By Gregory M. Lamb, Christian Science Monitor
Parents want their kids and teens to care about others—whether at school, in their community, or in need a continent away.
The good news is that children “are sort of hard-wired” to want to help others, says Michael Ungar, author of “The We Generation: Raising Socially Responsible Kids.” “They want to take on responsibility.”
While adults do wonderful things to help others, even more amazing is the number of children and teens who are “making a difference,” too.
"Childhood projects are a great time to sort of step back and let the child develop those skills, from time management to seeing the impact on others if they don’t fulfill their obligations," says Dr. Ungar, a family counselor and professor of social work at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The bottom line: Support, but don’t shove. “Our kids are really watching us,” he says. “If we’re showing empathy to others, if we’re cooking a casserole for a neighbor who’s fallen down and broken her hip, if we’re doing those small things in our community,” kids will notice, he says.
Below, we highlight five outstanding young differencemakers—children and teens who have turned their care for others into impressive actions. They show that there’s no age barrier to becoming a force for good.
Wyatt: Making clay wiggle to save the oceans. Wyatt Workman was conducting his phone interview from a closet in his house.
It apparently was the 7-year-old’s private office, a place to speak with an inquiring reporter in some confidentiality.
The second-grader from Glendale, Calif., is a budding environmentalist, clay sculptor, book author, blogger, and auteur. His colorful, six-minute clay-animation movie (“Save the Sea from the Trash Monster!”) is attracting hits on YouTube and at his website, wyattsworks.com.
Next spring he’ll show his film at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Calif., and speak on his favorite topic: cleaning up the world’s oceans.
"They want me to talk about the ocean," Wyatt says. "It’s going to be a big process!"
He’s contributing the proceeds from all his various artistic ventures to Oceana, a nonprofit ocean advocacy group (oceana.org).
Wyatt attends Wesley School in North Hollywood, Calif., which emphasizes community service.
As a 6-year old, he came home with an idea.
"I said ‘I want to make a movie,’ and my mom, like, freaked out," he says.
"He knew exactly what he wanted to do," says his mother, Timathea Workman. "He had me sit down for about 3-1/2 hours one evening while he dictated to me.
"He wanted me to write down all the things the characters would say and what would happen. Then he would work on the clay."
When Wyatt was ready, he’d call her in to take a photo with a camera, since his hands were covered with clay. The photos then were pieced together to create a stop-motion movie. (His cats—Chewie, Toulouse, and Marie—“helped out” by jumping up and making holes in the clay with their paws.)
Wyatt’s clay modeling (he’s made more than 70 sculptures of animals that he hopes to sell to fund ocean cleanup efforts) and moviemaking have led to additional ideas.
"I said, ‘we need one more thing to be cool,’ " Wyatt tells his interviewer. "And my mom said, ‘What’s that?’ And I thinked and I thinked and I thinked…. [Finally] I said, ‘I want to have a book.’ "
True to his word, still images from the movie will be published in book form, too.
"I want to be like Martin Luther King Jr. and do something to make the world a better place."
Alexa: Building schools for the disaster-struck. Alexa Peters loves drawing—and her dog, Cooper.
Now she’s turned that into a way to help others. The 12-year-old from Andover, Mass., has illustrated a picture book for children called “Cooper and Me,” the story of a young girl very much like Alexa who longs to take her dog with her to her first day of school (cooperandme.com).
Three dollars from the sale of each book goes to the Happy Hearts Fund (happyheartsfund.org), created by fashion model Petra Nemcova to improve the lives of children in countries hit by natural disasters. (Ms. Nemcova herself barely survived the tsunami that struck Indonesia in 2004. Her fiancé was swept away by the floodwaters and perished.)
Alexa hopes to raise $10,000 to help build three schools in Haiti through Happy Hearts. “We came upon the Happy Hearts Fund through a friend,” says Monique Peters, her mother, who wrote the story for “Cooper and Me.” Last February, they contacted Nemcova, and she eventually visited Alexa’s home. Nemcova was so impressed that she made Alexa the youngest “ambassador” for her program.
