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3 Things Tweens Teach Us about Living and Enjoying Life


“If it’s not fun, you’re not doing it right.” ~Bob Basso

Work, Eat, Sleep. Work, Eat Sleep.

We all get wrapped up in this humdrum cycle of life consisting of working, eating, and sleeping, then waking up a few hours later to do it all over again.

This year it’s been particularly challenging for me to find ways to create balance and keep ahold of my sanity when the grind includes growing my small business, completing a new home with my husband, and settling into our first year as newlyweds who have yet to take a honeymoon.

And then it happened. Last month, I looked at my phone and the calendar read “July 15”—which meant that is was mid-July, which meant that summer was quickly fading away, which, most importantly, meant that I was letting the beauty of my favorite, sun-filled season slip right through my fingertips without even putting up a fight.

Luckily, my fate was soon to change as I was expecting my 13 year old spunky little sister, sent straight from my parents’ home in Hawaii.

A little background on our relationship: I left for college when she was five years old and since then, have only been able to spend a few weeks with her here and there during the holidays.

Hearing so much about bullying, sexting, and other emerging teen issues in the media, I had been feeling a bit disconnected from her. And I had this deep longing to reconnect to try to understand her experiences and provide any support that I can.

Equipped with an iPod, iTouch, iMac, and a lifetime’s supply of lip gloss, Sabrina arrived ready to take on San Diego, and ready to take me with her! I was pleasantly surprised to meet a confident, articulate, and organized pre-teen who still managed to capture the playful and silly little girl qualities I remembered so vividly from her childhood.

I am grateful to share these three wonderful lessons I learned while living a week through the eyes of a tween:

1. Indulge in life

To my sweet surprise, wherever I went with Sabrina it turned into an exciting adventure. For example, I took her out on my daily errands around town, stopping at different farmers markets to get our groceries for the week.

Every time I visit the markets I noticed this delicious looking cupcake truck, but I’ve always talked myself out of getting one. It was different with a tween in tow. The very first thing she noticed was the truck, and we absolutely had to have one….or seven.

As we get older, we tend to feel guilty for indulging in little treats for ourselves. Whether it’s a sugary cupcake or a much needed staycation, for some reason, we talk ourselves out of these sweet indulgences.

On what would have otherwise been a routine trip around town, Sabrina taught me this powerful lesson: Stop worrying so much. Life is meant to be lived. Soak up all its sweetness.

2. Be more affectionate

I have always been a very touchy-feely kind of person, generously giving out hugs and love wherever possible. But, as I grew older, I realized not everyone is receptive to the affection, and some people just plain don’t like to be touched. So, I backed off and became more conscious of my interactions with people.

I’ve noticed that as a society, as we get farther away from our childhood, we create these unnecessary boundaries between ourselves and other human beings, afraid that if we put our love out there it won’t get returned.

Children have this incredible ability to give away love like it is going out of style—hugs, kisses, snuggles, twirling your hair. Every night as we lay on the couch after dinner, Sabrina would hold my hand, and then play with my hair. Then she’d finally collapse her head in my lap and fall asleep on top of me.

My week with my sister taught me a profound lesson about how necessary it is to reconnect with people on a physical level. Something as simple as a warm hug can soothe the soul.

3. Laugh out loud

Also known in the tween world as “LOL.” Sometimes as adults, we forget how important it is to find the humor in every situation and experience a nice big belly laugh at least once a day. Even the most mundane trip with Sabrina turned into a hilarious adventure.

One lazy weekday, on our way to the beach, a Hare Krishna approached us. Being a tall bald monk swaddled in orange cloth, he must have been a rather strange sighting for a 13 year old. Instead of making fun of him or trying to avoid this eccentricity, Sabrina became actively engaged and genuinely interested in what he had to say for more than 10 minutes.

Towards the end of the conversation, he offered us the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Indian text, and a instead of awkwardly declining, her first instinct was to ask, “How much?”

