At only 3 years old, I can already see a lot of my husband’s attributes in my son. I can also see a fair amount of me in him too. It is as if all of my best qualities and all of my husband’s best qualities were poured into him and the not-so-favourable qualities, such as our bull-headed stubbornness and awkward social skills, were funneled out.
What am I most blown away by though is his caring, empathetic nature. For such a little person, my son has a humongous heart, and a truly kind and gentle spirit. I stare at him often and my heart bursts with pride and astonishment that, at such a young age, he already appears so wise beyond his years.
Of course, like all children, his innocence and naivety is also present, usually in the form of never-ending questions and general amazement over things we forget are impressive to a toddler, such as a garbage truck pulling up to the curb, or an airplane soaring through the clouds.
With all the recent tragedies taking place in the world, particularly North America (and no, I’m not referring to the US election!), I have been thinking (read: worrying) more and more about protecting my son from as much as I can, for as long as I can. I would love for him to stay as soft-hearted and empathetic for as long as possible, uncontaminated from the harshness and hatred towards others which sadly seems to be the norm these days. I know that is naive of me but a mother can dream, right?
It got me thinking, obsessing almost, over this query: How do I raise a kind child in such an unkind world? Every news story that appeared on my twitter and Facebook feed, more maddening and devastating than the last, filled me with sadness and disbelief. Each morning, I awoke to find yet another instance of racism, prejudice or hatred being spewed by others upon the innocent, effecting the old and young alike.
“With all the recent tragedies taking place in the world I have been thinking (read: worrying) more about protecting my son from as much as I can, for as long as I can.”
It really began to affect me; I became sad and started feeling hopeless. My husband (bless him) could not understand. He kept saying I should cheer up and be relieved that we live in Canada and not in other places in the world, where the hatred and violence and killing is more prevalent.
He was right in a sense, and I am grateful to live where I do, and have the safeties and protection that we have. However, I also know that if it can happen in the United States of America, our close neighbour to the South, it can happen here, in Canada, too. It’s just a matter of time.
As I struggled to try and understand and come to terms with all the violence and senseless killings, I allowed myself a pity party for just a short while. Meanwhile, I continued to try and seek out the goodness in the world, frantically skimming social media and the internet for more pleasing headlines and feel-good stories, in an attempt to regain my hope for humanity.
I made a surprising discovery. Sure, for every sad, incomprehensible event, there were articles and commentary pointing fingers and trying to pin-point blame, but you know what else there was? There was comments about love, strength and stories of hope. There were still good people in the world, helping the injured, crying for those lost, praying for those remaining and all looking for the light. I began to focus on these things instead of the devastation.
It was then that I realized, as much as I want to keep my child safe and shielded from this big, bad world, I cannot. There will come a time when he will be old enough to read, and more importantly, comprehend, the stories strewn across the newspaper, internet and television screen. There will still be bullies and gossip and unkind words shouted by unkind people, no matter how hard I try to eliminate them. There will still be wars and conflict and not everyone will like each other.
Rather than obsess and worry about things I cannot control for my son, I will focus on the things that I can. I can’t control the world around us but I can control my role in it. I can pour my kindness into him, filling up his heart and head until it overflows. I will support, encourage and acknowledge his goodness and kindness, praise his behaviour, building him up so high that even if many try to tear him down, he will have the strength and confidence to stand right back up. I can model kindness and open-mindedness and acceptance of others, in the hope that my actions will be mimicked.
I can teach him that kindness truly is contagious, and that a grateful heart brings peace and happiness. I will show him that when others are the most unkind and vicious towards us that is when they need love the most; That love trumps hate and that although actions may speak louder, words can be just as powerful, when delivered honestly and authentically and in a kind way.
“I can’t control the world around us but I can control my role in it. I can pour my kindness into him, filling up his heart and head until it overflows.”
I will teach him that a bad day does not mean a bad life, and that for every difficult situation he may face, someone elsewhere is facing one much worse. I will work my hardest to instill in him gratitude for the life we were blessed with and the desire to help others who may not be as lucky.
Most importantly, I will show him that as dark and unkind as the world may seem, no one can extinguish the love and light we have inside ourselves. I will teach him that being kind in such an unkind world is exactly what we all need and what we are meant to do.
Kylie Blenkhorn is a first-time mom and writer, living outside of Vancouver, BC (Canada). Her writing has been featured on The Good Mother Project, Scary Mommy, Pregnant Chicken & Mamalode. Check out her raw, honest musings at www.everythinginevertoldu.com