I’ve recently started spending time in 2 of my children’s classrooms. Having spent a few years heavily involved in the PTA organization, I decided to spend this school year’s volunteer hours in classrooms.
I’m not typically a fan of surrounding myself with too many children besides my own, but regardless of my preferences the classroom is where you will find me offering volunteer hours this year. Recently, I had an experience that has changed my focus of the children around me.
Instead of following along with my small group reading a book, I found myself watching the children in the classroom. An annoying boy pestering his neighbor, a girl bossing others around and a girl with unkempt hair are a few things that caught my eye.
It seemed ironic that, at that moment, it was my son’s turn to read. As I listened to him read flawlessly from the book, I felt a sudden wave of love and tender emotion for my son, who has come a long way from his refusal to learn basic sight-words in kindergarten, and his days of less-than-desirable-behavior in second grade. As I looked at my son, I realized another parent volunteer, or any adult for that matter, very likely looked at my son in the same way I was currently looking at the other children in the class.
I imagined myself loving the other children in the classroom with a similar love I felt for my son. Although it wasn’t easy, I couldn’t help but wonder what improvements we’d see if we were to love each other’s children a little more.
In thinking about how to love others a little more, 3 things came to mind.
1. Accept them
Just minutes after having my "epiphany of sorts" in my older son’s class, I sat in front of my child’s kindergarten class to read a book to them. Before beginning to read, I was silently irritated by the boy attempting to do a somersault, and the girl who was gleefully poking the ear of the child next to her. In that moment, I did my best not to favor the dozen or so children sitting quietly and obediently waiting for the story. What did it matter if all 20+ children weren't focused for the duration of the book? I’m not naive in thinking my children have never been the annoying child in a group. Wouldn't we all want the same acceptance and kindness shown to our annoying children as the somersault or ear-poking parent would want shown to theirs?
2. Don’t judge them
In a classroom in which I volunteered, there was a student who always hugged me. If the child wasn’t hugging me, he was doing his best to get my attention. I let myself be annoyed by this young child and found myself wanting to avoid him. You can imagine how horrible I felt when a few weeks into this behavior, my child told me this particular classmate “doesn’t have a mom, she died.” I was too quick to judge this young child as annoying, when really, he probably just wanted some love and affection from a classmate’s mother. Indeed, a very humbling lesson to learn.
We would do well as adults in society to remind ourselves of the universal need we all feel to be loved. No matter our associations with children or the people around us as peers, leaders, subordinates, or equals, we should do our best to love something about a person. It will never be easy to love everyone fully, but start small. Love a person’s smile, love their energy, even start by superficially loving an item of clothing they own. The point is to start somewhere today to love something about someone that needs loving.
The idea of accepting, not judging and loving other people is nothing new, but it seems too often we forget to do it. Whether we are mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, or brothers and sisters, we owe it to each other to love each other’s children, nieces and nephews, and siblings. I speak from experience that the task isn’t easy. I have a hard enough time liking my own children all the time, let alone loving others.
Last week, I removed my focus from my son and looked around the classroom more closely. I saw your children. Some were pestering their neighbors some were working quietly, others were acting like an animal at the zoo. I took the time to look at my children and your children.
As a mother, I am committed to loving them all a little bit more.