Kids are Imaginative…but They’re Not Always Imagining Things

Let me first start off by saying that I have the utmost respect for teachers. I have several cousins and friends who are teachers, and I know that it is something I could never do. They work very hard, and very long hours, and have to deal with bratty kids and ignorant parents in a day and age where teachers have lost all control of the situation. (I do honestly believe that if a kid threatens a teacher or tries to cause them physical or emotional harm, that kid should be booted out of that teacher’s class and never allowed to return.)

That said, I know for a fact that not all teachers are created equal, and that some of them should seriously consider a different vocation.

p5rj3As children we’re brought up to believe that our teachers will teach us about the world, that they have all the answers and that we have to accept what they tell us point-blank, because hey, that’s their job, right? But teachers are often forced into subjects they don’t actually know anything about, or something changes (example: Pluto not being a planet anymore) but they continue to teach the way they’ve always known. In other words, sometimes teachers genuinely have no idea what they’re talking about. Let me give you an example:

When I was in grade school I had this one teacher…I won’t mention the actual grade or the actual teacher to protect the ignorant. She wasn’t a bad teacher, for the most part, but she had some ridiculous ideas about how prose was supposed to be written. Once, when we were doing a creative writing project, she tried to correct the way I wrote my dialogue. For reasons still unknown to me, she was insistent that the proper punctuation went at the end of the directive part of the sentence, rather than the actual dialogue. So for instance, if I wrote:

“Are you kidding?” she asked.

This teacher would tell me that it should be:

“Are you kidding,” she asked?

Now, at this point in my life I was a pretty avid reader. My parents were forever buying me books, I was a staple at all the Scholastic book fairs, and I cherished my library card. And I had never once, throughout hundreds of books, seen punctuation used this way in dialogue. I tried to tell my teacher this, and she made it pretty clear that if I didn’t do it her way I would lose points on my assignment. It drove me insane to follow her direction, because at this point in my life I was really getting into writing and I knew that what she was telling me to do was rubbish. But I was the kind of student who always wanted to get the best possible grade, and I was too young at this point to think of something like going to the principal or my parents to complain.

Over the course of thirteen years of public education and four years of secondary education, I’ve seen plenty of this type of nonsense. I’ve seen teachers misspell words and insist that they were right even when proven wrong. I’ve seen teachers show visible discrimination against certain kids for a variety of reasons that were beyond the kid’s control. I’ve seen teachers refuse to accept an alternate method of solving problems even if it works just as well or better than the one that they insist is the “right way”. I’ve seen college professor’s purposely create exams meant to fail as many students as possible simply because they were cranky old bags with tenure who have come to hate the world around them.

The purpose of this post isn’t to put down those who are in the teaching profession – as previously mentioned, I have the utmost respect for the ones who do their job properly. The purpose of this post is to point out that not everyone is perfect, that sometimes grown adults can act poorly toward children, and that as parents and responsible adults we should take every angle into consideration when dealing with children.

Lots of teachers that I know have dealt with angry parents who lose their minds because their kid got a failing grade on something, or their kid told them that the “bad teacher” yelled at them and made them feel bad, or something else otherwise ridiculous. There are a frightening number of cases out there in which the child was 100% the one in the wrong (if you don’t DO your homework, how can you expect to get a passing grade?), but the parents turn into crusaders on their child’s behalf and are ready and willing to destroy anyone who tries to tell them that their child isn’t the perfect little angel that they believe them to be.

But there are also lots of cases in which the child comes home with a complaint (“Mom, my teacher HATES me!”) and the parent brushes it off as childish whining, because in the parent’s mind a teacher would never be biased or cruel or ignorant.

I’m just saying, keep your eyes open, keep your mind open, and look at things from all angles. If your child was a fine student until they came across this particular teacher, consider that it might not be your child’s fault that their grades are suddenly slipping. Kids can be overly emotional, selfish, sneaky, and wonderfully creative little liars, but sometimes, believe it or not, they are actually just telling you exactly what is happening.

Have you ever had a teacher who tried to force incorrect information on you? How about a teacher who was clearly discriminatory? Or one who was emotionally abusive? Did you try to discuss the problem with an adult? Was the issue resolved, or was it brushed off? Please share!