In June, Alexa and her mom went to Peru to visit three schools supported by Happy Hearts. The children “love going to school. It’s their safe haven,” Ms. Peters says. Homes often have no running water, refrigeration, or indoor plumbing. “They appreciate everything. They have so little,” she says.
Alexa is planning to illustrate a new book, with the story set in Peru. It may center on a 12-year-old boy they met named José, who walks for an hour each day to a larger city to sell candy to support his family.
Alexa’s advice for others who want to make a difference: “Keep going. And if it’s something you’re passionate about, really follow that dream, and you can be successful.”
Dylan: ‘One Starts Many’ to clean up the Gulf. Dylan Stock was in first grade when the Gulf oil spill began last April.
His class at The Principia School in St. Louis studied the spill’s effect on birds. He even went to a hair salon to gather human hair to be used on booms to capture the spreading oil in the Gulf of Mexico.
But Dylan wanted to do more. He created a website, onestartsmany.com, with help from his mother, Carrie Silver-Stock. “I was really worried about the sea creatures,” Dylan says. “My mom asked me if I wanted to make a website, and I said ‘sure’. And I came up with the name One Starts Many.”
The website includes Dylan’s ideas on how to protect the oceans.
At a November fundraiser he collected $1,145 to send to two Gulf charities, Kids in Need During Disaster (kindd.org), which buys clothing for children in a fishing town hit by the oil spill, and the Audubon Institute in New Orleans (auduboninstitute.org), which treats stranded and injured marine wildlife.
With support from WitKids (witkids.org), a program that supports kid-based projects (its motto is “whatever it takes to make the world a better place”), Dylan traveled to the Gulf last summer on his own “fact-finding” mission, which included meeting New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
In September, the 7-year-old spoke to first-graders through fifth-graders at his school to tell them about his trip. He also invited them to become members of his new Ocean Club, which he established at the school.
The club already has helped to clean up a local creek.
"It’s inspiring for us that he felt like he could make a difference," says Mrs. Silver-Stock. She and her husband, Steven Stock, wanted "to nurture that in any way that we can," she says. And Dylan says he isn’t done.
"I think I’ll stay interested in the ocean for a while," he says.
Danielle: A kid-run network spreads peace. Danielle Gram spent her childhood in Maryland in the years following the 9/11 attacks.
"I really didn’t understand why people from different cultures wanted to kill each other," says Ms. Gram, now 21 years old and a senior at Harvard University.
After her family moved to Carlsbad, Calif., she continued to think about the concept of peace and how to achieve it. She read the nonviolent philosophy of Mohandas Gandhi and studied what Buddhism and Christianity had to say on the subject.
In 2006, together with Jill McManigal, a mother of two young children, Gram, then 16, founded Kids for Peace (kidsforpeaceglobal.org), a nonprofit, child-led group that inspires kids to work together toward a more peaceful world.
Today Kids for Peace has more than 75 chapters in several countries. In August, its Great Kindness Challenge, where children try to see how many acts of kindness they can perform in a single day, drew thousands of participants in 50 countries.
Members also sign a six-line “peace pledge” in which they promise to “speak in a kind way,” “help others,” “care for our earth,” “respect people,” and work together.
Beyond that, kids in each chapter design their own projects.
"We really want the kids to be the leaders," Gram says.
"The passion to create a less violent world has really followed me throughout my life," Gram says. But a family tragedy last year brought it closer to home. Her only brother was murdered while on vacation.
"The police still have no idea what happened," she says. "He was found stabbed to death on the side of a road…. It’s certainly been a struggle for all of us. But every single one of my immediate family members has a deeper conviction that nonviolence is the way to respond. We see my brother’s death as just more of an inspiration to make sure that no other family has to experience this."
Jordyn: Removing dangerous drugs from homes. Jordyn Schara was shocked “to see the insane amount of medication people have in their homes that have been lying around waiting to be abused or stolen.”
