We all know it takes great patience when the milk spills for the fifth time in a week or mama’s favorite teacup is shattered. In the course of their lives, we forgive our children over and over as they forgive us, when we growl or shout or hurt them in other ways.
As important as it is to feed their bodies, we also need to feed their souls. There are four simple ways to do that: look, smile, touch, mirror.
We seem to do this naturally with a baby. We look into their eyes, smile, and touch them gently.
They make new sounds, and we mirror them back. As children grow, they need that same presence from us, for us to sometimes put our tasks or I pad aside and really look at them when they are talking, to light up with a smile when they walk into the room.
I’m very blessed because my husband often lights up when he sees me.
Children need us to look, smile and touch, to be utterly present to them as if they are the most precious beings in the universe, because they are. And we are like gods to them. We are the all-powerful ones. We need to use that power gently and wisely.
There is one simple and wondrous way to be the presence of Grace with young children. I have shared this with parents mandated to come to a virtues class after abusing their children. Get on the floor. Be their toy. Let them show you how to play.
Make little comments about the truck they are pushing or mirror their actions and sounds.
Play is a form of love, one in our busyness and distractedness we often overlook.
One young mother in northern Canada had locked her two and five year olds in a dark closet after bringing them home from daycare. They hugged her legs and whined while she tried to make dinner. After a long day apart while she was at work, they needed her full attention.
When she recognized their need to connect and be close to her first thing, she prepared a quick snack for them all to share, and played and cuddled with them for 10 minutes. She also used her new skill of spiritual ‘companioning’, asking them a question such as, “What did you do at daycare today?” Then, she said, “Now it’s time to be peaceful while I make dinner” and handed them some books to read. They happily obliged.
She was radiant when she came to the virtues workshop the day after trying this method. She said, “It worked! It worked! I can’t say those words (spiritual companioning) but I call it ‘walk along’. It was the best night we ever had.”
I met her nearly two decades later and we had a long hug. She said, “It’s still working, Linda!”
Playing is presence. It is giving your full attention, with no agenda to preach, teach or growl, just being together with sacred curiosity, a smile, and the willingness to have fun.
Love thrives on presence at every age.