awareness

Friday, December 2nd, was National Adoption Day.  I saw a clip on the national news showing many families as they stood before the judge declaring to him that “yes – we want to be a family!”

Wow! It was quite beautiful to see – especially the school-age children and teens who were visibly moved to tears, realizing that they were wanted, that they truly and legally belonged.

And then, locally I came across a drive to collect items for young people aging out of the foster care system, children really, who were not lucky enough to get a “forever family”.  These young people, when they turn 18-years-old, many of them still in high school, are on their own.  And their need for personal items to support their daily living is high.

On the other hand- in the international  news almost daily – families and children, homeless, orphaned, wounded, starving, fleeing from their homes in Aleppo, Syria – fleeing the bombings and the lack of home, food and supplies.

And I was filled with such emotion at these stories – and I realized at this time of year of consumerism, over-eating, and other indulgences too many to cite – how fortunate I am, and the awesome responsibility of this good fortune.

I realize I can’t try and change all the ills in the world, but I can be grateful for what I do have – share what I do have –  reach out and be kind, generous, loving, mindful of the needs and the pain of others.

Because that’s the true holiday spirit anyway, isn’t it?

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noticing

I love to observe people – most certainly children – when I am out and about – shopping, restaurants, waiting rooms.

It is a most enjoyable pastime – a learning, emotionally rich experience – because a glimpse into a stranger’s life can invoke understanding, joy, empathy, respect, happiness, hope.

So, while having breakfast out with my husband, we sat next to a large table of eight senior women – along with a younger woman and one boy of about ten or eleven years old.

It was a birthday breakfast outing I know,  as eventually the birthday cake with candles lit appeared.  There was much chattering and laughing exchanged among the group.  But my real focus was this young boy – alone in this sea of matriarchs – and the joyful and attentive manner in which he participated.

There was no scowling or sighing, no electronic device for entertainment – just a pleasant face on a young boy –  honoring what I assume may have been his grandmother and her friends/relatives gathered to celebrate her birthday.

I found his manner so refreshing, so unusual actually – so lacking in dramatic sighing, or “look at me”,”I’m so bored”“I want to go” attention-getting  behavior.

This young boy was reflective – watching, listening, smiling, participating, respecting the occasion.

I had to say something to the woman I assumed was his mom.  So on my way out, I stopped and asked her if he was her son.  She smiled and said “yes”.

I didn’t have to tell her how special this boy was.  She already knew as she shook her head in agreement and thanked me sincerely for noticing.

Noticing – and telling people you noticed – brightens everyone’s day.

Just as I’m certain this young boy brightened every one of those senior women’s day, celebrating along with them – this joyful moment of significance.

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ring a bell

I love the sound of a bell ringing. It can mean – and has meant so many different things over the years. But when I saw this story on the national news this weekend, it brought tears to my eyes.

It talked about several major hospitals  where children and adolescents  suffer through grueling chemotherapy sessions.  When a child finishes his/her last session of chemo, it is duly noted. The child pulls the rope to ring a large bell over and over , to the cheers and tears of staff, family and patients.

Now that is truly something to ring a bell about – to celebrate – to be thankful for – to acknowledge.

And it made me stop and think.

For as we approach my favorite holiday of Thanksgiving, maybe I should  try to live up to its name – perhaps ring some bells, figuratively speaking, by paying attention to the things in my life I have to be grateful for – to celebrate.

And then again, maybe – just maybe I’ll open my front door, take out my ol’ school bell and let it peal.

For in the whole scheme of things, I have a lot to be thankful for!

I hope all of you have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

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in our family

“In our family, we …” that’s a good place to start I think when faced with our children’s questions, fears and anxieties about today’s social climate.

“In our family, we …” do what?

Have you voiced and modeled what your family values are -had the conversation of how your family acts and treats all people, even those different from you  – in simple terms – in kind terms, that even the youngest somehow comprehends?

Because so much of how our children respond and what they believe comes from watching how we, as parents, act and believe. It is this trust in their family model that makes children behave the way they do with each other.

And so as parents, we step up, right?  And we find our better selves, – and we share our better selves, our wiser and kinder selves – with the people we encounter in our lives.And our children will be watching – are watching – and modeling what they see, and what they hear.

