Tag Archives: #children

Advent Random Acts of Kindness

As well as the Reverse Advent Calendar, we are also doing a random act of kindness a day throughout December.

I hadn’t really thought much about what we will do each day so yesterday the RAKs just happened themselves (which is really how it should be, if kindness is the path you choose to take in life – and it is a choice you can make, and a choice many don’t).

Yesterday we had a disagregated training day and so it allowed me to help out at my son’s school Christmas fayre in the afternoon, whilst my husband took him and his best friend around the stalls. When my son came running along to me on the cake and sweet stall with all his winnings from the tombola, teddy bear raffle and his homemade Christmas decorations, he chose a cupcake for himself and also chose a little Freddo chocolate for his sister who was still at her nursery. He also offered his marshmallow Santa’s Rolo hat to me as well as saying that a massive bar of Galaxy he won on the tombola was for mummy, daddy and his sister to share. Okay, so he has a milk allergy and can’t eat them himself, but as a five year old he could have kicked off and got upset that he couldn’t have what he won. Instead, he didn’t bat an eyelid at winning something so awesome for his family to enjoy (and it’s Galaxy chocolate so I totally will – post detox completion of course!).

Later, I went to pick up our daughter from nursery. On the way home she likes to tell me about her day (which is novel because her brother never has). She told me how her friend at nursery had said to another girl “I don’t like you”. She told me how, in response to this, she had said to the other girl,

“Don’t worry, xxxxxx, because I LOVE you”

and later, to the girl who wasn’t being kind,

“That wasn’t a very kind thing to say to xxxxxx”.

I’m really pleased that, at three, my daughter is not only trying to make sad people better but she’s also standing up for kindness and isn’t afraid to stand up and say if something isn’t right.

I am aware that she’s only 3 and this story may or may not be entirely as it seems, and there are, of course, many times where she is most definitely a typical ego-centric preschooler (in fact, she told me I wasn’t her best friend any more the other day because I wanted her to settle down for bed!). But, I can see her mind working and her empathy growing, showing us little hints into her growing-up personality, which is more selfless.

So those were the children’s 1st of December Random Acts of Kindness. Let’s see what the rest of December will bring!

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Seeking Refuge

 

In recent years, I have become familiar with the effects that Domestic Violence and Abuse can have on women and children.  It is an often surprising statistic that one in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Let me just repeat that: ONE IN FOUR! That means that you probably know someone who has suffered it, whether you know of it or not.  Since the start of this project I always knew that I wanted to help this cause in some way given that it has severely affected family members but, until now, I have been unsure of how I could make a difference specifically for this project .

Someone offered me kindness yesterday: they offered their hand in friendship to me and my biggest little one at a time when he and I feel very much on the outside and not sure what to expect with him starting school next month. It saddened me, though did not surprise me given the statistics, that she had experienced Domestic Violence and abuse.  Her words were familiar to me in that another person who is very close to me has experienced similar. Whilst in many ways the violence is over, the abuse in different ways does not always end. Whilst the violence has ended, the after effects of it on the affected person and their children are immeasurable and have a permanent and changing effect on them as people.

So, this morning, I began to think of how I could help in some way. Neither of these incredibly strong and brave women needed to use directly the services of the charity Refuge but, thankfully, they have accessed support elsewhere. Having said that, many women and children do have to go to refuges.  I cannot imagine how difficult that must be for them.  Today I purchased an Emergency Pack on Refuge’s Website. The pack contains toiletries, clothing, food and children’s clothing & nappies (if needed) as well as providing emotional support and assessments with the specially trained staff.

This is a quote from the website as to how such things have helped someone:

“I have been welcomed with open arms. The refuge has been my home and it has changed my world. I have changed my outlook on life and being here has made me look at things positively. I can’t explain how grateful I am.” Lucy*, refuge resident (name changed).

I hope that, in some small way, our parcel will help someone who is fleeing from abuse. Having seen the effects first hand, it is so important that people have support and help and are offered, above all else, kindness and the ability to see that they have a future that is much better than the life that they are leaving behind.

Woman unpacking an Emergency parcel

Innate kindness 

Recently my 20 month old scared his baby brother. I saw him look at me for a reaction, his bottom lip pouting, tears in his eyes. He didn’t cry but I could see something in his face: he didn’t like his baby brother being sad.
“It’s ok” I said, “you just got too close”.
He looked back down at his brother who was still whimpering slightly, touched his chest then laid down next to him. He calmed and he leant across and planted a noisy kiss on his lips.

