Many parents have watched their children develop from helpless newborns to toddler proclaiming “I did it myself,” often with bittersweet feelings. These conflicted emotions may stem from the desire to see our children grow and thrive, yet at the same time our grief of the loss related to the passing of time and stages of development that we will not see again. For example, moving from a bottle to a sippy cup may bring excitement that our little baby is growing up, but concurrently a twinge in our heart that says we miss the cuddle time that came with feeding an infant. To our surprise, we may even feel bittersweet at long-awaited moments. For example, while seeing our child use a big boy or girl potty brings relief from diaper duty, it can also be a reminder that the squirmy little toddler won’t sit still for story time with us.
So, when our child climbs up on a jungle gym yelling out “Mommy, I do it,” as a command to stop trying to shield her from falling, we may feel a flicker of a sign that we are no longer needed. Somehow, underneath that initial feeling, we know that this is far from the truth. In fact, in our years of experience we understand that life will entail the ongoing need for support from others in one way or another.
So, how do we nurture independence, yet foster appreciation for all the people and worldly and spiritual phenomenon that support us to do what it is that we do? Try these simple exercises below to illustrate that all life is connected, in a variety of ways, through others who make our daily experiences possible.
- Nature is a great venue for sparking your child’s imagination. Often, we are so short on time ourselves that we rush our kids to hurry along when they spot something interesting. Instead, try taking a walk outside with the simple intention of noticing the world all around.
- Teach about the value of all living things by having your child talk about or draw out the animal food chain.
- Discuss the seasons, reflecting not only on the changing colors of leaves, but also the purpose of leaves falling back onto the ground, decaying, and enriching the soil, that people then plant seeds in to grow food.
- Use dinnertime to spark a conversation about how many people it took to make all the food in our meals to be available to us at the table. Start with the person who set the table and trace it all the way back to the farmer who tilled the soil. Encourage a contest to see who can find the most people who were in some way responsible for the meal.
- Whenever you discuss an achievement, encourage giving thanks to all those who made it possible. For example, if you get a promotion at work, discuss how the support of the family made it possible for you to focus on your role. Additionally, reflect on the teachers you had in your life who instilled knowledge and strong work habits.
- Consider ways that you can involve your children to help others in need. Enlist them in collecting cans for a food drive or have a box in which they set aside toys that they have outgrown. This illuminates ways that we are more similar than different from each other in our needs and humanness. It shows that we can connect to make a difference for people in times of need. This feeling of community will likely also serve to help children feel less isolated when they are struggling.
As with all teaching, the people around us learn more via our example than through lectures. So, make sure you are modeling appreciation by discussing the ways you experience your connectedness, as you do so. The next time your family thanks you for baking, going on an outing, or buying them something, take a moment to reflect on, and share, your gratitude toward someone who made it possible. After a while, don’t be surprised if you find yourself wanting to yell out “Mommy, we did it!”
For further reading on this concept of interconnectedness check out our article on secret admirers. Readers who are interested in learning more about the science behind applying mindfulness and self-awareness for habit change are invited to check out Dr. Klich’s website MyMindfulwayoflife.com