I wish nothing but the best, for you
Don’t forget me, I beg
I remember you said
Sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes
It hurts instead.
It was within these lyrics that I was given an opportunity to experience and share in the depth of which our children can think and also how they feel.
I was driving my two boys to school (not actually mine, I was their Nanny) as Adele melodiously sang to us through the speakers. Unbeknownst to me, the lyrics were not only evoking strong feelings within my own heart, but also capturing that of my darling Fergus, (3 years old). As we drove along, Ferg quietly and earnestly asked, “Erin, why does it sometimes hurt instead?”
The question itself conjured some pretty powerful emotions within me. Here I was 25 years old, being taught yet another lesson reminding me how deeply children think and feel. The question was as refreshing as it
was intimidating. I wanted to be able to answer his question in an equally thoughtful and sincere way that he could also understand. But it wasn’t only the question that was asked, as I peered through the rear view mirror I could see the way Fergus had furrowed his brow (ever so seriously), capturing the depth of his very real wondering in what these wistful lyrics were all about.
After some time I spoke to Ferg, honestly and respectfully. I didn’t hush or hide the reality of his question, that sometimes we do experience love and hurt. So often in the urgency of wanting to protect our little ones
from natural yet painful emotions we dismiss their questioning all together, brushing over it with distracting thoughts or whimsical notions that life is lovely and carefree all of the time. Whilst I don’t think this is
necessarily wrong, can we not find the time to deliver these life lessons to our children in a way that they can understand and learn from? Particularly when they care enough to incite the question in the first place, ever so trustingly asking for our honesty.
Taking in to account Ferg’s age and my uncertainty as to the depth of yearning and nostalgia that could possibly be summoned in such a tiny person, I carefully chose what I thought to be the most relative and
contextual for my three year old friend. “Ferg, do you remember that time when we left the house for school and we forgot to bring bunny?”
Ferg again furrowing his brow as he vehemently replied, “Yes I don’t like leaving bunny behind”. I too remembering how traumatic that particular trip to school was (for us both, let me assure you). “Well Ferg” I went on, “Sometimes when we really love someone like you love bunny and they’re not around for one reason or another, it can really, really hurt because we miss them so much. Well I think that’s maybe what the song is about”.
Ferg thoughtfully listened to my response, before quickly reminding me that we mustn’t ever leave the house without bunny again. Something I had been ever vigilant about ever since that day for obvious reasons.
Fergus left the conversation at that, as did I. However I did remain certain that his thoughts and ideas were still in action, as were mine.
Through this short yet powerful conversation I could see how Fergus had connected the song to the types of feelings which are often conjured up through a powerful melody or lyric such as this. I could also see how it
would and since has shaped my own perception of the way I listen and respond to children.
These are feelings that often as adults we strive to protect or shield our young ones and even ourselves from. Something we seem naturally inclined to do, and it makes sense. Biologically we are designed to protect
and nurture children from any kind of hurt or harm, however sometimes that in itself can be to the very same detriment to which we are trying to shield them from.
In essence, is answering these questions in a contextual and respectful way providing a far greater service to our children than not answering them at all? My encouragement towards listening and responding to children in this way lies not only in the belief that we are preparing our children for challenges they may face as they proceed through life, but perhaps even more importantly letting them know that in this moment, we are listening.
Without taking away their opportunity, their entitlement to be children —for as long as they are children, we can still respond in a way to provoke meaning and relevance to their life. We can continue to support, guide
and nurture their whole being by fostering their ability to learn and grow, without exposing them to parts of the world they’re not yet ready for.
As a parent, caregiver, grandparent, aunt, uncle, sister, brother, teacher, educator or any one person connecting to a child, whatever the question I implore you to listen with warmth, eye contact and sincere engagement.
Bring to our children a sense of respect and understanding that their wondering and curiosity is valued and important (because it is). As human beings wondering and questioning comes from a place of intrinsic
and inherent desire to learn more about the world around us.
This journey begins in the heart of early childhood.
Written By – Erin Peterson