Have you ever thought of how you are your child's shining example of adulthood?
Children learn how to socialize, read, and write and all those great scholastic skills in school. They learn tolerance, empathy, sympathy, love, passion and right and wrong from us: their parents.
I had not given it much thought outside the general realm of 'I want my kid to be nice to everyone' until today. One of my favorite responses to my parents when I was pleading my case was that I needed to experience things on my own so I could learn from them. Yes, I'm still all about experience and learning from it.
My oldest son, Ethan, has experienced a lot in his young age. He has experienced the loss of pets and losing great grandparents. He's visited nursing homes and assisted living. Sounds like things you would want to avoid with children, but why? He has fond memories and love for dogs that we have lost. He understands life and death, and respects it. He was taught at an early age that not everyone can walk, they may be in a wheelchair, or use a walker or cane, they might have glasses or not be able to see, they might talk different or not be able to hear. They might have special devices that help them, like oxygen tanks or IV's.
What did he learn from these experiences? He learned that he could make someone smile by pushing his or her wheelchair. He can cheer up someone who is struggling to walk again. He knows that sometimes he might need to speak up to be heard by elders. He's learned that older people can do puzzles, just like him, and enjoy hugs and smiles, too.
I'm still learning ways that I can help others. I've always been an organ donor on my license, but there are so many other ways that I can help while I'm alive.
Last year, I registered to be a bone marrow donor. I did this because one of my friends had a friend whose child needed bone marrow. Reading about it, and realizing how I might be able to save a life with a fairly simple procedure, sold me. Why wouldn't I do it?
I decided to donate blood, which is needed as well. I'm not a fan of needles, but in the big scheme of things, it's not so bad. I always feel like I have done something wonderful when I give blood. A family could be in the middle of a tragedy and need multiple pints of blood. Why not spare someone a tiny amount of stress? My mom has had two blood transfusions in the past year. You just never know.
I explain to Ethan that doing things for others is important. We are healthy. We need to be grateful. When we are cleaning out closets and organizing, I encourage him to feel good about giving toys and clothes to others that aren't as lucky as him.
I haven't told Ethan that in this economy our good fortune can all be over at the drop of a hat. I don't want him to worry, but I want him to appreciate and not judge.
Last week I took him and his friend to a Relay For Life Kick Off Party. They were the only children there. We haven't discussed with Ethan that Grandma has cancer because there hasn't exactly been a need to. I'm sure he has overheard enough to know that something is going on. He heard a lot at the kick off party about cancer and how it can affect lives. I told him that he was part of our team. He learned from the party that he would be part of the fight.
I want my children to know that they can make a difference in this crazy world. I know when I voted for the first time (when I was pregnant with Ethan), I felt I would make a difference. I know that in some small way I might have even though it most certainly doesn't feel like it and it's discouraging.
But there are other ways to make a difference in this world, and I want my children to experience those.
How do you teach your children that they can make a difference in this world? Does your family volunteer? Share in the Comment Box below.