Things I Know About Kids: Their Timing is Impeccable

When my daughter was still very small – we’ll say, somewhere in the range of half a year old – she wound up with a case of constipation. As parents of any small children will tell you, this is something to be concerned about. A couple of days is nothing to rush off to the emergency room for, but several days in a row requires attention. After all, people have to poop; not doing so can mean that something is wrong, and can also cause a whole host of other issues.

At first I wasn’t too concerned, and maybe even a little bit relieved, since I’d changed an awful lot of poopy diapers up to that point. After a few days straight I thought I’d best ask our family physician about it. After sitting in the waiting room with a squirming baby for almost an hour, I was told to “just give her some prune juice”. The suggestion did not amuse me, since at this time my daughter refused to put anything other than breast milk in her mouth, but this particular physician (who shall remain unnamed) is the kind whose first suggestion is his final suggestion, so I gave up and left.

Hubby and I tried several things to “get things moving” for the baby. We tried the aforementioned prune juice, although it was nearly impossible to get her to actually swallow any. We tried giving her little tummy massages and pumping her legs up and down (hey, don’t look at me…we read it online). We tried several things that I won’t mention because anyone who hasn’t done those exact things will be more than a little creeped out – just trust me when I say that they were legitimate suggestions from other parents and health care professionals.

Eventually, it had been more than a week. I ended up at my physician’s office again, and recieved the exact same advice: “Just give her some prune juice.” I nearly bit his head off this time, because I was genuinely getting worried, and as I tried to explain, prune juice is useless if the kid refuses to swallow it.

We didn’t know what else to try. The baby seemed happy and healthy enough, so it wasn’t as though it was a medical emergency, but we were definitely concerned.

I can’t quite remember why we decided to go shopping in a town that’s a half-hour drive away. I’m sure we must have had a reason because we rarely bother to go this town unless we’re looking for something specific that we can’t find in our own town. Whatever the reason, on day 8 of my daughter’s refusal to defecate, after having barely left our house for over a week, we found ourselves in a Shoppers Drug Mart that is a 30 minute drive from home.

Kid’s have impeccable timing.

If I’m recalling the event correctly, hubby had been holding the baby and I had wandered into another aisle, when suddenly he came storming toward me with great concern in his eyes. I think we got into the store’s single washroom without anyone noticing what had happened. There was no changing station in that single bathroom. There wasn’t even a counter. The sink was tiny and had no ledge around it. Literally the only place to lay the baby was on the floor. I tore half the roll of paper towel out of the dispenser and made a make-shift “change table” on the floor, and hubby laid the baby down.

And there we were, in a Shoppers Drug Mart bathroom, a 30 minute drive from home, trying our very best not to throw up as we struggled to clean the result of 8 days of constipation from the baby and ourselves. Trust me when I say that whatever you are imagining right now is not horrifying enough to explain the actual event. I used an entire pack of baby wipes. My hubby could barely watch while attempting to hold the baby still as I worked, and he kept gagging off to the side. Twice I actually had to get up and run over to the toilet because I was sure I was going to vomit. What felt like hours later we had the baby all cleaned up and in a new set of clothes (that, thank god, I’d had in the diaper bag). I washed my hands in such scalding hot water that I’m amazed the skin didn’t peel right off them.

I’m pretty sure I remember the baby laughing at me during this part. I’m not sure. My subconscious might be sensationalizing her role as antagonist in this particular piece.

Don't let the cute fool you...this is the face of pure evil.
Don’t let the cute fool you…this is the face of pure evil.

The point is that when it comes to kids, preparation is great, organization can be key, but expectation is a fool’s game. Kids will always surprise you with their ability to pick the absolute best time to do the absolute worst things. In retrospect, yes, my hubby and I should have considered that a blow-out of mass destruction was imminent sooner rather than later, and that this kind of thing would not be best dealt with while out in public, but I guarantee you that if we had taken that trip to Shoppers on day 3 of this little episode, the little bugger would have chosen that moment to explode from the inside out. Kids just have a way of knowing the exact perfect time to strike.

“So what’s the point?” you might ask. “If they’re going to surprise me no matter how much I plan ahead and think that I’m ready for anything, then why even bother telling me this?”

