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
On a recent visit with my three sisters (our annual get-together), we got to talking about all sorts of things, including, of course, our children and how quickly they have all grown up. One sister said the hardest thing for her about having her children grow up is that, in the process, she lost the little people they were at age 2, 4, 6, etc., as if someone came and spirited them away.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot since I got back from the trip and realizing that there is always a part of me that is half expecting those little ones to show back up, as if they are hiding somewhere in the house. And thinking about them makes time compress and expand at the same time.
If I close my eyes, I can remember Lizzie, our first daughter, tromping into our kitchen in upstate New York in her favorite rubber boots and saying, “I ahna Goo-Koo,” (I want a cookie) or singing her way downstairs in the morning. Same with Parker, next in line. I can see him playing Power Rangers with his buddy Max or sitting at the kitchen table with his pirate ship and pirates and doing all the different voices for the various pirates and their enemies. Becky is often sitting in her high chair (I think I must have left her in there a lot!), smiling at the thought of all the mischief she is cooking up to get her brother or sister to pay attention to her or standing at the bathroom mirror, cutting herself trying to shave her chin with her father’s razor.
Josie, the youngest, is always living in some story of her own making, like the millions of worlds she created for her dolls, or like the Madison Avenue world she inhabited one night in the bathroom, washing a hand towel over and over while singing out her version of the ad for OxyClean: “it gets your whites whiter and your bwights bwighter!”
So, the memories are vivid, but, if I think about it hard enough, they are not as fresh as I would like them to be. And sometimes it’s hard to sort out what I really remember from what I have recorded in pictures and videos. The hard part, I guess, about trying to hold onto memories of your children as little people is that, when they are actually little and getting bigger every day, every memory is constantly getting replaced with a new one, each time the child does something new and different. (This is why I should have written things down in baby books!) Before you even have a chance to catch your breath, the two-year-old version of your child is replaced with the three-year-old version, and you’re off and running on a whole new child! Or, to state it more accurately in terms of how it feels, the two-year-old is replaced with the twenty-six year old version!
One great thing is that I still get glimpses of those earlier children in their new, larger bodies. Every now and then, one of them will smile or laugh a certain way or turn their head at a certain angle, and there is the three-year-old version of themselves peeking out from behind their eyes or the six-year-old version looking worried and serious. Same look, new source of worry!
Here’s to all the different versions of my children, in all their glory, including those little people who are hiding somewhere (maybe they will come back as grandchildren?) but especially these wonderful and strange grown-ups now inhabiting my world and saying they came from me and Tom!
At 5, which is the first age where I can remember the feeling, I worried that I would never see my favorite red-and-white cardboard bricks again, since my parents had “loaned” them to my cousins as we were leaving for a four-year Army tour in Germany.
At 10, in addition to worrying that our house might burn down, I lost sleep thinking that if Santa Claus wasn’t real, then what other lies might my parents have told me? And, since Tony Ludholz had stuck a ring with a blue stone in my hand and said “now we’re engaged,” did that mean I really had to marry him?
At 15, I spent a lot of time worrying about that horrible guy who killed the nurses or those two men who killed the family in Kansas ‘in cold blood’. I worried that the first men on the moon might not make it back home safely–and that every single person who had a chance of saving the world would get assassinated. I also worried a lot about nuclear bombs, when I wasn’t worrying that Michael Krick would not ask me to dance at the end-of-the-year dance.
At 20, I worried that I would never, ever finish all the work I had to get through to graduate from college, that we would never get out of VietNam, that even if I graduated, I would never get a job because all I knew how to do was go to school and pass my classes, and that I would never, ever fall in love because men were all sexist pigs–and that I would never be able to tolerate my father ever again because he sat and read the paper while my mother fixed dinner–and because he thought “Ms” was an unnecessary addition to the English language!
At 30, I worried that my new marriage would end in disaster, that childbirth would hurt worse than anyone had said it would–and I would die in the process–and that nuclear war would happen right at the point where I had discovered I could love someone.
At 35, I worried our baby girl would grow up in a world full of pollution, nuclear bombs and global warming–and would blame us. I also worried that she would die of SIDS, be kidnapped, get injured, have a life-threatening illness, or choke on bacon.
At 40, I worried we would never get out of Iraq, that my son would end up being drafted, that my children and my parents would die at any minute, that nuclear war would destroy us all, that Bush would always be president.
