Big Lessons from a Tiny Person

Conversations with my granddaughter are expanding beyond burbles and trills to delicious mispronunciations that will become the stuff of family lore.  Ohdor means Please open the door. UpDown is a request to read the Olivia book about opposites. More than her darling gymnastics with the English language, Olivia’s actions speak potent lessons. In a single week, this little being who doesn’t yet weigh even 20 pounds, has taught me much.

Lesson 1 —Blissful experiences deserve endless repetition. 

Olivia and her mom were visiting one afternoon when Olivia discovered the little slope of grass abutting our patio. Down she toddled, gathering speed. When she reached the bottom, she lay on her back, threw her arms wide and grinned up at the sky in utter bliss.  If there’d been a cartoon balloon above her it would have read, “Ain’t life just the BEST!!!”  

Again and again she toddled up the slope, ran down and collapsed, looking skyward. She was utterly in the moment, reveling in the joy of her body, in the speed her chubby legs could now take her, perhaps even in the wind caressing pink cheeks. She exulted in the realization that she could experience this again and again and again.

Delight in your experiences. Repeat them. And then again. 

Lesson 2 — Share your love with insistence. 

It was bedtime.  Olivia had been bathed, diapered and PJ’d, read to and read to again.  

“Kiss Aviva good-night,” her mother said, holding her out to me. Olivia covered my face with kisses. She planted sweet love on each cheek, on my chin, on my forehead. She stopped for a minute and I stepped back to leave.  Olivia squealed her displeasure.  I got the message loud and clear.  “I’m not finished, thank you very much. I’m not done giving you my kisses!”  I moved within kissing range and was rewarded with three more, light as a butterfly’s wing. 

The love we give is precious; give it joyously.  If you are fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of such love, for Pete’s sake, hang around!

Lesson #3  — Love yourself. 

I can’t draw; lots of skeletons in my creative closet. What my eye sees and what my hand renders do not align. But one day, determined to silence the ghosts, I set out to sketch Olivia from one of my husband’s photos. 

I worked on it for the better part of a morning, studying the fullness of her cheeks, the little round point of her chin. What was the proportion of her forehead to her features? Where do the ears go? The eyebrows? And those eyes! They are swirled with brown, green and blue. Someone called them little earths. I struggled to show the way each strand of her hair feathers across her forehead.  When I was done, it wasn’t an exact likeness but I had captured something about her that was familiar.

One afternoon I showed her the drawing. 

“ME!” she shouted touching a tiny finger to the page .  “ME!!” Then she leaned over and kissed the drawing. 

I was stunned. She recognized herself! Even more moving was the immediate kiss she planted on the drawing. When you look in the mirror, is your first reaction joy or criticism? When was the last time you kissed the mirror when you saw your reflection? I see the lines in my face, not my smile and warm brown eyes. I bemoan middle age spread instead of being grateful for the strong body that takes me hiking and allows me to crawl on the floor with Olivia. I pine for what was, instead of celebrating ME! ME!!  HERE!! NOW!!

Olivia has no reference of what was.  She simply is.  She doesn’t know or care that three months ago she had no hair and now has just enough to make a bonsai-sized palm tree atop her head. She saw a likeness of herself and went to town exulting.  “That’s me! I’m wonderful! I’m OLIVIA!” 

Offer huge smiles and spontaneous kisses to the person in the looking glass. She is to be treasured!

Dearest Olivia, what lessons will you teach me this week?  

Your willing and loving student, 


23 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Verne says:

    Powerful lessons that are beautifully shared through your words – I’m listening and learning from you and Olivia.

  2. Dee Wind says:

    Dear Debra,

    What a joy! I reslly enjoyed reading this essay. Cassidy is a few months behind Olivia and We’re enjoying het so much. You wrote beautifully. Thsnks so much for sharing.

  3. Linda Trammell says:

    Such profound love you share. Thank you for eloquence in the language of the heart and letting me share vicariously in the joy of being a bubbie!

  4. Beth S Greenapple says:

    So precious, these lessons you’re learning from Olivia.

  5. Three terrific lessons. Delightful post, Debra!

  6. Julie Dykowski says:

    Love, love, love it!
    With new granddaughter on the way it fills me with joy like buying her first sleeper!
    Cherish every event as you know how quickly they grow. It’s nice that you are recording these precious moments and sharing too!

  7. Manny Kalef says:

    You are so lucky that you have the time and opportunity to enjoy her. I was always too busy with work, etc. You can never get those years back.


  8. Ginger says:

    How you experience the world is beautiful! Thank you for sharing your life, insights and inspiration.

  9. Nancy Kalef says:

    What beautiful thoughts! I agree with all who have written their eloquent words before me, including Manny’s words. I also was too busy working to learn about life from these little beings. Keep writing, Debra, and inspire your friends to enjoy this time in their lives.

    • It’s so different with a grandchild. I feel no expectations; place none on myself
      the way I did with my own kids. Raising children was so much more fraught.
      Uh Oh. I feel another essay coming on1

  10. What a lovely and moving essay on your lessons from your granddaughter. The last one brought me to tears: Self love, looking at one’s likeness and feeling the joy of being me. Wow, how nice of you to teach us too!

    • I’m telling you Larry. It was as if a curtain parted and I saw
      what we lose when the rest of the world starts defining us — telling
      us where we fall short. I’m so glad you liked it.

  11. Tamara Goldenberg says:

    Debra that was simply a wonderful essay ! You have a talent for sure and I am blessed to be able to share in it ! I thought the first essay could not be topped but you did it . You are spot on about our lil Olivia , a walking, talking , loving Lil treasure . Thank you for expressing what I feel but do not have the talent to express . Life is good . With love, Tammy

  12. Suzy farbman says:

    Delightful! Thanks, Debra.

  13. Lesson 1 endless repetition YESSSSS

    Lesson 2 share your love with insistence YESSSS

    Lesson 3 love yourself YESSS

    Yesss great teachings!
    Thanks for a lovely article and drawing!

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