Unused drugs create two huge problems: They are abused by teens trying to get high, who then can become sick or even die. Or they are flushed down the drain and creep into drinking water. “It means men are taking birth control [pills] and children are taking heart medications,” she says. “It’s definitely not a good thing.”
But when the 14-year-old in Reedsburg, Wis., asked state officials what she could do to help, they told her she was too young.
That didn’t stop Jordyn. She founded a Wisconsin branch of Prescription Pill Drug Disposal (p2d2program.org). She organized a drug drop-off day for her town, and recruited pharmacists and police officers to supervise the event.
The drug return day was “extremely successful,” she says. “People lined up around the block to get in. That was just a really great feeling to know that people were willing to participate.”
Hauling away and incinerating the drugs costs about $2 per pound.
"I had to get a lot of donations and grants to support the cost of this program," says Jordyn, who is now a 16-year-old high school sophomore. "I was the youngest person [at 14] to apply for and receive a state grant in Wisconsin" to help fund her project, she says.
The Save a Star Foundation (saveastar.org) in Highland Park, Ill., donated a prescription drug drop-off box, the size of a street-corner mailbox, that’s been installed at the police station. Her project has now become an ongoing part of the community.
"Sometimes it’s hard as a teenager. You think that people don’t listen to you or don’t pay attention to you," Jordyn says. "But, honestly, if you do a service project, people will start listening."
What is unconditional love? It's just what the phrase implies—loving a person without any prior conditions, because of who the person is and not because of what the person does.--Zig Ziglar
Exceptional children are just that—exceptions. The vast majority of our children are not dazzlingly brilliant, extremely witty, highly coordinated, tremendously talented, or universally popular! They are just plain kids with oversized needs to be loved and accepted as they are.--James Dobson
Comparing yourself or your child from an analytical or critical point of view and wishing your child was this or that can steal your happiness, your inspiration, and your peace of mind and contentment, not to mention the effect it will have on your child.
Children remember things very clearly and are directly affected by their parents’ attitude and how their parents feel and think about them. So if you’re constantly speaking faith and positive things about your child, either to him or to others, and if you’re thinking positive things about your child, this will have a good, faith-building, positive effect on your child, and he’ll likely become more like what you think of him and expect from him. But if you are thinking or speaking negatively about your child, either directly or indirectly, it can make him think negatively about himself and hinder his happiness and self-esteem, his performance, and the way he sees himself. Faith begets more faith; positive attitudes foster more positive attitudes in both yourself and those around you. It often takes showing faith in someone to bring out the best in them.--Jesus, speaking in prophecy
The spirit of approval means that you love your child even when he resists you or is in an ugly mood. He must know that his personal worth is not based on beauty, brains, or behavior, but on the simple fact that he is a person created by God.--Dan Benson4
To build a relationship of love and respect, you must remember that your children respond to you according to the way they feel about you. If those feelings are ones of love and respect, you will receive obedient, loving responses from the children because that is what they want to do. … There's no real unity without respect.--Zig Ziglar
Children thrive on praise. It's more important to praise a child for his good works and his good behavior than it is to scold him for his bad behavior. Always accentuate the positive.--David Brandt Berg
Ways to show love and respect to children
* Don't dismiss your child's feelings. Respond with love.
* Don't command your child and expect him to come to attention without so much as an explanation. Approach him respectfully and lovingly when you need to ask a favor—trying to be sensitive and coming across with a considerate and sweet spirit.
* Make eye contact with your child, and go down to your child's level when talking to her; for example, when you're telling her something or passing on instruction.
* Take a little bit more of your time to slow down and really tune in to your child. Treat your child's ideas as important. Don't quickly shoot them down. If the idea is unreasonable, even though your child might not understand all the whys and wherefores, try to explain as much as you can.
* Don't make fun of a child when he’s made a mistake or done something more on the silly side. This can really hurt his feelings. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't teach your child to learn to laugh things off when things go wrong, but pray for discernment, because sometimes your child may just need a moment of understanding.
