The other day, I was reading a book to Em. It was a book that I hadn’t read to her before and we read it twice. The first time, she listened and pointed to pictures, commenting on what the characters were doing. One page made her uncomfortable, though, and she winced at the illustration. “He hurt, mommy.” she said. I turned the page after saying something dismissive like “Oh, he’s alright.”
The second reading was much like the first, until we got to that page and she said “He hurt! Yook, he hurt!” As I was about to dismiss it again, Em said “No. Wait, Mommy.” She slid off my lap and made her way to the bathroom. After a few moments, she climbed back onto my lap, opened her little hand and produced a band-aid. “He need band-aid, Mommy. Can you help me?” I peeled off the backing and handed her the band-aid. Carefully, she placed it on the page and stroked it gently. “No more hurt.” she said.
As I finished the book, I marveled at this little human’s capacity for empathy and compassion. She was so moved that she made an effort to make it better. A lot of people could learn a lot from her. Myself included.
Not long ago, I would have said that it’s my job as a parent to teach my children compassion and empathy, but I think it would be truer to say that it’s my job to try and protect what they already know, to feed it, and to watch it grow.