“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.”

Following is a reflection from a mother of a 9-month-old. Watching her son grow, she has realized that she grows because of how he lives – always pushing his limits, always learning, not afraid of challenges and pain, and never giving up.

He’s only lived nine months. But in his nine months, he’s grown in leaps and bounds.

His arms are now pleasingly pudgy. We endearingly call him “thunder thighs.” His cheeks have filled out, making his face the shape of a cute peach. From this little person, I’ve learned that life is about striving to become better.

I recall holding him at the time of his birth. I could count the things he could do on my fingers: breathe, sleep, poo, eat, yawn, and open his eyes to watch the new world around him. At that time, he couldn’t even burp on his own. Yet, every little accomplishment was special to us. His cousins would coo every time he opened his eyes and a gas smile crossed his face. We would celebrate every time a burp escaped his lips.

Just a few months later he started trying to roll over to see a different angle of the world. It was hard at first, even painful when his arm got stuck behind his belly in mid-roll. But he never gave up. Eventually, we would all celebrate when he made his full roll over from belly to back, and then again when he figured how to roll from back to belly.

But he didn’t stop there. Next, he started gaining confidence in sitting. But it was no easy feat. He would fall over, landing on his face, or fall backward, hitting his head on the floor. Every time he would cry out in pain, but get up to try again after the tears cleared. Eventually, he became adept at sitting. He discovered in that position he could see people right-side-up, and grab for toys and garbage.

But as soon as he learned to sit, he realized there was a world beyond his grip. He needed to learn how to move from one place to the other. Slowly he started reaching his arms forward. Sometimes he would be stuck on all fours. He would hold and reach as long as possible until he collapsed from exhaustion. But he would not give up. Slowly, the daily training built up muscles where he never had muscles before, and be began to move forward. At first, it was more of a worm wiggle forward, as he dragged his legs behind, then he built capacity to go up on all fours. Today he is quick as lightning, especially when his sister drops a tasty morsel from the table.

But, that hasn’t stopped him – he is on to new grounds. These days he practices squats to build his leg muscles. He can stand on his own, a fact that he is very proud of. But it didn’t come without pain. There were lots of falls and head bumps along the way. He aims to walk like his elder cousins and siblings. Maybe someday run.

He impresses me. He has taught me that life should be lived like he lives it, always striving to become more, always reaching for the next step of development. He never gives up. He’s always ready to go. He faces the pain of starting a new thing without hesitation, and gets up after every fall, ready to try again. And as he goes through that process, he grows.

Sometimes I get complacent, satisfied with where I’ve come and what I’ve come to master. But seeing how my little one lives life with so much gusto – pushing himself at every turn and accomplishing so much in a short nine months, reminds me of how much more I could do if I retained that same mindset – to always learn, and always reach for more. This lesson can apply in all areas of our life – our spirituality, our relationships, our job and community engagement.

He has taught his siblings as well. His older brother gives credit to his little brother. “I learned to never give up and always do my best from my little brother.” He received a certificate of recognition for his efforts this year.

Amazing what we can learn from a nine-month-old.