Because it makes for one hell of a story, that’s why. And that’s another thing I know about kids: they’re great for material.

Things I Know About Kids: Hearbreakers

Sometimes, without intending too, kids will make your heart swell until it feels like it might explode. See, half of the time kids, especially small ones, don’t even realize what they’re doing or what makes it so important or special. That’s what’s so wonderful about them.

A couple of weeks ago I was having a terribly awful day. For whatever reason that morning I woke up feeling as though my sinuses had just given up on life. I was stuffed up to the high heavens, and I couldn’t stop sneezing, but my nose wasn’t runny so I couldn’t help relieve the pressure by blowing it. I took two different kinds of allergy medicine even though it wasn’t necessarily a good idea to do so, and neither of them helped me in the slightest. I took a long, hot shower, but that didn’t help either. By the time the afternoon rolled around I was drowsy, lethargic, and I had an enormous headache, and my sinuses hadn’t gotten the tiniest bit better. I felt like complete and utter crap, and so I went up to my bedroom, collapsed on my bed, and shoved my face in my pillow, intent on staying right there until I either felt better or died.

I was in this position when my daughter wandered up to me and started pulling on my arm, wanting to play. When I didn’t respond to her immediately she started asking, “You okay? You okay?” as she is wont to do. Without looking up I told her as gently as I could manage, “No, hon, mama isn’t okay. Mama’s head hurts really bad.” She responded with interest, “Mama’s head hurt?” and I told her, “Yes. Mama’s head hurts very very bad.” She continued, “Mama sad?” and I agreed, “Yes, Mama sad.”

She skittered away, and I assumed she understood that I didn’t want to play just then. But a moment later I felt something poking at me. At first I thought she had just returned to try to convince me to play, but the poking felt odd, so I shifted my arm and peeked out. She was poking me with the little red-and-white-checkered square of material that is supposed to be the blanket for her toy picnic set. When she saw I’d looked up at her she waved it at me as though to say, “Take it!” I shifted again and took the piece of material from her. Without saying anything she made a little motion toward her own eyes, indicating that she wanted me to use the material to wipe away my “tears”.

I almost died, it was so adorable, and I immediately did as I was told, wiping away my imaginary tears. When I was finished my daughter grinned up at me and asked, “All better?” And though, physically, I still felt as though I’d been hit by an entire convoy of trucks, I grinned back at her and agreed, “All better.” Because sometimes you just need to know that someone cares, and when that someone is a toddler, whose entire existence is awash in selfish desires, it makes it all that much more special.

Photo 2013-07-09 1 10 26 PM1

Things I Know About Kids: Terms and Conditions

My daughter comes off as very shy. Whenever she meets new people she buries herself into me and pretends like she can’t see them. If they come too close to her she yells and twists away. Even with people she knows, sometimes she acts like she’s never met them before. On occasion one of her grandparents has shown up at our house and swooped in for a kiss only to be shrieked at and run away from.

I don’t know if other parts of the world have a word for this, but around Nova Scotia we call it “being odd”. It’s generally considered to be something that every kid goes through around a certain age – being “scared” of anyone and everyone who isn’t one of their parents or siblings – and that they all grow out of it.

Here’s the thing though: my daughter is not “being odd”. She isn’t even shy. She just has boundaries and she would appreciate it if you respected them.

Mine is the one thinking, "Just breathe...just breathe and maybe she'll let go."
Mine is the one thinking, “Just breathe…just breathe and maybe she’ll let go.”

People seem to have this impression of the way kids are at certain ages, and they assume that by a certain age (approximately where my daughter is now) they should be outgoing and outspoken, love hugs and kisses, love showing off to everyone around them, and be all-in-all little attention whores. When a kid shies away from hugs and kisses or doesn’t want to talk around people, everyone assumes that there’s something wrong, that they’re “odd” in some way, that they’re too shy or too coddled by their parents. Worse yet, some people get outright offended: “Oh, your kid doesn’t like me? Well screw all of you!”

In this, as with many other subjects, people always seem to forget the golden rule of children: they’re all different. Just because one doesn’t react in exactly the same manner as you’ve seen other kids react does not mean that there’s something wrong with that kid.