At 45, I worried that I had not read to my youngest child enough (or ever taught her to floss), that my parents would die, that I would die of heart failure caused by obesity, that my son would end up a crack addict, in jail, or a paraplegic from a skateboarding accident, that, despite all the changes of the ’70’s, my daughters would live in a world of sexist pigs and their souls would be trampled.
At 50, I started worrying about growing old before I could ever finish a single good poem, that our troops would never get out of anywhere, that my parents would die before my kids were old enough to remember them, that September 11th was just the beginning of a horrible end to whatever was left of the American dream, that there might not be a God, and that my children might hate me forever, since I was making daily mistakes with their teenage psyches.
At 55, I worried that my children were growing so fast that I couldn’t even take a breath before they’d be grown. I worried that my brain would stop working before I could finish anything, that my daughter/son/daughter would hate college, be unhappy away from home, get hurt without me there to fight off boogeymen, not want to come home because they took a Sociology class that made them realize all of their parents’ inadequacies. That I might be turning into my mother!
Looking back over this list, I realize that 1) some of these things came true, and, although they were bad, they were not as bad as I had feared–some of them were worse 2) there was nothing I could do about it, no matter what.
I wish I could say that now, at 58, I’ve stopped worrying. But I can’t. I think I might be addicted to worry because of the elusive sense of control it gives me. If I can make sure I worry about something, maybe I can stave that thing off for a few more seconds, keep that wolf away from the door. After all, bad things always happen when you least expect them.
I do know one thing: after all these years, I have at least learned to take some of my worries with a grain of salt–like , for instance, the one about the ice caps melting and carrying away our house. I have a few years before that could happen, right?
Our oldest daughter, Lizzie, who is 24 years old, walked in the other night and announced that she and her boyfriend, Janson, had just gotten engaged! We had a feeling this was coming. (Janson had already told us both that he loved our daughter and was not going anywhere.) And yet, now that it has, I’m finding myself a little floored by the news. I’ve been hearing voices in my head: “She’s too young!” “Do they know what they’re doing?” “I’m too young for this!” I feel as if I’ve aged overnight—and I’m not quite ready!
It’s not that I’m not happy about the news—or that we think it’s happening too fast. Lizzie met Janson last summer, and he’s a wonderful guy—with a great sense of humor—who has found his way easily right into our hearts. She met him through a friend of hers—at a time when she was not expecting to meet anyone. Isn’t that how it always happens? And they hit it off instantly. He seems perfect for Liz: their temperaments are compatible; they love each other; they share many of the same values. What more could we ask for?
It’s just that, once all this happened—and after I’d come down from the cloud of excitement—I realized that maybe I wasn’t prepared for our baby girl to be taking this next step. First of all, it seems impossible that she could be old enough. After all, just a minute ago, she was only four years old! I keep thinking of “Fiddler on the Roof” and Tevye’s song: “Is this the little girl I carried? Is this the little boy at play? I don’t remember growing older. When did they?” How in the world did she get to be 24 so quickly? And how in the universe could I be old enough to have a daughter old enough to get married?
How quickly these big, momentous things happen! I guess that’s the terrifying thing: life is always faster-moving and less predictable than you think it is when you’re stuck down in the weeds, dealing with the day-to-day mess. In any case, it’s great. They are great! And I’m going to have a share a picture of the cute couple, so people can see how darling they are!
I’m sure I’ll get used to this soon. I know one thing: no matter how long it takes me, I’ll adjust sooner than Tom (my husband), who has been laid flat out on the floor!!
My thoughts on learning that I am going to be a Grandmother are as follows:
3. Gasp. Breathe, girl!
5. What will my new name (the name that will stick to me for the rest of my life on earth) be? Please not anything with “aw” on the end.
6. Am I really old enough for this to be happening to me? I knew my husband was getting older, but…
7. She will love IT more than she loves me (pout).
8. How can SHE have a baby? She’s still MY baby!
9. Look at her. Her face is shining. I know that feeling…my face must look like my mother’s face did when I told her for the first time.
10. I will love it instantly. At first because it’s part of her. Then just because I love it.
11. Life has become infinitely more complicated–and interesting–in the last 7 seconds.
Okay, so I had more than 10 thoughts in a row. This doesn’t happen every day. I just had to write them all!
Julia Coward lives in Asheville, NC with her husband, in a house made entirely of dog hair. She has held many varied and interesting jobs in her career as a person, but her favorite has always been raising and caring for people and pets in all different ages and stages of life. Plants have to fend for themselves.