His response was perfect, “There is no charge. We are monks, not punks!” This caused Sabrina to erupt in an adorable and contagious laughter that caused me to laugh, which caused the people all around us to join in on this hilarious moment.

The precious lesson out of this story is that we all know full-grown adults who would not have treated the monk with as much respect as this tween had. In turn, by being open and genuinely interested in other human beings, and by sending out positive vibrations, we got to experience this wonderful moment of uproarious laughter that spread to all those around us.

We should never forget, happiness is contagious—spread it whenever and wherever you can.

Children, by nature, are open-hearted beings who are more familiar with loving than fearing life. Fear is a learned habit that we develop over time. If we can reconnect with that child inside of all of us that loves, instead of fears, we can enjoy life’s offerings to the fullest.

Children are also less familiar with the concept of rushing. We, the adults, are the ones who teach them to “Hurry up, move quicker, let’s go!” Instead of looking at situations as inconvenient, or stressing that they’re slowing you down from getting to wherever you think you need to go, try enjoying the journey a little bit more.

Take every situation or person you encounter today and find ways that you can: indulge in life, be more affectionate, and laugh out loud. When we do these three things, we channel our inner child and let go of the deeply embedded habit of fear—and that’s how we can truly begin to love ourselves, our experiences, and our journey to the fullest.

Photo by Lizard10979

Avatar of Mandy Burstein

About Mandy Burstein

Mandy Burstein is a La Jolla-based yoga instructor who founded Yoga Luna in an effort to bring affordable, outdoor, ocean-inspired classes to her community. Mandy teaches Vinyasa flow, Kids yoga, Teen yoga and Stand-up Paddleboard Yoga. For more information, please visit Yoga Luna or follow her on at Facebook.

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  • Guest101

    That was very inspiring, thank you so much for writing this wonderful article! And it’s so true that children teach us sooooo much about enjoying life more and loving without condition. I have a 2 year old myself and she laughs and plays all day long…it’s so refreshing to the soul!

  • http://the100percentyou.com/ John Sherry

    Oh yes Mandy! Younger souls teach us older (and supposedly wiser) ones that life is fun and needs to be approached that way. Sure they have work commitments with school or college or relationship woes but they never lose their mind to them and get bogged down in not enjoying life. When work is done out comes the suny attitude and they’re off to play. We? We’re off to watch TV or complain or shake our heads at what’s wrong in the world. Perhaps the truth is it’s what’s wrong in OUR world. After all they are merely the person we once were, the person somehow we’ve lost.

  • Kimmim123

    Thank you for sharing your delightful story.  I know kids of this age can be great but working in a middle school setting I also know that your experience could have been completely opposite.  I am soooo glad to hear the good side of our youth and enjoy them for the wonderful people they can be!!

  • Seneca Han

    Very nice story, especially the anecdote with the monk. I do wish I responded to similar situations like that rather than get awkward or quickly shut my front door, etc.

    But I have one explanation about why we have and kind of MUST move away from being so touchy-feely–pervy men. Sorry, but it’s true. When you’re a kid, you don’t know that certain folks are getting a bigger bang (pun intended) out of pressing their body to yours than you are, with your simple affection and human-to-human compassion. And I, for one, just can’t feel okay knowing I’m being subtly groped by someone I just wanted to share a moment of platonic universal warmth with. It instantly sours those warm, fuzzy feelings, of course, but also makes me angry to be taken advantage of, even if it seems to be just a small thing from others’ POVs. But I get the feeling that I’m not the only woman who would feel that way about this.

  • http://twitter.com/AlannahRose Alannah Rose

    I was such a serious kid (and even more serious teenager), that the experience you’ve shared here is pretty unfamiliar to me!  However, it’s a great reminder for me that I can have a child’s mind now, as much as possible.  Sabrina sounds like such a gift–how wonderful to be that open to everything and make life such an adventure!

  • 23222

    I think you should see someone about your feelings…

  • Workingparent08

    You have made my day with this posting. I will have to read it a few times to let it sink in. Great observations!