It’s me with my niece, Krystal. We’re rocking on Mum’s porch. She’s consoling me because my mum laughed at me. Mum laughs whenever I’m out on the lawn hunting birds, chasing butterflies, digging up grubs, snapping at pesky flies, or pouncing on walnuts. She thinks I don’t notice, but I do. And I don’t like it one bit. Little kids don’t like it when grownups laugh at them, either. It makes their tummies flip upside-down.
Krystal really understands what I’m barking about because of what happened last Father’s Day.
Five-year-old Krystal handed her dad a hand-made card, and then she beamed. He began reading it out loud to the zillion people gathered in the living room. All of a sudden, the adults burst out laughing. I mean the doubled-over, hold-your-gut kind of laughter.
That’s when I spotted a crater-size wrinkle appear on Krystal’s forehead. She chewed her bottom lip, and tears dribbled down her cheeks faster than a basketball player charging down the court. If Krystal had a tail like mine, she’d have tucked it between her legs. The poor dear, she just shuffled to her bedroom.
Then I did what any loving uncle would do—I sprang off the back of the sofa (that’s where I prefer to lounge) and bounded after her.
Krystal performed a face-plant into her pillow.
I leaped onto her bed, tiptoed up her spine, and licked her salty tears. “Yum,” I said.
Krystal jerked her head up. “In-Indy, you talk?”
“Shh…don’t tell anyone.” I glanced at the doorway. “Only kids can hear me.” I pounced on her stuffed mouse. Yeah, yeah, I think I’m a cat.
“Oh.” She rolled onto her back, clasped her hands behind her head, and squinted up at the fairy suspended from the ceiling. “You talk just like Tinker Bell.”
My tongue gave her cheek another swipe. “You got it, kiddo.”
“W-why did everyone laugh at my card?”
I hopped onto her chest and gazed into cornflower-blue eyes. “They weren’t laughing at your card. They laughed because of what you wrote about your daddy. It was adorable. And they loved it!”
Krystal blinked back tears. “You’re the best, Indy.”
She wrapped her tiny hands around my chest and hoisted me above her head.
My paws were paddling like oars. “Krystal, please put me down.”
She giggled, and I nuzzled her neck.
As we started to doze off, a tiny bell chimed.
Tinker Bell whispered, “Sweet dreams.”
When I arrived home, I sat Mum down and pointed out that Krystal was confused about the adults’ insensitive outburst, and that adults need to recognize a child’s psyche is fragile, just like mine.
I often hear adults spout, “Don’t be sad.”
What! Sadness is an emotion.
According to Debbie Glasser, Ph.D, Director of Family Support Services at the Mailman Segal Institute for Early Childhood Studies at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (phew, that’s a mouthful!), “It’s natural to want to protect a child from such feelings. But saying ‘Don’t be’ doesn’t make a child feel better, and it also can send the message that his emotions aren’t valid—that it’s not okay to be sad or scared.”
Dr. Glasser also said, “By naming the real feelings that your child has, you’ll give him the words to express himself—and you’ll show him what it means to be empathetic. Ultimately, he’ll cry less and describe his emotions instead.”
That doc is one smart cookie. I hope you’ll agree with me that parents need to let their children know it’s okay to be sad, especially when someone laughs at them.
So always, always, be careful how you treat us little tykes, and do as Jesus did.
“Then Jesus held the children in his arms. He laid his hands on them and blessed them.”
Mark 10:16 (ERV)
Remember: heap lots of blessings and kisses and hugs on your kiddos, and on your fur babies! 🙂
Got to run. I need to remind Mum not to laugh at me when I’m hunting down Pop’s tractor.
Oh yes, to men with children everywhere: Here’s a card I snatched from Mum.
Happy Father’s Day to you, too, Pops!
Links: Mindful Masterpiece Gallery