When Tragedy Strikes

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A couple of years ago, news broke of a tragic shooting in Colorado. Saddened and distraught, I started looking for resources aimed at parents, like myself, who were searching for ways to help their kids process the news of this unthinkable event. So I searched. And I found a few good resources and put them together in a short post.

Then the next tragedy struck. So, again, I searched and I added a few more resources to the list. Then the next… and the next. In fact, every time news of a shooting in our country has occurred, more and more resources have become available and the list in this post has become longer and longer.

While it is wonderful that there are so many great articles, books, and videos available to parents, the length of this list pains me. Each time I revisit this post I find myself confronted by the ugly thought that perhaps one day I will apathetically skim past these breaking news stories and choose to no longer add to this list out of a sense of complete hopelessness. What other tragedies, I wonder, do I already neglect to make lists for, neglect to help my children process, forgetting that they may see my indifference as acceptance?  Most of all, I wonder if the world will allow my children’s hearts will be soft enough to feel the sting of senseless violence or if they will grow to no longer take pause if they continue to be surrounded by stories of children being murdered in their own backyards.

And so, I offer this list to you again, but this time with the recognition that our job is not to help our children become immune to the sadness of tragedy. Instead, let us help them feel secure with them knowledge that they are loved and cherished; let us model for them a reverence for life, and open their eyes wide to injustice, and also remind them to look for the heroes who bring us hope.

Tragedy calls us to show our children that we can and do work together for goodness and peace in our world and that there is so much power in even the smallest acts of kindness and love.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” — Mister Rogers

 

Send me your suggestions for books, videos, resources, and other tips that you would like to share on this topic by emailing uuathome@gmail.com or add a comment below.

Finding the Right Teachable Moment

finding the right teachable moment

Submitted By Erin Rockafellow

Back in October the kids and I were sorting pumpkin seeds for roasting that we had brought home from a group carving. The kids and I were having fun being together with slimy hands and all. As we sorted the seeds some of them had started to sprout already.

The big discussion began between my 10 year old daughter and my 8 year old son about what to do with those seeds:

“We should save them and plant them!” says my daughter.

“No just throw them away,” says my son.

“But if we plant the seeds they will grow into new pumpkin plants.”

“Yes, but they aren’t pumpkins yet- so we should just throw them away.”

“We shouldn’t throw them away; it isn’t their fault that they sprouted when they didn’t need to.”

“It’s almost winter. What are we going to do with pumpkin plants? We can’t grow them in the house; we need to throw them away.”

As this conversation went on, my husband and I kept looking at each other. First with amusement about the parallels between this topic and the abortion debate. As the debate wore on, we really started to wonder if we should go ahead and have the big conversation with our kids since they really seemed to have very strong opposing opinions. The kids continued their lines of thought, trying to convince the other that they were right. It was like watching a tennis match.

In my head I was trying so hard to decide what to do: would I be a bad mom if we didn’t have that big talk? Is it really in our best interest to have that discussion with a 10 year old and 8 year old? My husband and I just looked at each other with a slight amount of panic and silently came to a decision to not have that discussion.

We congratulated the kids on having a well debated topic and we told them how proud we were that they never started fighting, but continued to use kind language with each other. Honestly, the kids did a great job of articulating why they thought their opinion was the right one. We helped the kids agree to disagree and explained that sometimes the best thing you can do is hold your opinion and let someone else have theirs too.

It ate at me. For weeks I second guessed my decision to take the easy way out. I knew that when we made the decision it was more about us feeling uneasy and unprepared than it was about anything else. Over breakfast one morning I told a friend about my story. She listened to everything including my own self doubt. Instead of telling me that I chickened out, she reminded me that sometimes situations have more than one teachable moment; my husband and I picked the one that was right for us. The other moment that we had skipped over would be waiting in the back of our minds for when the time was right for that big discussion. We had not lost our moment we just cataloged it away for later; and for us, that was the best we could do in that moment.

What are your tips for approaching challenging teachable moments? Share below! 

Explore this idea through children’s literature: What is most important at any given time? “Being present” in The Three QuestionsBy Jon Muth

Calm, Cool and Collected

Thinking

It finally happened. I have been working with my 3 and 5 year old kids on naming emotions and finding coping mechanisms for anger and frustration from the time that they were wee babes, and wouldn’t you know it, they have gone and thrown it all right back in my face.

“Uhm, mom, I think… maybe you need to find something calm to do. You aren’t being a very Peaceful Piggy.”

