Thursday, May 15, 2014

Parenting lessons - our children are the best teachers

Every once in a while something happens that really knocks the air out of you. Usually, this is born out of an unpleasant, surprising, or devastating situation or experience. But it's not always bad - sometimes it's just pure love, an overwhelming sense of awe, or a happy surprise. About a month ago, my 6 year old completely took my breath away with her words. After I processed what she'd said and responded calmly, I sent her out to play and the tears came. These were not sad or hurt tears, but tears that resulted from complete, overwhelming, breathtaking love. I was so proud of her, so emotionally raw, so in love.

What did she say that caused such an enormous emotional reaction?

To set the stage, first you need to understand that Olivia is my mild-mannered child. She's calm, methodical, deeply caring, and sensitive. She doesn't do things in a big way, like her little sister. This isn't to say she doesn't do BIG things, she just doesn't do them in a big way; she's understated.

This particular day, she got up from the table where she had been working on her homework and approached me. I was sitting in the living room, laptop open, taking the opportunity to squeeze a few more minutes of work in while she was occupied.


I looked up, expecting some short, seemingly unimportant statement before shooing her off so I could keep working.

"Mommy, for my birthday - " Oh boy, I thought, here comes the laundry list, "- I'd like people to help drill a well for clean water."

I paused. For a long time. Where did this come from? As a social worker, I take advantage of teachable moments to try instill a sense of caring for others and our world in my girls, but I new, this had nothing to do with me or those lessons. I was so caught off-guard, I needed a moment to process before responding.

"What do you mean?" She had my full attention now.

She went on to explain that some people didn't have clean water and she wanted to help them have clean water. She had learned about this global issue at school that day - she attends an international bachelorette and Spanish magnet elementary. She continued by stating that she'd learned about another child who'd done this for her birthday and she wanted to do the same.

"You understand that if people do this for your birthday it will be instead of giving you birthday gifts, right?"

She nodded. She understood. And then, meekly, "well, maybe I can still get something small?"

Yes, sweet child. Yes, you can still have something small to open on your birthday.

The next few weeks were a whirlwind of research, information gathering, and setting up a gofundme site - continuously checking in with her that she was SURE this is what she wanted for her birthday. She was steadfast in her reply.

Through this process, Olivia has taught me so much - things I thought I already knew. She's opened a window into what it means to be selfless, at a time when children are developmentally self-centered. She's shown grace, love, sacrifice. I am humbled by her example and have been reminded that being a social worker is more than just getting a degree. It's looking for opportunities to serve others, lift communities, lighten the burden of others everyday, be it a small gesture or something on a larger scale.

We've partnered with a wonderful organization, Love One Another Project and are working to raise $7000 to drill a borehole (deeper than a well and therefore doesn't run dry) in Busega, Kampala Uganda. You can read all about it, see the faces of the individuals who will be impacted by Olivia's gift and donate directly on Olivia's gofundme site. Please consider supporting this selfless wish and help us spread the word through facebook, twitter, pinterest, etc. I would really appreciate it. Olivia would really appreciate it.

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