* When your child needs correction, help her not to feel embarrassed by correcting her as privately as the situation warrants.
* Find a way to connect with each of your children individually.
* Show your children that they're important to you by how you treat them. Give your children the same level of attention that you expect them to give you.
* When your child comes to tell you something, stop and listen. Give her your full attention and respond to what she is saying. Don't listen halfway, while thinking about something else and continuing to do what you're doing.
* Stop and acknowledge your child.--Maria Fontaine
Encourage your children’s unique qualities and characteristics:
Know each child well as an individual. You can't help a child build confidence around his inherent gifts and talents unless you come to know what those gifts and talents are. Two ways to learn: (1) In private chats with the child, time spent together watching and appreciating; and (2) in organized time, spent as husband and wife, discussing each child, sharing perceptions, taking notes, discovering together more about the personality and individual character of each child.
Genuinely respect each child and his own gifts. Our children are human beings, deserving not only our love but our respect. With this thought in mind, sometimes it becomes a bit easier to (1) show an added measure of faith in them after any kind of failure; (2) discuss our own failures with them and tell them what we learned; (3) praise their accomplishments lavishly and honestly, particularly accomplishments in areas where we perceive special aptitude; and (4) never criticize or tear down the children personally. Make sure they still know our total love for them. Never criticize in public—praise in public, correct in private.
[Teach] independence, self-reliance, responsibility at an early age.Confidence and its joy tie directly into being able to do useful things. Each child should have a job in the family, for the family—particularly daily or weekly jobs—for which he is praised and made to feel very able and very important, very much a part of the family.
Help the children to see what their own unique gifts are—and that these gifts are as good as anyone else's.--Linda and Richard Eyre
Your children depend on you to be an example of My love to them in a way that they can understand, grasp‚ comprehend, and feel. If you don't show them My love, how will they know that I love them? You are a manifestation of My love for them. Children are fragile in their emotions, even those who don't seem to show it as much, and I want to show them that I love them, that I care for them, and that I want to be close to them and do special things for them. Your love manifested in time spent with them is one of the biggest ways that a child feels My love through you. And just as I love you so dearly, so do I love them—more than you can imagine.--Jesus, speaking in prophecy
Courtesy of http://anchor.tfionline.com/post/love-builds-children/. Photo by Stenly Lam / Flickr
Love is the cornerstone.
Differences must be overcome with love.
Parents, treat your children gently and in love.
Parents should govern their children with authority, tempered with patience, mercy, and truth.
All Bible verses from NIV and ERV, unless otherwise indicated. Originally created by Activated Magazine; used with permission.
When two of my grown children recently had their own first babies, it reconfirmed something I’d known for years: Parenthood brings out the best in people. New parents feel the impact immediately, both emotionally and physically—the love bond that happens at first sight and grows stronger by the day, and the interrupted sleep and other schedule and priority adjustments. But there are also subtler changes that others are usually the first to notice—that special glow that God reserves for new parents and the maturity that comes from stretching and sacrificing to meet their baby’s needs, for example.
There was a time when I was sure that bringing home a new baby would be my proudest moment, and it was each time. Now I would say that comes in a close second to becoming a grandparent, because each time that happens (I have 11 grandchildren) I’m doubly proud—proud of my new grandchild and proud of their
So now that you know I’m a grandfather, you may wonder what grandfatherly advice I might have for young parents, so I’ll tell you. Besides the usual “big three”—love your children unconditionally, tell them often that you love them, and make quality time with them your top priority—I think one of the best things parents can do is to let their children be themselves.
If you’re like most parents, you want your children to excel. It’s good to try to help them reach their full potential, but there is often a fine line between that and expecting too much of them or yourself. Neither you nor they are ever going to be perfect, so learn to celebrate the successes and not worry about the rest. Strive for love and trust rather than perfection, and you’ll form lifelong bonds that will keep you together through anything. Happy parenting! And for those doubly blessed, happy
Article courtesy of Activated magazine. Used with permission.
