My kids have sensed that something big that is outside of them and outside of our home is going on right now. Not only is Mommy suddenly spending more time online again (tsk, tsk), but she and Daddy, she and the babysitter, she and her Gaba, she and her Nana, she and her brother, she and some close friends, she and someone she refers to as a former professor, she and a whole lot of other adults are having lively, impassioned discussions. While it’s important for my children to understand their civic duty as well as how our government works, I do want to protect their innocence at this young age and do what Kim John Payne refers to as filter out the adult world in Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids.
“Children need to know that they have a place in a good world and a future full of promise. This doesn’t mean we fit our children with rose-colored glasses. I am not saying we should avoid any discussion of the challenges of our time. Nor does it mean that children can’t recover, and grow in strength and resiliency, from hardships they experience in their early years. But our adult anxieties and concerns should not be the atmosphere, a haze of too much information, that they breathe. Children need to that theirs is good world. They need to feel that, sheltered by those they love, they are where they should be. They have a place, in a time and a world of hope and promise.”
My kids have been breathing in too many adult things lately and overhearing too many conversations that are too big for them. The little readers in the house have been looking over the shoulder and catching confusing glimpses from emails and Facebook posts about the issues of the hour. And it’s all my fault. I take full responsibility.
Payne also writes about that what children often hear more than the “wash of words” we’re saying is the “current of emotion running through them.” I want to choose my words wisely and always say them with respect rather than anger; however, I also need to simply talk less about “big” things in the midst of my littles.
I also want to respect the brilliant minds of my children and by “brilliant” I don’t mean my children are geniuses. All children’s minds are fertile grounds for new ideas and new ways of looking at things, and I want their minds, like plants, to grow toward the light. I love how they see things differently than I would, how their wonder is still raw even at the sight of a bedraggled white clover blossom. I want to enrich their minds with good, hopeful thoughts. And when it’s important to speak the truth, I want my little ones to sense my speaking up for the truth doesn’t mean – or sound like – I am putting another person down.
My preschooler made a squirrel to celebrate fall and when my 7-year-old saw it, she said, “Wow! That’s a great camel on a cloud.”
“Camel on a cloud?” I said, smiling. “It’s a squirrel.”
“Oh yeah. I didn’t see it that way.”
I chuckled a much-needed chuckle because only minutes ago I had followed the siren song of my smartphone (tsk, tsk again) and saw another tweet challenging some of my views. Then I found myself wondering what this perceptive child of mine or her extremely sensitive sister might see when I’m fighting for what I believe in – a passionate woman who couples intellect with facts to arrive at her position and communicates these with respect – or an anxious, histrionic mama who oversimplifies things, bullies, or rants without reason?
(Sometimes, my daughter reminded me, others might see camels – or elephants or donkeys – when we’re all really looking at a squirrel, but no one needs to rudely call them out on their imperception.)
Later that same day, she said, “It’s so crazy to think Rae [one of her younger sisters] will one day be my age!”
“Yeah, and I’ll one day be Gaba’s age [referring to my mom who turns 60 in a few weeks],” I said.
“Let’s hope,” she said.
I burst into laughter and again was thankful for the comic relief. I also knew to not over-analyze her words. My oldest child has always had a way of saying things in a matter-of-fact fashion. Yet, I always do want her to hope for the best (even if that’s just me ending up as ancient as Gaba; sorry, Mom). I want to learn from her little, hopeful heart. I also want all my children to not pour all their happiness or even their hope into material things, things that change constantly like money, the shifting agendas of politicians, their physical bodies, or even something as trivial as the weather (you know, banking your happiness on a rain-free wedding day or a white Christmas). Instead, remember this, sweet children of mine: Even as we fight for what matters to us and sometimes lose and sometimes win, continue to pray, seek truth, love, have faith, put your hope in goodness (it’s almost always there whether you’re looking at a camel or a squirrel), and rest in the One who is constant and never changes. You are entitled to nothing but God’s love.