Great. That’s all I need. My 5 year old trying to teach me a lesson. I don’t want to slow down. I am sure that everyone within a mile radius of me can feel my intensity today, but I don’t care. I just want to get everything on my to-do list done. Now. Yesterday. And who does that child think she is, anyway?

“Thanks for the reminder,” I am glaring at my 5 year old. “But it is time to get going. Now. Get. Your. Shoes. On.” 

Okay. To be fair, there really is no rush. It is just that I am tired and cranky and we just got back from an emotional trip out of town and there are loads of laundry to do and I desperately need a nap. I am also a fair bit hungry, so getting the kids to put back on the shoes they took off for lord knows what reason and leaving church for the comfort of home sounds oh-so-appealing at this moment. So… let’s get a move on.

“Maaaaayyybbeee try a deep breath. Or play with toys. I like to play with toys when I am angry.” My 5 year old keeps digging deeper as she ever so slowly puts on her shoes. Today’s lesson in church was on meditation and finding ways to calm down when we feel overwhelmed, frustrated or angry. It was about finding a peaceful place in your heart so that you can take on the day, feel powerful, and love yourself and your neighbor. I should know. I put the lesson together myself.

I am growing impatient. “I will give it a try when we get home. But we have to get there first. Now, let’s go!”

“If you feel so mad you can ROAR,” sings my 3 year old son, “Take a deep breath and count to 4! One… Two… Three… Four!” He repeats the lyrics from an episode of the PBS show Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood; lyrics that I have sung with him many times as he has come down from tantrums, usually involving not getting his favorite foods for dinner. He doesn’t always love hearing this song and it usually takes a while before he begrudgingly stops stomping his feet long enough to “use his words” and tell me that he is just heartbroken that we can’t have pizza for every meal of every day. Angry stomping feet, it seems, are a lot easier to muster than finding the words to express disappointment. Except right now he has a giant smile on his face; he just put his shoes on all by himself and put his mom in check all at the same time. The kid is over the moon.

By this time I am feeling some weird combination of complete exhaustion, pride, hunger, humility and love. I am beginning to understand why my kids would much rather throw a tantrum than “use their words.” It is like when an annoyingly chipper morning person wakes you up in the morning after you get a terrible night’s sleep. I’m happy for you that you love waking up so early and that you are feeling so refreshed and wonderful. Truly. I am. And I really do realize that my scroogy-ness is the problem and your positive attitude should serve as a reminder for me to open my heart to the possibilities of the new day. But can’t I just be the lesser person for once? It is kind of comfortable down here in the dumps…

But I do it anyway. I take a few deep breaths and try to remember that this state of feeling overwhelmed, stressed and tired is just temporary. I will eventually make it home. I will get to eat some lunch, and I will get to rest. Everything will be okay. It will.

I am now off the ledge just enough to realize that I need to dial my stress back a bit, check my ego and recognize that my children are right.

“You guys are right; I am starting to feel better. Sometimes I get frustrated, tired and angry, too. I think that because I wanted to get home so badly I forgot to be kind and loving with my words. Thank you for reminding me and helping me to find more loving words.” I am saying this to remind myself just as much as I am affirming my children and the lessons I know I want them to hang on to. I am thinking eating a little lunch and resting might help me reset a bit. Can you guys help me do that?”

Of course they will help. Kids love nothing more than to know that they are wise, important and needed; because they really are, and so are we. Sometimes we just need a little reminder.

Here are some great tools to help you and your family become “Peaceful Piggies.” Add your favorite resources in the comments section below:

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood on PBS

Peaceful Piggy Meditation by Kerry Lee MacLean 

Kids Live Here

Kids live here. Sometimes it takes a two-year-old armed with a stolen blue sharpie and a big imagination to remind us of that.

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Kids live here,

  Sometimes we follow their whims…

…and sometimes they even let us play along.

Kids live here,

This home is where we nurture the imagination,

and let them be who they are.

Kids live here,

And sometimes we dare to let it show. 

Chilling Up

Over the past couple of weeks I have been feeling especially nostalgic. My daughter (my oldest) just graduated from preschool, and I may have started panicking a bit as I looked through the pictures from her end of year celebration. For some reason it has only now started hitting me that in just a blink of an eye I am going to look back at the pictures from significant days like this and feel a tinge of sadness. My heart has begun to ache for the future me that will look back on these moments and miss the different versions of my kids captured by my camera as we move all too quickly through time.

