see the good in people, to believe in the very best, to be "in the moment" and not worry too much about something that hasn't happened yet. And while many say that I'm "young at heart" because of my seemingly jovial nature, I confess that a big part of me has gotten very tired, very jaded, very distrusting, very worried, even if it doesn't seem like it many times.

I need to learn to let go; to trust more; to believe more.

Happy 2nd birthday to this little sidekick of mine who continues to teach, inspire, motivate, and bring out the best in each one of us in the family! I thank God every day for the treasure that he is.

I wonder what the "Terrific Twos" will bring!

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