I've had the pleasure of spending time with lots of newborns in the last year. Between Asha's and my family, four boys came into the world in a short three-month period. Two of the boys — Anderson and Kai — have young older sisters in Lexi and Maya respectively. All together, they're a heartwarming handful.
I'm not entirely comfortable around the littlest ones just yet. I'm still learning how to hold them naturally. I don't have the finely-honed intuitions to know what they need; veterans often come to my rescue cooing and swooping in with deft hands. I will get there, though probably too late to be of any help to the exhausted parents.
One thing, however, I'm learning quickly. The young — both the littlest ones and the toddlers — are great teachers of presence. A fantastic moment in Tim Ferriss's podcast with Josh Waitzkin, which I've linked to before, describes the real-life classroom better than I can:
Parenting has been the most fantastic learning experience I've ever gone through. So from when [Jack] was born, I tried very hard to not go into it with a lot of preconceived ideas and to be attuned to him, to listen to him. From when he was just days, weeks old, he was teaching me. You know, you talk about teaching presence. Our eyes would be connected and if I would think about something else, his eyes would pull me back. If there was any distraction that set in, he would pull me back. And as he got a little older, he would just take your face and pull it back in the sweetest way. So the depth of connection, you know, being deeply attuned to a young spirit that hasn't become blocked, that is in that state of unobstructed self-expression, that is just this unbelievably game learner, unblocked learner. . .
When not in the throes of inevitable growing pains, the young are a paradigm of wonder and awe. Rather than see them as students that we must shepherd through life, we can flip the script and open ourselves to their role as teachers. When I've become the student of the young in my life, I've been rewarded with the incredible gift of presence. No gift is greater. There is always — and only — now. We spend our lives clawing back to it, but it is all the young know until we teach them otherwise. Though they don't even know of their generosity, I'm grateful for the moments of learning they've shared with me in the past year.