Dressing my three preschool sons alike seemed sensible at the time. It made clothes shopping easier, for one, and because they were brothers with similar builds and complexions, they looked good in the same clothes. At home it gave a sense of order, however superficial, to a household with three little boys in perpetual motion, and in public it showcased what I was sure was the most adorable set of kids ever. On a deeper level, it appealed to my sense of equity. I didn’t love one above the others, and had determined to never say or do anything that might cause them to think otherwise; I would treat them impartially in all things, big and small.
But as soon as they got old enough to make more of their own choices, coordinated clothes were out. As their individual needs changed and became more diverse, I found I continually needed to adapt and change how I gave each one my love and support. I still didn’t love one more or less than the others, but I couldn’t always treat them the same.
Now that those boys are grown men, in many respects they could hardly be more different from one another. My early attempts to establish uniformity now seem pure folly, and I thank God for giving each of them the sense to pursue his own interests, develop his own skills, and become his own person. Each probably has some things that he would like to change about himself—there’s always room for improvement—but I love them dearly just as they are. - Keith Phillips
Children remember things very clearly and are directly affected by their parents’ attitude and how their parents feel and think about them. So if you’re constantly speaking faith and positive things about your child, either to him or to others, and if you’re thinking positive things about your child, this will have a good, faith-building, positive effect on your child, and he’ll become more like what you think of him and expect from him. But if you are thinking or speaking negatively about your child, either directly or indirectly to him, it will have the effect of making him think negatively about himself and hinder his happiness and self-esteem, his performance, and the way he sees himself. Faith begets more faith; positive attitudes foster more positive attitudes in both yourself and those around you. It takes faith in someone to bring out the best in them.
Your child is different from any other child in the world, just as you’re different from any other person in the world. You’re a unique parent, a unique person, and your child is unique.
If your child doesn’t have a certain gift that you wish he had, it does not mean that he is inferior, or that he lacks quality or is missing something in his makeup or his mental functions or his ability to have a beautiful life and to be a beautiful person—and most important of all, to make a big difference and touch the life of others. It doesn’t mean that you’re failing as a parent and somehow not helping your child become whatever you think he should be. You’re not failing and your child is not failing. All children have some areas in which they shine.
Courtesy of Activated Magazine and Anchor (www.anchor.tfionline.com). Used with permission.
Children are little people.—And if we’d just stop thinking about them as “children” and think about them as people, we’d get a lot further in understanding them and their problems! So why don’t we just start thinking about them as we do about ourselves?
People are complex. Children are people too and their problems are also complex. Their feelings are much the same as adults’, and the experiences they go through are very similar to things we go through, only harder for them to understand.—Children are much more vulnerable than adults, and many things they have to go through which though small to us, may seem monumental or even traumatic to them at the time because they don’t have the experience to understand them, and they haven’t been assured like we have that everything will work out in the end! So you have to treat them even more carefully, tenderly and with more consideration than adults.
Try to put yourself in the child’s place. Put yourself in as close a situation as you can think of to your child’s situation and think about how you would feel—then you can get a better understanding of him and his problem.
Text © The Family International. Photo courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net
By Bonita Hele
Dear Jesus, bless the mothers who sat up again last night, soothing their crying, colicky babies.
Bless the mothers who read the same favorite bedtime story night after night, even though they could recite it in their sleep.
Bless the mothers who keep a treasured collection of their children’s artwork, from the first scribble to the latest masterpiece.
Bless the mothers who help support their families, even when it means going to work with spit-up on their blouses, diapers in their purses, and teething rings on their key chains.
Bless the mothers who cheer the child who scored the winning goal, and bless the mothers who cheer on the child who has never scored a goal.
Bless the mothers who care for their sick children, treasuring the extra time together rather than begrudging the extra work.
Bless the mothers who daily teach their children the ways of love, peace, forgiveness, tolerance, and humility by their example.
