Monday, October 17, 2011

"I Love You I Do!"

The hotel lobby was a warm, welcoming place. It looked more spacious than it really was because of elegant pillars that stretched from floor to high ceiling. Each pillar, encased in glass panels, reflected the images of a small girl twirling in a saucy red skirt. The child danced happily from pillar to pillar, ponytail flying. Each time she saw her reflection, she was delighted anew. From time to time, the child stopped moving long enough to kiss her face in the mirror and declare, "I love you, I do!"

The child's mother rested nearby on a padded bench. With each kiss, mom echoed her little girl's words. "I love you, too. I do!" she said. In that moment, I found myself loving both of them, and I didn't even know them. I loved the child's innocent joy in who she was. I loved the mother for not restraining the joy of her child.

Watching them reminded me of a favorite children's story, Koala Lou by the extraordinary author, Mem Fox. Listen to Mem read her story about a mother koala who tells her little one a hundred times a day, "Koala Lou, I do love you." Until, that is, brothers and sisters are born. Mother is too busy to say the words. Koala Lou is sure if she wins the gum tree climbing event in the Bush Olympics, her mother will love her again. Alas, Koala Lou comes in second. She hides her sorrow in the dark of night where mother finds her and declares, "Oh, Koala Lou, I do love you! I always have and I always will!"

Koala Lou, like the child dancing among the glass pillars, is your child. She is every child everywhere, waiting to hear the words, "Oh, I love you. I do!"

A Colorful Thought: A child does not earn your love by being good. She has it by being born.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Locked Into Childhood

Oh, how I anticipated the evening out to see old friends. I was eager to reconnect, and enjoy a rare gourmet dinner. But the man seated next to me was so needy of attention he drained the joy right out of the evening. He wore me out.

In Garden Graces, Janice Elsheimer warns us about unattended garden soil that produces nothing but pitiful blooms. Alas, the "dried-out soil that needs constant watering" was sitting next to me. Hopelessly insecure, the man sought from anyone around him the approval denied him as a child. Unaware of his need, and hardly to blame, I doubt the young man ever shakes off the barren soil of his childhood.

How do parents enrich the soil of childhood to "grow" a child into the person God intends him to be? And when? Don't wait to bungee-jump into his life when he's old enough for Little League or Scouts. You miss teaching your child the self-esteem and character traits you want locked into his childhood, and ultimately, his adulthood.

Jump in now! If all you have are quick minutes of attention, use them. Minutes of on-the-floor play, playing whatever he want to play, delight a child. Blend him into the scattered chunks of time that consume your days, "helping" you put away groceries, cook, clean, do laundry, even exercise. Talk all the while. Remember to punctuate your together time with warm hugs that remind your child you love being with him.

Like a tender new garden plant, your child is fragile, demanding, and totally dependent on you. But the watering "up front" in his early years allows him to thrive in every new stage of development. When tended well, the outcome is a masterpiece. Yours.

A Colorful Thought: Your minutes together, listening and caring, cultivate the rich soil of an extraordinary childhood.