Not that I haven’t always felt a bit of that same tinge when I have looked back at other pictures of my daughter and my now two-year-old son; but I think that this is the first time when I have, in the midst of one of these once-in-a-lifetime moments, so fully felt the emotions that the future me will undoubtedly feel in the not-so-distant future. I blame the lack of sleep that generally comes along with the first few years of a child’s life. It is a crime that sleep deprivation and new-parent stress can keep one from thoroughly understanding the magnificence of the cuddles, snuggles, and late-night feedings. (Of course, I say all this now that I am some distance from this stage.)

At any rate, I am feeling like I have finally grown into my “parenthood” shoes and that I can more fully appreciate each moment as it is. Letting go of the stress has allowed me to more fully enjoy rites of passage, big and small; from my daughter’s graduation to my son’s beaming pride at every great new achievement. I am more present as he has really grown into a wonderful, imaginative playmate and my daughter has, after two years, learned to share her toys. Some lessons are just so hard to learn, but well worth the wait.

Before I discover my next stage of parenting, which may very well land me right back into “stress and sleep deprivation” land, I want to enjoy this moment in time and perhaps reach back a little bit and honor some of the milestones that I didn’t appreciate enough at the time. So today I’d like to start my list of under-appreciated moments in time that I would like to remember in the future. Perhaps you’ll be able to relate or have a few of your own under-appreciated kid and parent milestones to add:

Milestones I Should Have Appreciated More:

  • When the kids started talking about (in detail) and celebrating their bowel movements. Call me immature, but it is funny.
  • The first creation of a family portrait. On the wall. The same one that we have not had the heart to erase.
  • Each car ride accompanied by complete songs; the ones that are sweet only a parent’s ears and sung over. and over. and over.
  • The puke covered shirts (mine, not theirs), for I would have never gotten onto the scarf bandwagon if I hadn’t been out of clean shirts and needed to quickly cover a little puke grossness.
  • The inventions of new word combinations such as “Hanitizer,” “Co-help-erate” and “Chill up, Mommy!” And the day when we realized that those words found a way into our everyday vocabulary.
  • The moment when I realized for the first time what I REALLY sound like; not because I was listening to a recording, but because my kids began to speak clearly enough to throw my words right back at me. And I found myself annoying.
  • When I found out for the first time which of our possessions really mattered… because it was thoroughly destroyed by tiny hands. (See related: when my children proved that “childproof” doesn’t mean what we thought it meant.)
  • When I could trust my kids to play nice long enough to close the bathroom door, thank you very much.
  • When we discovered that the kids were tall enough to reach up onto the kitchen counters, only to discover just how well they could also reach the trash can, and just how hard it can be to find a set of car keys.
  • When the kids could start remembering where they hid things.
  • The day when your two-year-old throws a fit and your four-year-old says, “jeeeze… what’s HIS deal?!” Priceless.
  • The first time when I, in the midst of one of these once-in-a-lifetime milestones, so fully felt the emotions that the future me will undoubtedly feel in the not-so-distant future–knowing that I will miss my kids as they are in each of these moments.

A Common Language

MultitaskingI realized today that I talk about my kids incessantly. I have become one of “those parents” who can’t help but insert a funny anecdote about my kids and their bowel movements to help illustrate a point– any point– even if the conversation at hand has NOTHING to do with children OR poop.

And yes, it did take me 5 minutes to remember the word “anecdote,” because my brain is only 25% focused on what I am writing at this moment. The other 50% is paying attention to the toddler and preschooler fighting over who is going to get to sit on my lap right now. And before you start wondering about the missing 25% of my brain, it has long ago turned into mush and has a voice that sounds like Elmo. I am not making that up.

But as I look back over my sadly out-of-date blog, and attempt to type with one hand while my toddler has staged a sit-down strike on my right arm, I realize that the reason that I write so much about parenthood is because… well… it is sitting on my right arm. And it’s starting to smell.

I have been lucky enough in life that I have had few challenges as profound as parenting. But this challenge, or series of never-ending challenges, never has and never will leave the forefront of my brain. It occupies my existence 24/7/365. So I guess that it is probably a good and necessary life skill to be able to find big life-lessons in the seemingly small, gross, and weird that comes along with kids. Think of it as multi-tasking.