Bless the mothers who teach their children to fold their hands in prayer, even before they can say a word.
Bless the mothers who acknowledge their mistakes and ask You to make up for their lacks.
Bless the mothers who never tire of praying for their children.
Bless the mothers who aren’t a picture of perfection but a personification of love.
Thank You, Lord, for mothers—old pro, rookie, or soon-to-be, single or married, rich or poor, mothers of their own children or mothers to the motherless—because without them we would not know that most beautiful thing, a mother’s love.
By Beth Jordan
I don’t know if it is the same for all first-time mothers, but nothing holds my interest like watching my little girl. Her facial expressions, the excitement in her eyes, her curiosity—just about anything she does brings out the motherly love in me. And one wonderful day I realized that’s how Jesus, in His unconditional love, is with me.
As I watched my Ashley Elle sitting up on the bed and looking at me with her bright blue eyes, all smiles, I thought, How could I not love her? Sure, at six months she is as active as a puppy, she makes a mess sometimes, she fusses, she wakes up in the night and wants to be fed when I just want to sleep, but no matter what she does, there is no way that I could ever stop loving or caring for her.
Then I remembered the previous day, when I had felt so low and far from the Lord. I had made so many mistakes! Surely He had stopped loving me—or so it seemed. Then, as I looked into my baby’s eyes, He spoke to me. “How could I ever stop loving you? Why would I ever want to stop caring for you? You are the joy of My heart, and I love you. You are My girl. Sure, you aren’t perfect and you sometimes make a mess of things, but that’s all just part of growing up. I love you more and more every day. And don’t worry, you will always be My little girl!”
Courtesy of Activated magazine. Used with permission.
By Robert Peterson
She was six years old when I first met her on the beach near where I live. I drive to this beach, a distance of three or four miles, whenever the world begins to close in on me. She was building a sand castle or something and looked up, her eyes as blue as the sea. Hello, she said. I answered with a nod, not really in the mood to bother with a small child. I’m building, she said.
I see that. What is it? I asked, not caring.
Oh, I don’t know, I just like the feel of sand.
That sounds good, I thought, and slipped off my shoes. A sandpiper glided by.
That’s a joy, the child said.
It’s a what?
It’s a joy. My mama says sandpipers come to bring us joy. The bird went gliding down the beach.
Good-bye, joy, I muttered to myself, hello, pain, and turned to walk on. I was depressed; my life seemed completely out of balance.
What’s your name? She wouldn’t give up.
Robert, I answered. I’m Robert Peterson.
Mine’s Wendy. … I’m six.
She giggled. You’re funny, she said.
In spite of my gloom I laughed too and walked on. Her musical giggle followed me. Come again, Mr. P., she called. We’ll have another happy day. The days and weeks that followed belong to others: a group of unruly Boy Scouts, PTA meetings, an ailing mother. The sun was shining one morning as I took my hands out of the dishwater.
I need a sandpiper, I said to myself, gathering up my coat. The ever-changing balm of the seashore awaited me. The breeze was chilly, but I strode along, trying to recapture the serenity I needed. I had forgotten the child and was startled when she appeared.
Hello, Mr. P., she said. Do you want to play?
What did you have in mind? I asked, with a twinge of annoyance.
I don’t know. You say.
How about charades? I asked sarcastically.
The tinkling laughter burst forth again. I don’t know what that is.
Then let’s just walk. Looking at her, I noticed the delicate fairness of her face. Where do you live? I asked.
Over there. She pointed toward a row of summer cottages. Strange, I thought, in winter.
Where do you go to school?
I don’t go to school. Mommy says we’re on vacation. She chattered little girl talk as we strolled up the beach, but my mind was on other things. When I left for home, Wendy said it had been a happy day. Feeling surprisingly better, I smiled at her and agreed.
Three weeks later, I rushed to my beach in a state of near panic. I was in no mood to even greet Wendy. I thought I saw her mother on the porch and felt like demanding she keep her child at home. Look, if you don’t mind, I said crossly when Wendy caught up with me, I’d rather be alone today.