This observation got me thinking about the nature of kindness. Are people born kind or do they learn kindness? We talk a lot about growing up around her kindness but are we kind because we’re part of her or because we were brought up by her? Is kindness innate or learned? I decided to look into it and my research first took me to the work of psychologist Michael Tomasello.

I read a study called Altruistic Helping in Human Infants and Young Chimpanzees and one of the first paragraphs drew my attention:

img_9143a.jpg
This was exactly what I had observed with my son this morning.

The research in this paper shows that although human infants help and cooperate more than other animal species (even with strangers and when they receive no benefit in return) other primates also show similar tendencies, albeit on a smaller scale.  This research suggests therefore that altruism was present in some form in our common ancestor, thus demonstrating its innateness.

A later study, however, showed some flaws in Tomasello’s argument.  Two professors Rodolfo Cortes Barragan and Carol S. Dweck carried out similar experiments only this time there was a control group in which the people carrying out the experiment interacted differently with the infants during the ‘warm up’ getting-to-know-you part. The experiments concluded that toddlers learn social cues very quickly and the short amount of ‘warm up’ time before the experiment in the initial study primed the toddlers into an altruistic mindset. The full study is here.

After reading both studies it is my belief that we are born with the ability to be kind but to what extent is developed by how we are nurtured. I like to think therefore, that we, LJM1 & I, are kind not only because we are part of her, but because of how she nurtured us. I’m hopeful that all the little Love Join Mes will inherit her kindness; they will certainly be nurtured with it. 

You didn’t even say ‘hello’

Despite my previous post being about grief and losing her, it’s not something that I talk of often at home. However, I have had chats with my biggest little one about her, about mummy’s mummy.

So it was somewhat out of the blue that, in a brief moment of Sunday-afternoon quiet, Little LoveJoinMe1 piped up, “Please can I go up the big rock (where her ashes are spread) to say goodbye to mummy’s mummy because … because she, what’s it called? Is it died? Because she’s gonna … died?” 

I was so taken aback. I gestured for him to come and sit next to me and I hugged him while I said “She’s already died”. His response was a simple “but I didn’t say goodbye!” I explained how she died before he was born, “was I in your tummy?”, “No, before that”. 

I’m not sure where it came from. But more and more he is showing me his perception, his emotional intelligence and at not even four and a half years old. It’s reflected in the tone he uses, a gentle voice, quietly probing because he knows it makes mummy sad. 

We were telling daddy about our conversation later and as Little LJM1 said “I didn’t say goodbye”, his father said, sadly, “you didn’t even get to say hello”. Neither he nor Little LJM1 have read my previous post on grief yet this is precisely what I had written about. He didn’t get to say hello. Hellos are infinitely happier than goodbyes.  This makes me saddest of all. My little boy: he sees it with a clarity and gentleness beyond his years. He makes me proud and he makes me want to tell her

Death 

This blog is meant to be uplifting, though its ‘uplift’ has stemmed from loss. Tonight, I can’t help feeling consumed by sadness at our world and the evil that seemingly resides in it.

I did not know Jo Cox. I had never even heard of Jo Cox. Yet tonight I am deeply sad and moved to tears watching the news. A woman, not that much older than me with children of similar ages to mine, murdered in her home town. Two children who will barely remember their mother, who will grow up without her.

I can’t pretend to know how that feels. Losing her was the hardest thing I have ever endured but I was an adult, able to process my emotions, try and understand it, almost prepare for it (though nothing can prepare you). These are two small children. How can they even begin to process where their mummy is tonight? When I was out giving blood last night my husband put our children to bed, little LJM2 asking repeatedly for ‘mummy’, as she always does. I wasn’t there and she slept. I can’t comprehend how that, for those children, that is forever. Mummy isn’t coming back. My heart is breaking for those children.

Losing a mum is like a special sort of ugly club that you don’t want to belong to.  At the same time you find people who understand you and it. No one wants to be in that club. No one wants others to join them. When they do, the club members feel like they should have the words to say to the newly bereaved but they can’t find them. At that moment, there’s nothing more awful and nothing anyone can say to make it better. I am a lucky member as I joined fully grown. There should be no children in it but now there are two more.  A mum is a guiding light, there to raise you to adulthood. In all intents and purposes, mine fulfilled that role. Jo never got the chance. She was a wife, a daughter and a million other things too, a rising political star by all accounts.

I am angry as well as sad tonight that someone thought that it was ok to take her life. Just why? When did anything become more important than life itself? We will probably never know the answers. Tonight our thoughts are of her.