Welcome to Marianne, a new contributor to our blog!!!
Hello, I am a mom to an incredibly compassionate nine year old. I had my daughter at 44 years old. She is the love of my life! I love to write, paint, and bake vegan treats. But my true love lies in animal rescue and teaching compassion for animals to children.
Compassion is not the same as sympathy, empathy or altruism, although each plays a part. The compassionate person feels the suffering of another and takes positive steps to alleviate that suffering. During his talks, the Dalai Lama emphasizes how important it is for children to experience compassion from their parents or caregivers, from birth.
True compassion is being highly attuned to your children’s needs and accepting them for the unique people they are. From birth, compassion is something that can be taught and developed. And the earlier, the better!
Model Compassion: Show compassion towards your child and towards others. From the start, every child needs to feel loved and secure in order to thrive. Their needs have to be respected, if we expect them to respect others. Security comes from knowing that they can count on their parents or caregivers. It comes from knowing that they will be listened to, taken seriously and protected. We must love our children unconditionally and recognize them as the unique beings they are. Children must also learn to be responsible for their own actions. However, parents and caregivers are very influential in determining how a child acts. Children watch carefully how their parents and other adults treat each other. By modeling compassion towards others, you are teaching them what you value.
This is also true with how we treat our pets and other animals. Your children have watched you closely from birth and are so attuned to your feelings, that they can look at your face and know instantly what you are feeling! Never yell at your pets, call them names or hit them. Most people who have pets know this and love them and treat them as part of the family. Your children will learn how to treat your family’s pets with compassion and love, if you model that behavior for them. Show them the correct way to speak to a pet, gently pet them and care for their needs. Show them by doing. All animal lovers know how to treat a pet, most likely because they grew up in a loving home, with parents who modeled compassionate behavior towards animals. Teaching kindness and respect for animals is the first step in teaching children compassion.
My nine year old daughter with our dog, ChiChi and volunteering at the Bucks County S.P.C.A
I remember, back when I was pregnant with Lizzie, that I was talking to my mother about some of the stuff my doctor had told me, and her response was, “I’m glad I didn’t have to worry about all that when I was pregnant!” I wish I could call my mother up now and say, “Mama, you ain’t seen nothing yet!” Women nowadays sure do have a lot more to worry about than when I was pregnant ‘back in the day.’
Here are some examples:
1) My daughter has so many more eating restrictions than we had; for instance, no soft cheeses, so no Feta, Brie, Roquefort, etc.; no luncheon meat; and, of course, very limited tuna! (I’m glad to see that last one on the list!)
2) At least one hour a day, when the baby is active, Lizzie is supposed to count kicks and other movements—and if she can’t count up to ten, she’s supposed to call her doctor.
3) When her “fundal height” was not exactly what it was supposed to be, she had to have an ultrasound (this, mind you, is the fourth time she’s had an ultrasound in this pregnancy!)
4) She’s not supposed to sleep on her back at all because it might restrict the baby’s breathing.
Those are just four of the ones that come to mind. I appreciate all the advances in research that have made these things necessary, and I love to know that Lizzie’s doctor is watching out for my grandbaby, but I also think there is a lot to be said for less worry on the mother’s part! Lizzie’s pregnancy is much more stressful to me than any of my own. After talking to other grandmothers, I know that this partly comes with the territory: you are going to worry more about your own baby (and her baby) than you ever did about yourself. But I also think the culture of pregnancy has changed. Isn’t there something to be said for trusting in nature, for knowing that women have been going through this same process since Eve, and that, with of course some exceptions, things usually turned out all right? I can’t see Eve sitting there and counting kicks! I also can’t help questioning one more expensive medical test/procedure and wondering if they would be calling for that test if my daughter didn’t have insurance.
Let me introduce you to, Casey Curry, wife, mother, and educator who has just published her first novel, Promises. Curry is a master at weaving together fragile family alliances and with four aspiring African American daughters growing up in a military family all over the world, Curry has tons of material to not disappoint her readers. Like her protagonist, Pamela Sloan, Curry is a woman over 50, and the wife of a naval officer who takes us on a thirty year journey full of family secrets and promises.
I mention that the daughters are African American because it was that one fact alone that piqued my interest enough to read the book. It made me realize how little I knew about Black families in our military. Truth is, I had not read much about military families in general, and must confess, had only seen films about families coping with war and death as a young adult – starting with WWII, Viet-Nam, and now Iraq. Films or TV series that stand out are: Coming Home (1978); MASH (the 70’s); even Hogan’s Heroes from the 60’s and all those had an all white cast – or at least that’s how I remember it. It wasn’t really until Glory (1989) and Red Tails in 2012 that Hollywood portrayed African American families in the military.
So, Curry’s book allowed me to enter a world I knew very little about. What did I find? Having grown up with two sisters, I found the relationship between the siblings to be not all that different from my own EXCEPT mine didn’t involve military espionage, family sacrifices, or vacationing on the Vineyard. Interwoven between the daughters’ stories is Pamela’s story, their mother whose past is nothing like her daughters. Raised by a father because her mother was either absent or should’ve been, Pam managed to marry well while her half-sister struggled as a poor single mother with an ungrateful and selfish daughter. The contrast between Pamela’s tight knit family and her sister’s rather sad existence with her spoiled daughter is significant and what stories are made of.
I think Casey’s story will resonate not only with readers who have struggled with an empty nest or who are military wives but with women of all ages who have struggled to protect their family. The whole time I was reading Promises, I kept thinking this would make the perfect Lifetime channel movie – one of my guilty late night pleasures.