Now, if childless me from the past had accidentally stumbled upon this exact blog entry (because, let’s face it, childless me would have never read a blog talking about kids, like, on purpose) I would have told me to stop complaining.

Well, childless me, let me let you in on a little secret: I am not complaining. I am merely speaking a different language– a not-so-secret tongue shared between caregivers of children the world over. You might witness evidence of this language in supermarkets; that knowing look shared between parents when a tired, hungry child has a complete and utter meltdown in the bread aisle. It is a look that says, “Yeah. I know. I’ve been there too. But I am SO glad it’s not me this time.” This look, childless me, is the exact opposite of the look that you presently give to parents with cranky children. The “you are the most horrible parent in the world, and I know this because I have taken care of a kid for a couple of hours before” look. Stop this look. It will come back to haunt you, I promise.

Spoken correctly, this “caregiver of children” language is spoken with great love, understanding, and support. This language can transport you to a world where it might SOUND like you are complaining to a friend (or complete stranger) about changing crib sheets three times in one night after your toddler discovers how to undress himself for the first time. But, really, you are bragging about how awesomely brilliant your kid is for performing this Houdini-esque act, and paying tribute to that adorable, proud smile that made your otherwise miserable day. (Besides, you took some sweet pictures that you are going to show your kid’s future friends and partners. After all, you did change the sheets three times.)

The best part of this language is talking to other caregivers knowing that their lives have been forever changed as profoundly as yours has; that they, too, have had the unbelievable opportunity to humbly rediscover the world all over again through the eyes of a child. Stories shared have the power to help bring back beautiful memories, they can open your eyes when perspective has been lost, and can help a parent come to terms with the limits of what he or she can realistically offer their child.

Somehow being around and nurturing children, and being around others who share these experiences, has taught me more about this world, myself, and even my own childhood than I could have ever learned any other way. Shared experience, I think, can be one of the most powerful tools of understanding and support. Sometimes we just need a little anecdote about poop to break the ice.

And now that my hand is falling asleep from the toddler that has been happily perched on my arm, I am wondering if perhaps there is a lesson in this for me; a subtle reminder that I also need to care for myself so that I may be a fully-functioning parent. Or maybe my son is just telling me that he needs a new diaper. Multi-tasking.

Finding Meaning

sunsetBecoming a parent for the first time is a tricky business.

It really is true what they say: you are never really ready for the adventure that awaits you once you become a parent; there is nothing you can ever do to prepare, and there is no perfect time.

For as long as I can remember I have been the type of person that likes to be “the best” at everything I do; a horrible character flaw that is quite possibly related to the “overly and unnecessarily competitive” gene I seem to have also inherited. So it was only natural that when I became a mom for the first time that I was determined to be the best parent. Ever.

Of course I knew beyond any doubt that I would be able to effortlessly add “mom” to the laundry list of other things I was committed to keep doing after giving birth; hormones and sleep deprivation be damned. I would breastfeed, homeschool, be involved in my community, make all our own own baby food (from our own garden, of course!) and cloth diaper; I would also continue working and working on my career, write, continue school, take care of our home and our pets, and everything else I was already doing. Even with the wonderful partner I have in my husband, I was vowing to be super-human.

Shortly after our daughter was born, we discovered that some of the issues that we were dealing with as first-time parents were outside the realm of “normal” (whatever that looks like). Our beloved child was covered from head to toe in eczema and it never seemed to get any better, no matter what we did to treat it. As her level of discomfort increased, sleep became harder and harder to come by for all of us as we spent many of our nights trying to soothe her so she could rest. My hazy waking hours were spent searching for new answers; stressing out as new approaches consistently fell short.

Of course, after trying countless treatments and several doctors were consulted, our answer came to us after our daughter’s first taste of candy sent us to the emergency room and her life-threatening peanut allergy was revealed to us a few months after her first birthday. Upon further testing, she was diagnosed with many other “less-serious” food allergies as well.

We were scared and heart-broken, and our lives totally changed. Again.

After everything we had done “right”, none of our efforts kept this from happening to our daughter. Surely we had listened to the wrong doctors, and I MUST have eaten the wrong things when I was pregnant, or perhaps we introduced solids too early, or maybe we should have questioned the vaccines, or perhaps our house was not clean enough. In the months that followed our daughter’s first anaphylactic reaction, I found a million different ways to blame myself for her allergy. It broke my heart to know that, in all probability, the rest of her life she will not be able to enjoy a birthday cake at a friends party or eat Halloween candy; and it horrified me even more as I realized that her life would be in danger anytime we left the safety of our peanut-free home.

