To act with the eyes of compassion is an expression I came across in my past work at a Catholic school. Something about these words struck a chord with me and I think about them often as I go about my daily life. Thinking of the true meaning behind ‘eyes of compassion’ helps me to stay calm when I feel hard done by or when I hear something unkind being said. To me this expression means act with true empathy even when you are not sure what it is that is causing the grief or angst against you in the other person. We can never truly know what it is like for another person as they live out their lives, even our own children and therefore it is important that we continue to treat them with respect and act gently even when they are not able to.
It is something I have been able to draw strength from during many of my toddler’s emotional outbursts and I also try to keep these words in mind when I hear criticism of my parenting as I open up the window into my personal life through this blog. I have spoken often of my intentions to ‘teach’ my children through modelling appropriate behaviours in the hopes that my future adult children will adopt these same traits and be confident to use them for their own good in the world. At times, this vision has seemed so far away so I was quite surprised when this week I was delivered a little gift; a glimpse into the future of my children.
The girls and I were painting with watercolours in the rumpus room. Lucy, two and three-quarters years, asks to paint with these everyday, several times a day. Penny also enjoys joining in and making her own creations. I always sit with the girls at their table and help them to keep the paint on the paper, away from the other furniture and each other. I love to listen to Lucy as she proudly describes in detail the components of her paintings and I have enjoyed watching the girls’ artworks evolve in complexity and confidence over time. I was thrilled recently when Lucy invited me to join her in some painting, fetching me a paint brush and some paper and encouraging me to draw whatever I would like to.
Some of you may remember that there was a time when Lucy would not let me draw, paint or colour in with her. I would barely begin my art piece when she would move in aggressively and tear, scrunch or hit away my paper. It seemed at the time that she would see her scribbles and compare them to the neatness and structure of my work and become somewhat jealous or frustrated. When I took a step back and gave her her own space to create without any pressure or preconceived ideas, she was much more content. I think as she has grown in confidence in her own skin, she is now really happy to watch me join in with her and at the same time retains immense pride in all her art work.
But that was not my gift. As happy as it makes me being able to paint alongside my children once again, the gift I received went deeper than that. Lucy and I were painting together. Penny had abandoned her work and was happily playing in the hammock swing nearby. Lucy looked over at my painting and asked me what it was. I had really just been doodling so I said I have made some shapes and lines. I framed my patterns with a rectangle and Lucy said to me “Have you drawn Play School (her term for daycare)?” I replied “Does it look like Play School to you?” She said yes so I added a roof and a chimney which she asked to help me colour in. Once finished she asked me to put some stairs inside, which I did. She then surprised me by grabbing the middle of the painting and scrunching it into her hand, tearing the wet paper.
I was genuinely upset as I had been enjoying this picture we were creating together and was making plans to hang it up on her art board as a collaborative piece. I decided to let Lucy know how I felt so I said “I was enjoying painting with you. I feel sad that the painting is ripped. I am going to let you paint here now whilst I hang the washing out.” I left the table and went to get the washing out of the machine (in the same room as the paint table). Lucy watched me solemnly as I left the table and then ran off to another room. I immediately felt guilty for making her feel bad about ripping the painting. After all, it wasn’t her fault. She is still very young and learning how to be careful. I imagined that she was running to get her security bunny which is her go-to when she is feeling low.
After a few moments, however, Lucy came running back into the rumpus room. She bounded quickly over the bridge (which is the entrance to the room) and looked lovingly at me as she climbed back onto the chair in front of the painting. It was then, in that moment that I saw my gift – it was in her eyes! Those same eyes of compassion that I have been trying so hard to see Lucy with everyday over the past few years were staring back at me. Lucy had gone to collect the sticky tape from the office desk to mend my painting. She sat at the painting for a very long time, working through some intense frustrations (without screaming for my help) as she tried so hard to get the sticky tape out of the dispenser. She pulled long pieces of tape out but couldn’t quite get them to break off. Remembering her cause, she came to me quietly, undemanding and said “I can’t get the tape into little pieces.” I showed her how she could do it and she returned to the table and worked hard until she was happy that the painting was fixed.
When she was finished she didn’t come to me for approval, instead she came to me and said “You’re painting is all better, Mummy! Don’t be sad.” and hugged my leg. It had been a hard day up to that point and as I crouched down to her and took her into my arms I let the tears flow as I thanked her for making me feel better.
Now, I would never judge anyone who told me that toddlers were self-centered and demanding. In fact, on many days I would whole-heartedly agree. But not on this day. A small act of kindness has shown me just how capable my children are at acting with the eyes of compassion and this time it was me that was the recipient!
You might also enjoy reading:
Could NOT Forcing Your Toddler to Share Help With Sharing Conflicts – Part Two ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids
You’ll Be Sorry – Children And Apologies ~ Janet Lansbury-Elevating Childcare