A simple question to share with our children when faced with making the right decision – whether it’s to say something, to do something, to join in on something is  “Is it kind?”

Three simple words that all of us can use – can rely on as a measure of our behavior within our families, in our schools, in the wider community.

“Is it kind?”

 

 

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two boys

At a park recently, I observed two boys from a distance –  two young toddler boys – two boys who didn’t know each other – their two dads a good distance away, talking together.

One of the little guys had a stick and began tap, tap, tapping at the tree they stood near.  I could see the flicker of interest in the other little boy and he glanced around and found a stick of his own.

Now there were two little boys tap, tap, tapping at the tree – side by side.

And then, one boy reached for the other boy’s stick – both of them holding on tight – me holding my breath – a silent stand-off – what will happen now in this new relationship?

No words were spoken – just a stare-down – then a wordless offer – take my stick, I’ll take yours.

And so it was – two boys pound, pound, pounding now at the tree trunk – two boys stopping, trading sticks – pounding some more, and so it continued, over and over.

I wish I’d had a video of this beautiful interaction totally between two young toddlers.  There was no adult right there to offer input, to tell them “we don’t play with sticks”, or to caution them “be careful” or to monitor the “stick exchange” for them, to tell them, “remember to share”, and then remark on their ensuing play.

These two little guys owned this moment.

They figured out a plan, their play  was enriched.

For me – it was a powerful glimpse into the possibilities that abound if, as parents, we could allow ourselves the time to wait – to observe and trust our children’s  social interactions, to let them unfold independently  before we interrupt, suggest, guide, arrange, comment, fix.

For those two boys, all on their own, grew an inch that day – toward friendship.

Then it was time to leave.  Both boys dropped their sticks and ran off- each to their own dad, each to their own car.

A very fun day at the park.

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a family read-aloud

Dusting my bookshelves at home this weekend, my eyes rested on a favorite book by Patricia Polacco called Thunder Cake.  I removed it from the shelf and took a seat on the staircase nearby and began reading  –  (a bad or good habit I have when dusting – depending on  who you ask!)

I love this story and I love the books by Patricia Polacco.   She is a prolific writer/illustrator who has many books that I consider family treasures.

Often parents ask me how is it possible to find books that can be read aloud to children of different ages that they will all enjoy.

I think the books of Patricia Polacco fill the bill.

First of all, they are full of wonderful illustrations that invite you into the story, and keep you there until the very end.  The stories themselves are both personable and relatable – about families, siblings, grandparents, school – stories that entertain and reflect humor, compassion, courage, conflict, fears,love and genuine warmth.

And if you think “too preachy” – I’d say not at all.  To me, they are just what our children might be looking for in today’s speedy world.

For when stories make us laugh, feel sad, happy, courageous, empowered, wide-eyed – and encourage conversation – you know they are special.

So if you are unfamiliar with this author, check her out on-line.  Her books cover many real-life subjects, so read through the descriptions first.  They are perfect for elementary school-aged children and preschoolers together, as well as for me!

For there’s nothing quite like a good family read- aloud to bring us together and fill the chilly November evenings ahead.

Okay – back to finish my dusting.

 

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in love

I am in love – that total infatuation that happens when one finds oneself head-over-heels completely in love.

And this feeling is especially warm and wonderful when it’s a two-year-old grandson who has stolen your heart.

I have to say – we have so much in common.  I believe I am actually a two-year-old at heart.

We both love to read books out-loud, look for adventures, splash in puddles, find sticks (and then more sticks), be silly, run and chase, climb, laugh, pretend, sing songs, question, talk.

We found our special place to share – under a weeping willow tree – a magical spot in itself, with its cascade of leafy branches hanging down.  It’s a perfect tree for “peek-a-boo hiding, a perfect spot to stop, and remember.

Probably the best thing about spending time with a two-year-old is totally responding to the moment, to the “now” that is his world.

And then when one offers you a hand – a lovely two-year-old hand – to hold and take you someplace, anyplace together – who could help but fall in love.

Thank you, Theo – for a special week together.

And now – back to my grown-up world.

…sigh.

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