A reflection on adult/little kid relationships.
As I witness my sister raising my 2 and a half year old nephew, and as I am raising my 5 month old daughter, I am inspired to seriously question how we treat our kids, and how it appears to affect their personality and development. I watch parents and kids interacting in the neighborhood, in the grocery stores, wherever, and I find it fascinating that so often you can see in a child’s glance whether or not they expect joy, or punishment, out of life. It’s so frightening to me though how often and carelessly little kids get brushed aside and scolded, or punished, simply for their joy of living. How a kid will take something that we adults take for granted, and to them, it is a brand new treasure to be discovered. How does a little kid deal with us constantly telling them to “hurry up now, put that down, that’s not a toy! You silly goose! You little nut! Don’t be naughty! Be quiet!” I definitely include my own involvement in careless language here, so many times my little nephew bumps into me and asks for something and I distractedly tell him, in adult language, that it isn’t important to me right now… I know kids can feel our energy more so than hear what we’re telling them, and I hope the innocence he has doesn’t wear off with constant discouragement of us busy caregivers. Isn’t it ironic that we’re so busy trying to provide a good life for our babies, and ourselves, that the message we indirectly end up sending is often “life is too hard to stop and enjoy yourself, so deal with the unhappiness like everybody else does” I feel like my nephew, and all little kids, are so joyful that maybe we feel intimidated and have the sick urge to suppress their joy, because we can’t quite feel our own. At the same time, we feel that WE are their teachers, so perhaps our ego’s need to get the better of them and “tell them how it is” I wonder about what they are soaking in based on our implications. How do they process the emotions behind our well-meaning words, when what we say seems so often based on fear?
Another thought along these lines: When a kid is busy playing innocently, and we are aware of him/her in the background, and they are enjoying themselves, how pure is that moment for all of us? And when we give them our attention, how beautiful their smiles light up! And yet then I noticed that sometimes we start to place demands on their play, like “now share with so-and-so, be a good boy” or “don’t play like that/do it like this, silly” or what about “stop playing and look happy so I can take your picture! Smile!” How does such constant interruption of their natural, happy play affect them, and when the adults around them constantly interfere and tell them “how they should be playing” wouldn’t that cause them to doubt their own innate wisdom? Or if they’re having a troubling moment, how often do they come to their trusted adult friends for comfort, and hear “don’t be sad! stop crying and be happy.” But why? Why must a child smile if he/she isn’t happy? Children inherently understand how to communicate. I have learned so much just from watching and listening to my little nephew. When he’s sad, I don’t try to make him smile. When I can, I get down to his eye level and sit with him, or pull him into my lap and say “are you so sad?” (or mad, or tired, etc) and if he looks away and doesn’t want to say anything, I tell him its ok to be sad. It’s perfectly ok to be mad, or tired, or happy, or whatever he feels. He doesn’t have to be happy all the time. A great book that he and I love to read together is about a little bear who is so grumpy, and his older bear friend keeps loving him anyway. Its called “I love you just the way you are” by Virginia Miller. And when I smile at him and accept his tears or frustration, I can see how he relaxes. He feels accepted and validated, and then he usually smiles anyway. Its like his internal struggle melted away by the power of our open connection. Its moments like these I treasure, in between the many other moments of chaos and stress that I put myself through daily. Helping him melt away his disappointment also helps me relax and put away the stressful thoughts of the day.
Published in: Family