The three years since we learned of our daughter’s hidden disability has been filled with making new discoveries, tweaking the way we live everyday and anticipating the challenges of the future. We have learned to read labels, educated ourselves about current laws and and school policies, and made sure that among our daughter’s first phrases was “I have a peanut allergy.” We have been frustrated by the lack of understanding in some, but also moved to tears by the efforts of our family and friends to ensure that our daughter would be safe and feel included in our celebrations. We have felt anger that this has had to happen to our family and then overwhelmingly fortunate that, really, things could be a hell of a lot worse.

I have never been a fan of the whole “things happen for a reason” bit, but I have discovered through all of this that I am okay with “everything that happens can have meaning-if your mind and heart are open to it.”

My daughter’s allergies have been a challenge and a gift all at the same time; I have learned so much about the challenges of parenting, gained empathy for the range of challenges that people face every day, and, most importantly, I have been learning a thing or two about understanding (and respecting!) my own limitations. I can’t do it all, and I can’t anticipate every curve ball that will be thrown my way.

What will tomorrow bring?

I am not sure; but I think the biggest challenge for us is to not let our imagination of what is going to be or SHOULD be take away from the “is” and the lessons it brings.

Want to learn more about food allergies?

Nut Free Mom Blog

The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN)

Stop and Smell the Roses

Stopping to smell the roses

It is funny how children can speed up and slow down your life all at the same time.

There are days that I scarcely remember; a blur of tasks: Get the kids up and clothed, fed and cleaned, out the door and in the car, back home, settled down and snuggled, read to and asleep. Before you know it, you are passed out on the couch (nursing that foot you injured stepping on those stinking toys) wondering where the heck your day went.

And then there are the days when you are forced to slow it down; your daily flight into “to-do list land” grounded, plans derailed, and to make it worse, there is usually puke involved. Or, perhaps, I should speak for myself.

Oddly enough it is on these days, when my time is spent sitting on the couch, snuggling with my sick kid, that I wonder why it is that I am so inclined to wait until I have endured a toy-inflicted injury to spend some time crashed on my couch. It is nice when there is a chance to slow it down… just for the sake of slowing it down. No puke involved.

I think that my daughter has made it her life’s mission to remind us to take it down a notch; this is a child who, from the time she was born, has always moved at her own pace. Sometimes to our greatest frustration. Shortly after she started to walk, we discovered that the days of moving our bodies from point A to point B in a timely fashion was a thing of the past. We no longer walk somewhere; we go on adventures.

I am convinced that if you were to research the origins of the phrase “stop and smell the roses,” that you would undoubtedly find a picture of my daughter with this caption underneath: “Flowers, bugs, small creatures, leaves, trees, and pine-cones be warned: if you see this child, you WILL be smelled, talked to, SUNG to, touched, picked up, hugged and collected. And parents, you WILL be late. You just WILL.  Go with it. *See related phrase: ‘Moving at the speed of Alex.'”

Even though there are times when I wish she would get in the car so we can JUST LEAVE ALREADY, in my heart of hearts I adore this about my daughter. Time and to-do list be damned, there is nothing more beautiful than watching the awe and wonder in the eyes of a child who is experiencing the magnificence of our earth with her whole self. I have truly never met a single soul who so naturally live and breathes her connectedness to all of existence.

She takes the time to notice what everyone in the room is wearing, and wonders why. She feels the wind on her face and wants to know where it came from. She remembers the exact rock to look under to check up on her favorite hill of ants, asks them how they are doing and what it is, exactly, they eat.

I would be heartbroken if this child, this insipiring being full of love, imagination and compassion, no longer found meaning in the beauty and wonder of all that surrounds her because I taught her that meaning can only be found in crossing stuff off a list and in racing the clock. She makes me wonder how much of my world I am missing out on while I am counting down the seconds until I HAVE to be out the door or when I am hyper-focused on reaching my destination.

What would happen if the rest of the world took a little time to “move at the speed of Alex”? Perhaps my daughter could teach us all a thing or two about embracing the journey and soaking in the beauty that surrounds us instead of anticipating the destination. I am finding that the roses along the way have quite a bit to teach me… almost as much as the three-year old by my side.

In the Earth-lover’s Library…

Ensuring that our Earth will be cared for in the future means that we are charged with raising the next generation to be conscientious keepers of our earth. Try surrounding the youngsters in your life with fun earth-centered activities and stories and watch them become devoted tree-huggers; and, hey,you might just find yourself having a good time as well!

