I try to remind myself that my children are having their childhood now. Does that sound kind of obvious?! It does to me, too. What I mean is that at some point in the last few years it really struck me how much our individual childhoods influence, mold, and inform us—and that we get only one! For my kids, that time is now.
We each have the version of our childhood that we stick to and repeat. It’s the version of life as we knew it, independent of our parents’ perspectives of how we experienced life with them, in our families of origin. Our story of growing up can make sense of our successes and our challenges, and of our idiosyncrasies and uniqueness. And most parents hope that–whether what they are doing is it’s right, wrong, or good enough–their children grow up remembering parents at least tried to give them all they could. Life’s not all Disneyland and dessert, but we need our kids to cherish memories of togetherness, joy, support, and unconditional love as much as possible.
According to author, David Willis, children will remember a short, but important list, “The 5 Things Your Kids Will Remember About You”:
- The times you made them feel safe
- The times you gave them your undivided attention
- The way you interacted with your spouse/partner
- Your words of affirmation AND your words of criticism
- Your family traditions
I have put this small but hugely important list on my family’s fridge to remind my husband and me that what is important now, through the years of raising our kids and all that brings, is what they will likely take with them. It’s probably not the organic breakfasts or help with Common Core Math (what the?!) or all the driving to ballet or Taekwondo or the regular dental appointments or the Star Wars sheets or the number of things to fill the spaces.
What they’ll probably look back to the moments in time, like sleeping together on the family room floor after the early morning earthquake stopped shaking the house; or the “tell me more” moments of attention that didn’t include checking texts or business emails; or how often they saw their parents express their love to each other; and before bed pep talks, and words of encouragement through their tears about social stress or friend drama or the death of a beloved grandparent; and all the holiday dinners and extended family memories of being together and sharing life. These are what will likely inform them in their own possible journeys of parenthood.
And these are the moments they will likely remember and hold close. And these are the moments that are still in my and my husband’s control to create. John Bradshaw famously wrote that “it’s never too late to have a happy childhood…” And I know it’s never too late to start making it even happier for our children.
I have almost always lived with animals—primarily cats, but dogs, too, and hamsters, gerbils, fish, birds, and a most social tortoise named Miss Speedy. During those times in my life when I didn’t live with an animal I was always planning about how I would get one. Early diagnoses of asthma and allergies were no deterrent. There is no question that I am a far happier person and a far better person loving and caring for an animal than I would be otherwise.
There is tons of evidence that children benefit from interacting with animals. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology writes on its website, “Positive relationships with pets can aid in the development of trusting relationships with others. A good relationship with a pet can also help in developing non-verbal communication, compassion, and empathy.”
A recent One Green Planet article focuses on some powerful women doing extraordinary work in the U.S. animal rescue and sanctuary movement. Ellie Laks, the founder of The Gentle Barn in Tarzana, CA, makes it part of her mission to teach children from all walks of life, socio-economic backgrounds, and children with differing physical abilities.
Hundreds of children have learned kindness and compassion through interacting with the animals there. To this end, she and her team have developed amazing programs to give these children opportunities to spend time with and care for a variety of animals at the Gentle Barn. This nurturing haven is the result of a dream Laks herself dreamed when she was just 7 years old.
Even if your family can’t house an animal in your home, your community provides many ways for children to care for, educate themselves about, and become empowered for our fellow creatures. Check out these tips from Natural Resources Defense Council. Call your local animal shelter and ask how kids can help the rescued animals there. Help your children learn how to responsibly pet-sit for neighbors. Google the day and summer camps offered by your local zoo. Check out books from the library on a wide variety of animals and their habitats. Make a point to research the particular wildlife living in the region where your family likes to camp or hike. The more children are offered such opportunities, the more their hearts expand. The knowledge they gain will keep them curious about, and invested in, the lives and environments of all of us who call this sweet old world Home.
*“But some people just fall in love like that!”
That’s just one of the cool reactions from kids who were shown a recent Cheerios commercial featuring an interracial couple — and then were told the commercial was controversial.
Check out the awesome faces of these shocked kids in this Today Show segment as they struggle to comprehend why showing a white mom and an African-American dad would cause anyone to freak out. Just another reason we love working with this smart generation!
*Today is Nelson Mandela International Day, and the 95 birthday of an inspiring leader who helped us to think deeply about peace and social justice. In his honor, we are posting a wonderful quote of his — one which resonates with one of our core beliefs at Go Girls! Camp: “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
You can read more of his inspirational words on the United Nations Foundation website.
*ONE LAST THING: Going on vacation soon? Will you leave your office behind? If you’re like most Americans, you will stay connected, at least according to a recent poll.
But while some may argue that checking in on email or calling a coworker helps them let go, The Huffington Post’s Tim McDonald had a different experience on his digital vacation. Read what he learned by unplugging, then tell us: Do you unplug on your vacations?