Casey Curry is the Director of Creative Writing at a fine arts magnet school in Tampa, Florida where she teaches poetry and fiction to high school students. She holds a B.A. from Hood College in Frederick, Maryland, and M.Ed. from Norfolk State University in Virginia. She is a 2012-2013 National Arts Teachers Fellowship (NATF) winner. The novel, Promises is her second book, and was born out of the NATF project, formerly funded by The Surdna Foundation. Ms. Curry is married to a retired Naval Officer and is the mother of three adult daughters. Her youngest daughter, Tori Rose, was the inspiration for her first book, I Remember You Today, and died of a brainstem tumor at the age of three.
Also, there was gratitude that her sister and brother went with us on the trip and that her other sister and her husband, who couldn’t come because of work, kept in touch by text throughout the day! I think they all wanted to make sure their baby sister was going to be all right, and it touched my heart.
Finally, there was the pleasure of witnessing Josie finding her way in a new environment and seeing that she will be fine without me. Sometimes it helps to see our kids in different settings, just to be reminded of how much they make us proud.
Before you are overwhelmed with my sappiness, let me admit there was also the pure joy of realizing that I no longer have to prepare a single school lunch or attend a single Parents’ Night at our local high school ever again!
So, that’ was the good stuff. There were also bad emotions, or I guess I should say “difficult” ones, as in the ones that made me want to curl up in the fetal position and sleep for about 48 hours.
First of all, the experience of actually being a parent, bringing my daughter to college, at my very own campus was somewhat surreal, especially considering the fact that all the people who taught me such wonderful topics as “The Poetry of W. H. Auden” or “Social Stratification Systems” or “German History before 1900” (yes, a liberal arts curriculum) are dead. It’s strange enough to walk around a campus and see no students you recognize but it’s past bizarre to see a bunch of young upstarts pretending to be professors, sitting in all my professors’ offices. It was a little like being in a Twilight Zone episode involving, perhaps, time travel and robots.
Secondly, I have to say, it is really, really hard to say goodbye to your youngest child, the last one leaving the nest. It doesn’t matter that your logical brain says, “she’ll be back for fall break,” or “but you have your oldest daughter and her husband back at home with you at the moment, so the house won’t even really be empty for another few months.” None of that apparently weighs in heavily enough to balance out the overwhelming feeling at the pit of your stomach: “My baby is all grown up! How in the world did that happen so soon?”
(There was also, I admit, a self-centered, nagging feeling of fear and depression that, damn, I must be really old if Josie is old enough to go to college, but we’ll ignore that one for now.)
I can sum up the whole experience this way: I am really happy that my girl is off to college, and I am thrilled that she was able to walk off confidently to her new dorm room, with only a couple tears in her eyes, but I am also heavily burdened at the moment with the grief that comes from realizing my youngest child is leaving home, officially, and probably for good. Hold on, you say, she’ll be home for Christmas and spring break and summer. What are you bitching and moaning about? Here’s the reality: once they walk out that door to go to college, they never really come home again, not in the way you want them to. Not in an everyday, being there and belonging there sort of way, where they can take their time to grow up, since you’ve got all the time in the world to go on vacations together, eat food at the same table, plan what color to paint their room. Yes, they come back, but only in a visiting theirparents sort of way, where you get a temporary hold on their time, nothing permanent. You may be able to check out that book for a few weeks, but don’t fool yourself into thinking it will ever be part of your library again!
So, this whole “empty nest” thing that I thought would never have reality in my world, is real. Big time. And so I’m dealing with some rough, emotional stuff at the moment. As a result, I may not be in the best shape for a while.
This is, however, only Day One of this new phase. I’m sure I’ll be much better, real soon. Come a week or two, I’ll be able to walk in her room without crying! And, after some more time, I’ll only weep uncontrollably on those days when she (like her sisters and brother) leaves again, after a visit, to go back to school/new home/new job/whatever. In the meantime, I’ll just curl up tonight in her room and bury my face in her pillow for comfort!
I’ve been thinking a lot about gift giving lately. Maybe it’s because there’s a lot of it in June. Birthdays, graduations, baby showers, Father’s day, new jobs, retirement, and just a lot to celebrate. Coupled with all those celebrations and gifts, I have noticed the lack of thank-you’s over the years and that makes me feel sad. I know I shouldn’t expect anything in return when I give a gift, and believe me, that’s not why I give, but what about a simple no frills thank you letting me know the gift was in fact received? I find it embarrassing to call to find out if my gift ever arrived. And, if it was a check or gift card, why do I have to log into my bank account to verify if my gift was debited, leaving me with the feeling of having just paid my utility bills? Don’t get me wrong, I have lowered my expectations – I certainly don’t expect a hand-written note. Heaven’s no! They are somewhat inconvenient to write and then there’s the stamp and the post office. But, how about a voice mail or even a 3 letter text that says thx?
Thank-you starts with parents teaching little ones what a gift is, and that a gift is not a requirement. It is not an obligation to give either, and one is not naturally entitled to receive a gift. This is an important lesson in giving and receiving, not to mention gratitude. I will admit that Baby Boomers (and generations before us) learned to write thank you notes at a very early age – in fact, as soon as we learned to write. But since kids don’t actually learn to write anymore, I’m very willing to accept a digital note. Something! Anything!
I am not totally alone in my thoughts. I have conducted a very informal survey and talked to women over 50 who have told me if they don’t receive a thank you (in any format) – they simply stop sending that person a gift. One friend had a great solution for the non-thanker. The next time she is “expected to give a gift,” she makes a donation to her favorite charity in that person’s name. What a concept.
Here is what Cicero has to say:
“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”