Check out some of my top resources to help create a generation of Earth-loving Tree-Huggers!

Story Books:

What can I say? I am a sucker for a picture book about loving our planet, so there is no way that I could choose just ONE book! So here are my top five “green” books for kids:

The Lorax By Dr. Seuss:

The Doctor is in! This is the ultimate Earth-Day classic and reaches across generations. And, don’t forget, there is a TV version of this as well.

The Earth Book by Todd Parr

If you look at my last series of favorite books for kids, you’ll see that I have already sung my praises for Todd Parr. I have a serious soft spot for this author who can speak to kids of all ages through his simple, loving wording and his adorable illustrations. Plus, this book contains a special surprise; a pull-out poster of reminders of the things that we can do to help our planet every day. You may just find yourself putting YOUR underwear in the freezer this summer!

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

This book tells an inspiring and charming story about a little boy who begins a movement and ultimately transforms a “green-less,” abandoned railroad into luscious gardens that transform the city into a place of beauty, community and life! This story is a great way to get kids excited about gardening and to even introduce them to the idea of urban gardening. The book will touch your heart and hopefully move you to make a difference in your city!

We Planted A Tree by Diane Muldrow

This short, poetic story is an easy way to introduce the idea of the Interdependent Web; “We planted a tree, And that one tree make the world better.”  Through looking at all we can do by simply planting a seed, we get in touch with the power of each and every act. Check it out!

All I See is Part of Me By Chara M. Curtis

Speaking of the Interdependent Web… this story beautifully reminds us that we are connected to ALL. Reminding our kids that they are connected to everything (even things they cannot see!) is a great way to share the importance of caring for our planet and each other.

Music

I couldn’t highlight some of my favorite resources without talking about Jack Johnson.

One of my favorite albums is called “Sing-A-Longs and Lullabies for the Film Curious George.” With songs about recycling and a collaboration with Ben Harper that reminds us of what we can achieve with our “Own Two Hands,” this is a must-have for parents, teachers, grandparents, and… well, everyone!

Not only is Jack Johnson’s music great for all ages, but he is also a heck of an enviornmentalist himself; take a peek at his website to learn more about his efforts to green everything from the way he produces his music to reduce the footprint of each and every concert.

Crafts:

Make It! By Jane Bull

If you or anyone in your home loves to get crafty, check out this awesome book of ways to reuse items and turn them into great gifts (and a fun project for a rainy day!). Learn how to make jewels from junk mail, nifty picture frames from old toys, and stuffed animals from hats and gloves. This is a great way to make gifts for holidays.. and hey, play a little Jack Johnson in the background and you have yourself a recipe for a “green” day of fun!

Learning Love

Learning love

I remember so clearly the first time my now three-year-old daughter told me that she loved me. The very image of my toddler expressing her love was enough to melt the heart of even the grumpiest scrooge. You know the scene: glowing eyes, the smile that filled her face, her arms reaching to give the biggest hug her little body could possibly manage. Not that I am biased or anything, but there is not a baby mammal or a hamster in a helmet that could possibly compare to this level of cuteness.

It has always amazed me how capable young children are of freely expressing emotions that adults are so apt to keep to themselves. Even babies will offer their comfort items such as pacifiers and bottles to other children who are upset, as if to say, “I know how you feel; I’ve been there.”

Still, even as I anxiously await my 15 month old son’s first proclamation of love, I can’t help but wonder: do kids really “get” love? Do they know what they are saying or are they simply mimicking behavior?

Yes, yes and…Yes!

Kids are expert cultural anthropologists; soaking in every bit of experience every minute of every day. They can sense tension and are astutely aware of happiness. I know this because both of my children are grumpy on my most stress-filled days and will laugh with me at my jokes when no one else will humor me… most of the time.

Kids are cultural anthropologistsSo when a caretaker affectionately whispers “I love you” and then shows it with hugs, understanding, presence, and sacrifice, it forms the child’s very understanding of “love”.

Go ahead; ask a child to define “love”. I am willing to bet that what awaits you is a list a verbs that reflects how love has been shown to them:

“Love is hugging, love is listening, love is helping, love is friendship.”
OR, in the words of a three-year-old:
“Love is when we use our nice hands and we don’t hit our little brothers. No. No.”

How have you loved today?

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