Lessons about value from my little ones

Tidying my children’s bedroom last week, I sighed as I looked at the ‘junk’ building up on the windowsill. Small, aged 6, has an eye for the ‘precious’ – fossils, old stickers, Lego masterpieces, tiny cacti.

My instinct was to sweep it all into yet another shoe box. But I stopped and had a look at all the things he had collected. He remembers where each and every item comes from, who gave it to him and why it is special.

It stopped me in my tracks. This mini museum looks like worthless litter to me, but for him it is tied up with memories of joy, human connection and intrinsic beauty. Every object is more than its physical form – it holds a moment or an interaction that he wants to capture and keep. It made me reflect on how I see my life.

So often I dismiss the small, the beautiful, the joyful, because they are not things that our society values. As grownups we prefer the big, the impressive, the visible. Something inside drives us to make our mark. We like to achieve and prove ourselves and then say, “Phew, we are worth something after all.”

Often I feel my life circumstances prevent me from taking part in this adult world of achievement and productivity. I feel like an outsider, and that can make me feel like I am not valuable.

But looking at Small’s treasure trove, I was taken back to the wonder of childhood, when every experience is rich and new and worth savouring. I remembered that I was once like Small – my dad even built tiny shelves in my room for me to stash all my treasures on. I realised I want to go back there – I want to be more like my children in how I see myself and the world I inhabit.

I’m so glad Small’s museum is cluttering his windowsill. I can go and look at it when I feel inadequate and remind myself to take delight in what these items signify – the people who love me, precious memories and the simple beauty in the world around us.

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