As a mom of two very impressionable preschoolers and a baby, I feel that is my job to chime in every time that I see the opportunity to shape my kids’ views of the world. After all, our first ideas of how things work come straight from what we see and hear at home (and those hours spent at preschool).
My comments are sometimes premeditated, like when we go to a certain exhibit or any pre-planned activity. But other times, the opportunity to teach the kids a life lesson creeps up and catches me by surprise. Like when we went to watch the new Disney Cinderella movie last weekend.
My daughter is your typical princess-wannabe 5-year-old and as such, she wants to imitate the behavior modeled by her heros. Not surprisingly, she loved every moment of the movie (except, of course, the tragic and the mean ones).
As I sat there watching the movie and watching my little girl lost behind that smile that only children have when they believe in magic, three thoughts came to mind:
- Wow! I hope that she doesn’t believe that kindness equates to letting people walk all over you.
- I hope she doesn’t believe that Cinderella married the prince solely because he’s the prince and lives in a castle (or as a way to escape her situation).
- I hope that if anything sticks with her about the movie, is that forgiveness takes both courage and kindness.
As soon as the movie ended, I began my way into imparting my “motherly wisdom”. To my surprise, my 5-year-old was happy to engage in a discussion about what great and not-so-great traits her new hero had.
When I told her that being kind didn’t mean to let people mistreat you, she asked me if it was true even when someone else’s feelings would get hurt. She caught me by surprise. I wanted to say YOU COME FIRST. ALWAYS! But I understood where her innocent question came from. So instead I said: when people truly love you, they will do their best to never hurt your feelings or mistreat you. And when they do upset you, they will have the courage to say I’m sorry.
She looked at me nodding her head as a way to let me know the message had been received. But her question made me wondered how many times she had been in a situation where her feelings would be getting hurt and she didn’t stand up for herself fearing of hurting someone else’s.
I thought about the time when I picked her up from the play area at the gym in tears after her hearth had been broken by a little friend. Or when she had been sad and too quiet after a play date. While these encounters are part of growing up, I don’t want her to just sit there and let the behavior that is bothering her happen. It is also my job to teach her how to defend herself when the situation requires it.
The only thing that came to me was the motto of the movie. I told her that even when life gets hard, I also wanted her “to have courage and be kind”.