past two weeks this column has focused on the top ten most
ineffective behaviors in dealing with children.
Today, I feel guilty having missed the number one tool in
actually making a difference in a child's life and for not
having listed it, as well. So here it is this week,
instead. The greatest thing you can do to make a
difference in your child's life is to love them and
tell them that you love them.
It is very
early here. Often, I sit hammering away at my keys
wondering if what I have to say is important. My hope is
the column serves as a guide for a parent surfing for
information, especially first time parents looking for
additional answers in dealing with the bundle of soft
smelling, wriggling tissue they brought home from the
hospital yesterday. Somewhere in the early morning hours,
too, they decide that surely someone has advice or
information to help them be the best parent. The truth is
that our children often survive to become thriving adults
in spite of all parents try to do for them. It
will not happen, though, without one essential ingredient
and that - simply put - is love.
leave later this morning to travel to my family in
Minnesota. My niece, a beautiful woman of a short
twenty-five years, died yesterday. She was one-half of a
set of bouncy twin girls thrust into this world to a set
of parents who had some idea of what to do with a son, but
now two girls? All at once?
No one yet
knows what happened. Christine was not feeling well and
went to her parent's house to rest. Something went very
wrong and her sister had to initiate CPR. The medical
examiner may help provide some answers tomorrow, but like
so many questions parents have when they arrive at this
site, there may be no answer - only more questions.
I do know
that in all my years of teaching, comforting sobbing
children, worrying that Robby might be picked on because
of his lisp, or that Katie might actually enjoy skipping
more than her violin lessons, explaining to Theresa's
parents that it is normal for a child to pick their nose
at such a young age because everyone does - yes, even
they may have done the same - I know the one thing
that makes a difference is love. Without love, children
do not thrive. They never grow into their full potential
as adults and know the joy in passing on that love.
Even with her
memories beside me, the drive will be long and lonely. My
last words to her were "I love you." Hers were the same.
I know the familiar hug will not be there to greet me at
the other end. I will sit, like so many others at the
service and question whether she knew how important she
was to our family. Visions of her bouncing pigtails and
rollicking with her sister on the floor pass through my
mind. I was the aunt looking on. Even then, I wondered
how one could be the perfect aunt to these rolly
polly bundles of fresh smelling things. What were the
right things to do and what if I did something
irreversibly wrong that would cost them and the world a
horrible price as they turned out in all the wrong ways?
It was a tremendous burden.
day after many years had gone by, I noticed this beautiful
lady sitting before me. She had dark flowing hair,
although I still saw pigtails. Chris was discussing how
work was going and excited over her recent car purchase.
I was encircled by her and her sisters on the floor of an
airport. We talked and laughed of how life was going and
what tomorrow would offer. It was then I knew something
good had happened in this child's life. We all had done
our best. Her mother, her father, her grandparents, her
siblings - all of us - we had done just fine. No smoke
and mirrors or manuals, just a little bit of love had made
all the difference.
practice this one behavior management tool, even if you do
it at no other time (although I certainly hope you do).
Give your child a hug and tell them that you love them.
Oh, sometimes it can be awkward - especially the first
time - just like when you first picked them up as a baby
and felt they might break if you held them wrong. Try
it. Like most tools, it takes practice. When you get
into it, being hugged back is the best part. Oh, I
should warn you, too, there is a risk involved.
when you love a child very hard and are with them for a
long time, they disappear. Though the time has seemed
short and you still see visions of them bouncing around in
pigtails, they are gone. At that moment, love awakens you
to its irony. All the time spent nurturing a child has
become best thing ever in your life. Your
knuckles will turn white holding onto that when you
no longer can hold them. Most importantly, you
will know that if you never, EVER, did anything else all
the experts said was appropriate or effective or important
or essential on a web site, in a book, or on a television
show, you will have done the two most important things you
could have ever done in the life of that child - you will
have loved them and you will have told them how much
you love them. You will realize the rewards from
having loved a child. Simply put- it will be
enough. On that day when they are gone, unlike the day
before, it will have to be enough.
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