While wading through the ocean of paperwork, pictures, photos, artwork ad worksheets sent home in the stuffed Trader Joe’s brown paper bag by my daughter’s teacher on the last day of school, I was trying to figure out the eternal parenting quandary – how much of this stuff do I keep, and how much can I throw out? If I could keep every last piece I would, but in there is limited space and storage in our condo, and unless I’m considering wallpapering our dining room with worksheets on the letter “Q”, some of this stuff had to go.
And then I came across a drawing, the whole thing done in green, with something written at the bottom. There were clearly three figures in it, but I couldn’t exactly discern what they were doing in this scene Parker had depicted in her five-year-old artist’s hand. The words at the bottom where something of a mystery, too. Though she’s getting much better at writing, there is still an air of mystery surrounding her phonetics at times.
I called her over.
Parks, I love this picture you drew in school! Can you describe it to me? I asked.
She begins pointing to each figure and explaining what they are going in the scenes.
Here I am playing on the Circle Time Mat, and over there I am building with blocks, and over here I am helping someone in a wheelchair. She tells me matter-of-factly. I wrote on the bottom “Helping Other People” because it’s nice to do that.
I stood there open-mouthed for a moment, trying to figure out what to say next. Parker’s younger brother Owen, has Cerebral Palsy and Autism, so inclusion – whether it’s during play time or merely saying hello instead of staring while passing someone on the street that looks “different” somehow, has been part of our parenting mantra and written in our unwritten book of values we’d like to instill in our children.
Wow! What a wonderful picture, honey! Was this something your teacher told you to do for a project – to draw a picture of ways you could help other people? I asked.
No, she answered. I did it during Free Play time. I just thought helping is a nice thing to do, so I drew a picture of it.
Well, you’re right. It is a nice thing to do – and the right thing to do – and I am so, so proud of you! This is going right up on the fridge! I told her as she beamed.
That girl of mine, she took her free time in class – when she could have been playing with her friends, or reading a book, or doing an art project, or playing dress up, and she drew a picture of helping people. Of helping people that other children may feel nervous or unsure around because of their differences. My girl, she chose to draw about helping those types of people, the ones that put the “other” in other people.
And there are lessons about kindness that we are supposed to teach our children and there is a lesson to be learned here, too. When we preach about being kind, about empathy, they see us and they hear us and they are learning from us.
And yet, there is plenty about kindness that we can learn from them, too. That it should be just because “helping is a nice thing to do” and that we should choose to do it even when there are more fun or desirable options available. Perhaps most important of all, we should do it without expectation of discovery or recognition. Parker drew that picture weeks ago. She didn’t run home and show it to me looking for a head pat or congratulations for being a good person; she merely did it because something deep down inside told her she should.
Isn’t that a lesson we could all learn about kindness?
This piece was originally posted on StrongTots as part of the Kinder by the Child project.