“Sing the days of the week song, mom!”
Responding to my preschool daughter’s request, I began singing the days of the week song that I knew. I was shocked when she stopped me by insisting that I was singing it wrong.
The realization that my daughter knew words to a song I had never heard floored me. My 4-year-old daughter had a life outside of our time together, and she was learning things from people besides me. It was a difficult concept for me to accept as a young mother but one that I have come to appreciate and marvel over in the ensuing years.
Today, I experience the same wonder when I watch my daughter and her brother interact. They share a personal relationship that exists separate from their shared connection to me. Observing them, I am not surprised that sibling relationships remain mysterious and complex for researchers. Siblings can have a varied impact on one another, depending on other factors, such as birth order, age, gender and parenting style.
In our house, my husband and I encourage cooperation while recognizing our children’s unique strengths and need for independence and privacy. My daughter, the oldest child, plays teacher to her brother, but he also pushes and challenges her with his own creativity, enthusiasm and courage. Their rivalries, disagreements, adventures and their bond is a testing ground and the foundation for other significant relationships to come.
They have lives and memories beyond me. Unsettling as it is for a mother to accept that her children are outgrowing her, it is also reassuring to see them practicing skills they learned at home.
In the wake of the horrific shooting in Connecticut, people everywhere are grieving with those who were touched by the carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary. Parents, especially, carry the burden of the pain felt in Newtown, where 20 of the 26 victims were children.
President Obama said the day of the shootings that he and Michelle would “do what I know every parent in America will do, which is hug our children a little tighter and we’ll tell them that we love them.”
A tragedy such as this one reminds us parents how precious and fleeting is childhood. We cannot take a moment for granted. We cannot let one day pass without reflecting on the children in our life. We have to hold them close and let them know they are loved and that we want the best for them always.
Just as important as conveying our love to our children is teaching them that there are still peaceful ways to solve our problems. We cannot meet violence with more violence. No arsenal of weapons can protect us when tragedy strikes. The shooting at an elementary school was a brutal act, and, no matter what the investigation reveals, nothing can justify such an act.
We grownups, we moms and dads and neighbors and friends, cannot allow mass shootings to define this decade and the years to come. It is far past time to forge a new way in this country.
Our children need examples of care and compassion and community and generosity and creative problem solving and accountability to one another. Our children are watching and learning from us. What will we teach them?