We were in the van on our way to ballet and the ACE program, and I was listening to the news.
(Note: Don’t listen to the news with young children unless you like answering hard questions.)
This was unusual for me because I don’t like to expose my kids to too much violence. We talk about the world in layers. Right now they are in the layer where they are learning to discern safe from unsafe.
But on this particular drive, I felt like I needed to know what was going on, so we listened.
And my daughter was taking it all in.
What if that happens in our city? If it does, and I’m only allowed to take one thing with me – I will take “mimi.”
“Mimi” is the name of her blankie. Yes, my daughter is 7 years old, and I have no plans to make her give it up. She has to grow up in 100 different ways during each new day, and I want her to be able to go to sleep at night and still remember her littleness.
I wrote last week about being your child’s safe place. And while the idea is easy to spell out, and the reasons are many to desire this for your child – it’s a whole lot easier said than done.
Because sometimes I don’t feel like their safe place. I don’t want to allow her to express herself by scattering (what feels like) 1,000 papers across the floor. Or I simply don’t want to hear what he has to say. Again.
It can be rough. And it feels a whole lot like sacrifice. Like dying to myself.
But before I go on, this is not a post where the call to action is embrace your child and allow them to do whatever they want. I believe in discipline, order, and respect. I don’t allow myself to do “whatever I want” and so I don’t teach that to my children either.
But. I do teach them that they have value regardless of their behavior.
And I want them to know that I choose to value what they value too, because that is a part of love.
So I value “mimi” with all my heart. I protect her with sincerity. This blankie has been with my daughter through everything. Moves, time away from parent(s), illnesses, losses, milestones, etc. The first thing my daughter will do when she hears bad news is run to find her “mimi.”
For my 5 year old, his greatest treasure is similar. He too has a blanket and his “babies.” (Don’t ask me when or why he started calling his stuffed animals his “babies” – he does and they are cared for like children. It’s very sweet; he’s going to be a tender daddy someday.)
And for the little guy, it’s his blankie too, but also his favorite spatula or his ukulele.
While they each have their ultimate valuable, they also transfer temporary value to things that are in other ways just trash. A candy wrapper from a birthday party, a neon admittance bracelet from the fair, a McDonald’s toy (for goodness’ sake it feels like these things breed and reproduce when I’m not looking), a bead from a broken necklace, a bouncy ball from a 25₵ machine. It can be anything!
Because for them, that one little piece of trash holds a memory.
And memories are precious. I think kids understand this more than adults. They see how quickly they are growing up. They feel the changes in their development, and they want to live their lives full. Soaking in each little moment from birth to the end.
So while I’ve had my moments of ranting about the thousands of papers scattered aimlessly across my daughter’s bed, I’ve also grown to slow down and ask her to tell me the story.
Why does this matter to you? What memory does this hold? And while she’s telling me, I see that she’s letting it go. The trash part. As the story is shared, and she can tell that I care – she realizes that she may not have to keep the sticky wrapper to remember the sweet taste of a lifesaver.
I respect that she transfers value to these little things as a way to hold onto memories, and she respects me in that she knows she isn’t allowed to scatter her memories all over the house. We work together. I help her take ownership of organizing her memories, and she grows in discerning what memories need a physical reminder and what ones can be stored in her heart.
It’s a work in progress. It’s an opportunity to grow in mutual respect.
But it’s the number one way that I have become and continue to be her safe place. So it’s worth it.
What does your child(ren) value? How can you show them that you respect them in this?