At our dinner table, we have a family tradition in which each person shares three things that he is grateful and appreciative for that happened in his day. This began because I wanted to teach my children to look for the good in their lives on a regular basis, and also to help all of us to share daily the things of import that happened for us that day.
It also leads to opportunities for meaningful discussion of topics.
Recently ds11 shared that he was grateful that he was able to bury a dead bird that he found on the sidewalk. I told him that even though that bird was no longer alive, it was a kindness for the bird and perhaps there’s some part of the bird that recognizes what was done for it.
I shared a short reading from the book The Light Between Us, in which the author describes doing an intuitive reading for a couple who had rescued many animals. She described the outpouring of gratitude ‘on the other side’ that was directed toward them.
I explained to my children that even animals have energetic prints that continue to exist after they die. Every act of kindness, even to the smallest creature, creates a positive energy in the world even though we can’t see it.
It’s an important message for us all – that our acts of kindness leave an effect even after the situation seemingly is in the past. As I was reading to them, I thought that it was particularly of value to ds9 to hear this.
Three weeks earlier he was given a tiny newborn chick in a shoe box by a neighbor who found it on the street. I cautioned him that it’s very, very hard to save a bird that small. But he poured himself into it, feeding it with a dropper throughout the day. By the end of the next day, the little bird was peeping and walking around. He had literally resuscitated this tiny bird and it was so exciting and moving for him.
He went to sleep happy that the chick had clearly turned a corner….and then he woke up in the morning to a dead baby bird.
He threw the bird in the garbage as if he didn’t care, but it was obvious it was a cover for how deeply upset he was.
Kids need to have a space to have their feelings, and so I opened up a conversation with him. The goal was NOT for me to tell him why it wasn’t so bad, he shouldn’t be sad, it’s just a bird, he’ll have another bird or another positive experience in the future. You know, all those things we parents say when faced with the pain of a child that we want to just wipe away. It’s hard to see a child in pain and let them feel their pain without minimizing it.
But they have to have the opportunity to feel the pain, deal with it and move through it. This is part of what matures a person emotionally.
As we spoke, he asked me with tears in his eyes why the bird died. I realized he wasn’t asking me for a physical explanation. He wanted to know a deeper reason. And I didn’t have an answer that made him feel cheerful and okay with it. I told him that obviously this bird was meant to live only a short time and that he was part of making that bird’s path more pleasant. Then I sat with him quietly and gave him space to process that.
And even though that felt very inadequate to me – I still had that desire to say just the right thing that would wipe away his pain – it was enough. So often, what our kids need is permission and space to feel their feelings. And once they have that, they can move on.