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Monday, January 16, 2012

Try a Little Tenderness - My Compassionate Child

   Yesterday I told you about my 6 year old Punkinhead and his tendency to be a bit of a dreamer. Nothing has changed in just a few short hours. He's still as dreamy as ever, and likely to stay that way, but once again, he supplies me with material for my blog. Do you ever have those moments when your children surprise you? I'm not just talking about that eerie silence that tells you they're doing something horrible just before you find someone tied to a bed post, either. Sometimes, those quiet moments are an opportunity to catch them being good. Every once in a while, it gets quiet and when I investigate, expecting to find disaster, there my 3 children will sit, peacefully, with my oldest child reading aloud to the younger two, and everyone getting along. That is the type of surprise that I'm talking about.
   I love kids. They crack me up. I love their bold honesty and the way that they are always learning something. I love how they go at everything full tilt and how they experience every emotion at its absolute peak. There are no in-betweens with kids. It's all or nothing, all the time. But, while I do thoroughly enjoy them, it's a painful fact that children are kind of self-centered jerks. It's true. They can't help it. Children are born believing that they really are the center of the world, so to speak, and that everything does, and should, revolve around them. It takes a long time before they start to realize that other people have feelings and that they matter. This is true for all children, and for each child, it takes a varying amount of time for them to develop compassion. It's a learned skill, not something they are born with. I bring this up because, today, I was very surprised by my own child's show of compassion for his playmate.
   Of course, it's worth mentioning that, of my three children, Punkinhead is by far my most sensitive, tenderhearted little man. He is always the first to offer a hug when you're upset, and is truly hurt himself when he realizes that he's hurt someone's feelings. When we have to leave the house and we put Mr. Harrelson in his room when we leave the house, Punkinhead says, “I wish we could take him with us. It makes me sad that he's so sad to go in his room.” (At 8 months of age, with a fair mix of lab flowing in his veins, he's quite the avid chewer, as my vacuum cleaner cord will attest, leaving him out to roam freely while you're gone is not a good idea if you don't wish to return to chewed up objects.) So, Punkinhead's compassion is not without precedent.
   Today, however, I was just blown away by how sweet my little boy can be. I thought to myself, “He's going to make an excellent husband someday, if he gets married,” and then, “I have done such a good job with this one!” (LOL – Nothing like a little pat on the back for mom, right?) Anyway, today, a good friend came over to visit and brought her daughter. When lunch time came, I reheated the food I fixed yesterday, but I didn't have any veggies left over, so I washed some fresh carrots and sliced an avocado into wedges and sprinkled it with salt and garlic. These are things that my kids will eat. Actually, my 8 year old will eat an entire avocado by himself if I let him, so I figured they were pretty good picks. I don't have picky eaters. My friend's daughter, however, is not only picky, but has a flair for the dramatic. My friend, knowing my policy on picky eaters, (I don't have picky eaters because it's simply not tolerated. I fix food, it's given to them, if they eat it, great. If not, fine; they can choose to go hungry, but I'm not fixing something else. I was the world's pickiest eater when I was a kid, and it's a pet peeve of mine now. I missed out on so many good foods because my parents let me get away with it!) decided to force the issue with her daughter today. I didn't care whether she ate the avocado or not. She's not my kid, so I really didn't have a vested interest. But her mom told her that she needed to eat one piece of avocado in order to be done with lunch.
   Oh my, were the theatrics something to behold. She produced one fake gag after another, accompanied by, “My stomach hurts! This is going to make me throw up! I think I'm going to be sick!” I couldn't help but laugh at her over-the-top attempts to avoid eating the tiny slice of avocado. It was, by far, one of the most ridiculous displays of fake gagging I've ever witnessed. Anyway, despite all of her theatrics, my friend told her she had to eat it anyway. So, Punkinhead, being the sweet little boy he is, leans over and says, “Don't worry. If you make a mess, I'll clean it up for you.” Now, that alone is an amazing display of compassion for a 6 year old boy. I'm 31 years old, and I would be hard pressed to volunteer for vomit clean-up duty. Yet, here is Punkinhead, reassuring his friend, whom he believes to be in genuine distress, that if she does throw up, he's got her back, and he'll clean up the mess for her. That alone would be sweet, but since the theatrics continued, there's actually another part to the story. Eventually, my friend gave her daughter a bowl for her imminent vomiting episode caused by the harsh punishment of being asked to try a bite of the avocado. Eyeroll. While she's carrying on and dramatically fake gagging, here comes my Punkinhead, valiantly holding her hair back out of the way and holding the bowl for her, “just in case.” 
   Now, of course, there was no actual vomit because this was all just an exercise in drama, but Punkinhead did not know this. How sweet is that? Oh, and no, the bite of avocado seemed to cause no permanent damage to my friend's daughter. It did however, show me a glimpse of the man I hope my little boy is growing up to be. I'm so proud of him for wanting to care for his friend. It makes me excited for his future to see what a compassionate, gentlemanly young man he is already. What a wonderful surprise to see these glimpses now and again.

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