She seemed unusually pale and out of breath, I thought.
Why do you want to be alone? she asked.
I turned to her and shouted, Because my mother died! and thought, My God, why am I saying this to a little child?
Oh, she said quietly, then this is a bad day.
Yes, I said, and yesterday and the day before, and—oh, go away!
Did it hurt? she inquired.
Did what hurt? I was exasperated with her, with myself.
When she died?
Of course it hurt! I snapped, misunderstanding, wrapped up in myself. I strode off.
A month or so after that, when I next went to the beach, she wasn’t there. Feeling guilty, ashamed and admitting to myself I missed her, I went up to the cottage after my walk and knocked at the door. A drawn-looking young woman with honey-colored hair opened the door.
Hello, I said. I’m Robert Peterson. I missed your little girl today and wondered where she was.
Oh yes, Mr. Peterson, please come in. Wendy spoke of you so much. I’m afraid I allowed her to bother you. If she was a nuisance, please accept my apologies.
Not at all. She’s a delightful child, I said, suddenly realizing that I meant it.
Where is she?
Wendy died last week, Mr. Peterson. She had leukemia. Maybe she didn’t tell you. Struck dumb, I groped for a chair. My breath caught. She loved this beach, so when she asked to come, we couldn’t say no. She seemed so much better here and had a lot of what she called happy days. But the last few weeks, she declined rapidly. … Her voice faltered. She left something for you. … If only I can find it. Could you wait a moment while I look?
I nodded dumbly, my mind racing for something, anything, to say to this lovely young woman. She handed me a smeared envelope, with MR. P printed in bold, childish letters. Inside was a drawing in bright crayon hues—a yellow beach, a blue sea, and a brown bird. Underneath was carefully printed: A SANDPIPER TO BRING YOU JOY. Tears welled up in my eyes, and a heart that had almost forgotten to love opened wide. I took Wendy’s mother in my arms. I’m so sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I muttered over and over, and we wept together.
The precious little picture is framed now and hangs in my study. Six words—one for each year of her life—that speak to me of harmony, courage, undemanding love. A gift from a child with sea-blue eyes and hair the color of sand, who taught me the gift of love.
By Samuel Keating
For my daughter Audrey’s first birthday, my wife and I planned to have a small celebration with a few friends and family members at home; instead we ended up with a cupcake-themed extravaganza at the restaurant her grandparents manage. Admittedly, it was probably more for everyone else’s benefit. Audrey spent much of the time observing the proceedings warily from the safety of someone’s arms and flatly refused to pose for photos by her lone candle, despite (or because of) much encouragement to do so.
People talk about how fast time flies, and I feel it really does. Maybe that’s because I’m getting older. When I was a child, days, weeks, and months—not to mention years—seemed to pass so slowly; now it seems like only a few weeks ago that I first met Audrey. I remember that day so well, along with all my first impressions and emotions as I watched the nurse give Audrey her first bath, and then her falling asleep in my arms for the first time.
Before she was born, I often heard parents talk about the joys of having children, but I wasn’t convinced. I believed those parents truly thought they were happy, but I didn’t understand how. Weren’t their lives more stressful, tiring, and hectic than before? Didn’t they have less free time? Weren’t they embarrassed by their children turning over a plate of food, frazzled by their children’s whininess when they were tired, annoyed by their clinginess or repeated petty disobediences? I was sure I would be. While I enjoyed being around other people’s children, I felt I valued my time and comfort too much to ever have any of my own.
Now, however, I can’t imagine my life without Audrey. Every smile, every peal of laughter, every new discovery she makes, every new toy she masters, every animal sound she learns fills me with deep happiness and gratitude for her presence in my life. Her latest discovery is that a piercing shriek is an effective way to get my attention when she wants me to play with her or read her a book, but even that doesn’t take away from the love I feel for her or the happiness she brings.
Article and photo courtesy of Activated magazine.