May 15, 2016
Learning from Alia
LO Executive Director
Six months ago I joined a special and exclusive club. I became a grandfather to an extraordinary and wonderful little girl named Alia. Every weekend since (and some weeknights) my wife Maxine and I are compelled by a mysterious internal urge to visit our granddaughter. The visits are quite humorous. We are constantly bickering about who gets to hold the baby.
A couple of months ago Alia learned to eat real food. It was delightful to watch as she tried to figure out what to do with her tongue. The puréed food went everywhere but in her mouth. Her outstretched tongue kept getting in the way. She kept trying until it finally worked. Not being successful the first time did not matter in the least. She just kept trying. She never gave up. This pattern of unsuccessful attempts kept repeating as she learned to turn over, sit up, stand up or reach for a toy. Every unsuccessful attempt was followed by an encouraging word from her parents. Once a new skill was mastered there was much applause and laughter. As I observed this behaviour, a very obvious thought crossed my mind; success is really a product of repeated failures. Of course it is. Why are we so hard on ourselves when we fail at something? Failure is simply delayed success. We should always remember to encourage others and ourselves when failure occurs and applaud and celebrate success. Many of us are struggling with professional and personal challenges. We can all learn from babies.
One weekend we were asked to babysit while Alia’s parents went to a Toronto Blue Jays game. My daughter left a very detailed list of instructions including a firm time to put Alia to bed. When that time arrived, I dutifully carried Alia to her bedroom. The second I entered the door, the previously happy child began to fuss inconsolably. It was frustrating. Why was she crying? Instinctively, I patted her back and walked with her out the door. She stopped crying and began to smile. After several repeated attempts to put her to bed it became clear that Alia did not agree with her mother’s sleeping schedule. She let me know in no uncertain terms. What is the life lesson here? Honest and direct communication is important. Even without language, she was very clear on what her wishes were.
Watching my granddaughter develop week-to-week is an amazing gift. Alia is teaching me some great life lessons even though she can’t even say a word. The lessons started before she was born.
My daughter and mother had a very special relationship. The name Alia was chosen to honour my mother’s memory. Even though she is no longer with us, her caring energy lives on in her children, grandchildren and now her great grandchild Alia. The profound thread of care connects and transcends time from one generation to the next, growing exponentially, enhancing lives and leaving a legacy of benefit. It is good to be reminded that we have the power to do the same. We can change the world through our care and positive energy. We can benefit those who we will never know. We can make a difference.
Tony DiGiovanni may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.