There really is no substitute for learning

When we stop learning, we stop growing.

Those are valued words that have bounced around my scattered brain for years now, though I can’t remember if I was gifted them by a parent, a teacher or a creepy dude in a trench coat I once encountered by some poorly-lit docks. Regardless, they have stuck with me, and I’ve noticed over the years that the more I learn, the more I realize how ignorant I truly am.

I could share example after example of stories I’ve read, or things I’ve seen, that have left me scratching my remarkably handsome head and thinking, “Man, I can’t believe I’ve never heard this before. This just seems like something everybody should know.”

Of course, there’s a certain give-and-take that goes with obtaining new information, particularly when one finds himself comfortably in his 40s. While it’s rewarding to learn something new, or to appreciate something differently, other information that we’ve had nestled in our heads forever begins to wilt away.

For example, I recently learned from a story in the Wall Street Journal that one in six NFL players declare bankruptcy within 12 years of stepping away from the game. On the flip side, that new morsel apparently pushed out my ability to remember where I put my reading glasses or how to consume beverages, as I spilled half a cup of water down my shirt while trying to take a sip.

Trust me. That is not a wet T-shirt contest anybody wants to see.

Regardless, I’ve been thinking about that never-ending pursuit of knowledge we should all be partaking quite a bit lately. Some of that is rooted in the reality that the more I learn, the more I realize how much more there is in the world I should know. And, honestly, part of that is simply watching my beautiful 5-month-old daughter soak in more and more information every day.

It really is an incredible thing to behold. Her curiosity leads her to reach for anything that captures her eye, and it is fascinating to just sit in front of her and watch her study a stuffed animal or teething ring or a pair of reading glasses.

See what I did there? I started with the premise that I couldn’t find my reading glasses, and then I brought it all the way back around by...

But I digress.

I confess, when she first entered my life, I was petrified. I didn’t have any idea how to teach a person to read, or walk, or speak or, well, anything at all. I’ve since learned that all I can do is put in effort, and the wonders of a baby’s mind take over. She’s always seemed interested when I held her in front of a mirror, at least for a few minutes, but now she’s becoming engaged, trying to reach out to that kid staring back at her. I even caught her looking at me in the mirror, then whipping her head back to see me, then shooting back another look at me in the mirror.

It’s starting to make sense to her.

Of course, it would be false to suggest that I’m no longer petrified — it just shifts to other areas. For instance, I worry that I coddle her too much when she’s crying and she’ll never learn to be self-sufficient, and I panic sometimes when I watch her sleep that she moves and wiggles around too much, setting herself up for some injury or another. At the risk of sounding sexist, I feel like I’d have an easier time watching her bang her head against something if she was a boy.

Like, boys are supposed to do these dumb things in order to learn, right?

Regardless, it’s pretty cool watching her learn and experience new things. She was born in November, shortly before our great Siberian winter started, so she’s never been exposed to flowers blooming outside until recently, and judging by her constant stretching for them with a smile on her face, she’s a big fan.

I’ve also learned that she absolutely loves taking baths, eating pureed sweet potatoes and watching NFL Network at night.

Editor’s Note: The writer left out her affinity for carrots because of a hope that if she doesn’t eat them, he won’t have to, either. And the NFL Network thing? Complete fabrication. He’s just hoping to justify his own viewing habits.

So, we learn together, and that’s about as cool a bonding experience as I could ever ask for in this crazy world. I have learned that cows do indeed provide milk, from listening to the same excruciating song 1,742 times in a row, and she learns how the Cover 3 defense can confuse quarterbacks with different looks, assuming your front seven can provide an adequate pass rush.

So, really, we both win.