When my younger nieces and nephews come over to visit, I feel renewed. Is there nothing more healing than hearing the laughter of a child? When I see babies and their smiles (particularly while they are sleeping), I feel stronger, warmer and contented. Even if I feel low, seeing the light of laughter in a child’s eyes makes my heart sing.
My ‘children’ are 31, 29, and 27, but I can remember their childhood like it was yesterday and it still warms me.
My son, Toivo, is now an assistant professor at Vassar College in upstate New York in the USA, but when I see his face (he was just here for a long visit), I still see the little boy reading a picture book about dinosaurs and happily showing me each illustration. He could not pronounce the word, ‘dinosaurs’, so he could only say, “Look Mommy, do-dyes!”
I laugh every time I have the memory of him proudly telling people his last name by spelling it out partially. He would beam with joy and say, “E-E-K-E, Asheeke.” Rarely screaming or fussing, he was always talking, laughing, asking questions and pushing his boundaries.
My middle child, Mweneni was fat-cheeked and cuddly cute as a baby and when we lived in the USA, several photographers and advertisers stopped us in stores or on the streets and wanted to include her in their photo shoots. Though I turned them down, it is still a nice memory. She was an affectionate child and people who picked her up (a rare occasion as she used to be very wary of strangers), expressed shock when she lay her head on their shoulders and patted their backs to soothe them!
The last baby in my nest, Martha, was observant, smart and independent. A calm child, she constantly explored her world, laughed the loudest, concentrated the severest and felt her world the deepest of all of the three. She didn’t ask “what” something was, she asked, “why” it was. She couldn’t pronounce her brother’s name (Toivo), so she called him – “Wha-whoa.” Her artistic talents emerged at an early age and I have a few of her paintings from ages 3-13 years old. These works are more precious to me than any masterpiece in the Louvre.
I used to love to come home from travel, diplomatic events or work and sit on the floor to play with my kids. Whether video games, dolls, Legos, toys or just watching a cartoon, playing with my kids kept me in touch with the joy of life.
Kids can be refreshing; they see things as they are. They either like your vibe, smell or feel or they don’t; no judgement.
When I was a co-facilitator of a meeting in a communal conservancy a few years ago, there was a young mother there trying participate actively in the meeting we were holding, but she was carrying her fidgeting baby (about 14-16 months old). I reached out to take the little angel in my arms so the mother could do her thing for a bit. In a few moments, the child fell asleep on my chest and I felt my heart beat match the rhythm of the child’s steady, light breathing. My mind flowed with clear ideas and my feelings grew warm. The sleeping child in my arms gave me a gift.
When the week is harsh at work or just when you want your heart to sing, get down on the floor and play with small kids. Listen to whatever story they try to tell you, even if they use baby-talk to do it. Give them your full attention and watch them smile. That innocent glee is a balm for the soul.