I remember when each one of my three fabulous children were babies. Feeding them as they sat in their highchairs was one of the highlights of my days. Loving them was so easy. They would hang on my every word, every gesture and every movement. What did they know they were babies?
When I was feeding them, they would allow me to put the food in their mouths. Now, if they didn’t like the taste, they might allow me to try to give it to them one more time, but after that, they wouldn’t ever open their mouths again for that food. They were learning from me that I reacted to their negative reaction and that I honored their experience of distaste. I didn’t force them to eat it.
I also noticed that if I smiled, they smiled; if I turned my head to look in another direction, they looked in that direction; and if I lowered my head and pretended to cry, they would cry. Now that is empathy.
Empathy is the ability to step into another’s shoes and to try to understand what they are feeling and, most importantly, to allow this knowledge to guide our actions. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Treat my child the way you want your child to be treated. Treat my mom the way you want your mom to be treated. Treat my experience respectfully and I’ll treat yours the same. Let us understand that this current situation was not created to destroy any one person or group; but what it does do is affect people and groups differently.
We have to know that everyone is going through something and we must appreciate the struggles of each individual human who is be-ing. A recurring theme that should make us all sit up and pay attention is what kinda life do we want our children to have? Parenting is not just the ability to bring forth a life; it is taking care of that life. That life created constantly grows and changes, and with each day our ability to praise and acknowledge the good actions of our children can create a child who has the ability to mirror the good.
Being a working-from-home parent with a child or children going to school in the home is exhausting. Our children’s capacity to adapt is awe-inspiring. For good or bad, they are technologically savvy, and this transition to virtual learning isn’t as much a challenge to them as to parents. What is missing is the social interaction. So until we can get things back to some kinda normal, as parents and caregivers, we have to create a socially empathetic community.
The other day, I was driving on Larch Road and turning right onto Holly Drive’s overpass. As I did, I was met at the top of the overpass by teenagers on bicycles — at least 20 or more. It was like a parade. I slowed my car down, at first shocked to see so many teens, all with no masks. I waved as some waved back and rode around me. Yes, they were in both lanes. At the very end of this bike parade were the adults. Smiling and nodding at me. Kids socially interacting. As Jeff Goldblum’s character says in “Jurassic Park” — “Life finds a way.”