Children teach us more

Children hold more lessons for us than we could ever hope to imagine.

As a parent, I find each and every day a new challenge.

A challenge to keep up with my child, to keep him safe, to listen to him, to engage with him, to try to be the person that he needs me to be. It’s a challenge to figure out what stage little person is currently at — every day a new stage, and every day a new discovery. There are new words, new observations, new skills learned, new movement and new games. There are new thoughts and new emotions discovered. It can be easy to simply gloss over some of these things in a moment of extreme exhaustion — for example, when I just want a little peace and quiet to make supper or have a cup of tea, or when I’m lacking the patience to try to put on his snowsuit for the seventh time in the last 10 minutes.

It would be too easy to just miss lovely, beautiful moments. It takes all of my energy some days to draw in the patience to get through a few seconds and move on to the next moment.

But when I do, when I am patient, when I try to listen—try to really listen and to be present in the moment—there are so many learning opportunities. Learning for me, teaching moments from my child.

Heartbreak and tragedy

How can I bear to miss this? As every parent, every person who has known a child, must have felt this week, I was devastated and heartbroken to follow the story of three-year old Elijah Marsh in Toronto. A tiny person, only a year older than my own tiny person, wandering outside into the below-zero Toronto cold in the middle of the night, in the middle of winter, only to be found hours later without vital signs.

That night, I slept warm and snuggled in a bed piled with blankets, cozy against my own child. I woke to read the news over morning coffee and oats and juice, while my small person coloured pictures and rode a fire engine in his pyjamas. I read the news of the missing boy, repeatedly bursting into tears at the thought of a small person wandering alone in the night, freezing. I could see how easy it would be for our own small one to do the same thing, at any time of the day.

Our child is going through a stage of independence, like so many children at all ages do. He repeats “self!” and “own” in reference to the many tasks he wants to attempt. Everything from walking down the stairs by himself, to picking out his own clothes and pyjamas, to putting on his own diaper (very unsuccessfully), to cleaning the table after a meal, to brushing his own teeth. He has, so far, had difficulty in mastering the technique of opening doors. But just the day before the news of young Elijah broke, our own small one was telling me that “self” wanted to unlock the back door and let the cats in from outside on his “own”.

It’s not a stretch to imagine how the same thing could happen to any of us. A moment of rest, a moment without patience, or without seeing, or without listening. Any moment, something could change.

I read the news of young Elijah with tears, so many tears, for the family who has lost their child, for the grandparents who were with him at the time that he went missing. And tears most of all for the young boy who was simply trying to be independent, who was probably excited, and curious to see the world.

I have been holding my own small person so much tighter these last few days. So many hugs and snuggles, kisses and “I love you most.” We are so lucky, each and every day, for our small people.

They teach us so much. And it’s so easy to forget, so easy to take a break, to take a moment to ourselves.

And even though I’m a person with a life, with interests, with activities that I love and enjoy, with friends, and important conversations to be had, at this stage of my life my primary purpose really truly is to help keep my small person safe — to get him through his life, to develop his interests, his knowledge, his amazing traits. I’m here to be at his service in so many ways, however that manifests itself.

From time to time it might mean that I need a break of my own and that I need someone else to help me care for him. It might mean that I need a village to help me keep him safe and to help him grow. It might mean that on certain days, we need an uninterrupted ‘mommy-small person day’ with games and stories in bed and coffee dates and playtime. It might mean that I need to arm myself with extra patience some days, and take a break on other days. It might mean that I need to cultivate my own interests so that I can be a better person, a better role model for my small one. But at this stage of my life, I am all his, in every way possible.

And I need to enjoy every moment. To take in every moment. Because I am so thankful, so grateful, and have every hope in the world for every moment that is to come.

Editor’s note: If you would like to respond to this or any article on, or if you would like to address an issue we haven’t yet covered, we welcome letters to the editor and consider each of them for publication in our Letters section. You can email yours to: justin at theindependent dot ca. Not all letters will be printed, but all will be read.

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