They’re Doing What They Do

They’re loud. They’re messy. They’re expensive. They don’t listen.

They’re also kids. It’s sort of the point.

The late Paul Woodruff told a wonderful story in ​his episode on the Daily Stoic podcast​. Before he died, he loved birdwatching and had a bird feeder in his backyard. But the squirrels kept stealing the birdseed he was putting out. This was frustrating and annoying and he found himself growing angry.

But then he remembered a passage from ​Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations about how we should accept when things are doing what their nature demands. The squirrels were not trying to give Paul a hard time, they did not mean any harm. The squirrels were simply doing what they do. They were doing what their nature demanded.

How unfair is it that we get frustrated with our kids for being kids? Babies have trouble sleeping. They make disgusting messes in their diapers. Teenagers push boundaries. Toddlers throw tantrums. This is what they do. It’s not a reflection of their character, it’s not an act of aggression, it’s not a reflection of our character either. It’s something totally expected, totally natural—totally endurable too, by the way.

To be frustrated by this, to expect something different? It’s nuts. It’s mean. It’s distracting you from the fact that squirrels are just as fun to watch in your backyard as birds, that this moment you’re in with your kids is just as much a part of growing up as any other.

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