Yesterday I took my daughter to a birthday party for my cousin’s daughter who is a few months older than mine. There were a bunch of other kids at the party who were about the same age, and they were all running around like the little maniacs that they are. Anyone standing back and watching the kids could tell that mine is the “shy”, “odd” one. She was always at the back of the pack, the quietest, watching the others carefully, very concerned about the kids who were being rough or fighting with each other over a toy. And whenever an adult approached her, she would shy away, run off somewhere, or come and leap into my arms.

But then about halfway through the party my cousin’s wife nudged me and pointed down to where the kids were playing. My daughter had my uncle (a gruff man, by all accounts), by the hand, and was dragging him over to help her play on the swing set. A few minutes later she had one of my other male cousins by the hand, showing him how she could go down the slide. A comment was made that she apparently loves the men, to which I gave the following explanation: “Yeah, she does. She loves the men because the men leave her the heck alone.”

It’s a simple concept, yet I can’t seem to get it into most peoples’ heads. My daughter is not shy, nor is she odd. She just wants to deal with you on her terms. She likes to stand back and watch, to get an idea of the people around her before she lets them into her bubble. She wants to see who you are and what you’re about first, and then she’ll approach you. Instead, for the overwhelming most part, she gets people swooping down on top of her, pinching at her cheeks, trying to force kisses on her, and immediately demanding that she start doing tricks for them (“Can you say your name?”, “What’s this letter?”, “I heard you can count really high!”).

When I try to explain this to people they seem to get upset for some reason, as though I’m telling them that they aren’t good enough for my daughter and to stay the hell away. But that’s not it at all. Imagine for a moment that you are in the same situation: you’re brought to a party where you’ve never met half of the people there, and even the ones you recognize are people you’ve only met once or twice. The second you arrive everyone swarms down on top of you. One of them is talking to you in a high-pitched baby voice about how cute you are, another is grabbing you by the face and trying to force a kiss out of you, and a third is scribbling letters and numbers on a piece of paper to see if you can tell her what they are. How would you react?

Yes, lots of children love the attention, they love showing off and being snuggled and made the center of attention. But some kids don’t. All kids do not react the same to all situations, no more than you react the same way to something as your parents, or your neighbor, or the guy who mans the cash register at the gas station. The sooner people accept that fact, the sooner kids like my daughter can stop being psychologically tortured on a regular basis.

Sometimes you just have to meet a kid on their own terms and conditions.

Things I Know About Kids: They’re Evil Little Opportunists

I’ve complained about my sleep problems here a few times now. They are great and plentiful, and range from “tossed and turned all night for a week and a half” to “my dreams were so vivid I woke up more exhausted then when I went to bed”. Since I seem to have so much trouble with sleep, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’m neither a night person nor a morning person. I generally like to be snoring well before midnight, and I’m cranky as a bear if I wake up before 8 am. I am one of those people for whom the “8 hours a night” adage is 100% true. If I don’t get my 8 hours I am not a happy camper.

Now, because I have a toddler, those 8 hours can be hard to come by, but for the most part I usually manage to get to sleep early enough so that when she wakes up to go potty or ask for a glass of milk it doesn’t disturb me too badly. And since my daughter isn’t exactly a morning person herself, usually our mornings mesh pretty well.

But every now and then my daughter senses something, and she takes advantage.

Last night I was awake until at least 1 am. For some reason I was wide awake, so it took a while for me to pass out…and precisely four hours later, at 5 am, there came a “bang, bang, bang” on my daughter’s door. She didn’t need to go potty, and she didn’t want a drink. She wanted to get up and go downstairs to play. I managed to convince her that she couldn’t get up yet because it was still dark, and back into bed she went. I returned to my own bed to try to get some more sleep, but instead I tossed and turned…until 6 am, when my daughter began pounding on the door again to inform me that the sun was now up and thus it was time to get up. I could scarcely argue with her, since I’d just explained to her that dark means bedtime.

Okay, so perhaps this isn’t exactly a fact about kids, but I’d be willing to bet that most parents out there would agree with me. Kids just seem to have this power, this sixth sense if you will, that tells them when the best opportunity to screw over their parents is. And so the first night in ages that I couldn’t fall asleep at a decent time also became the first night in ages that my daughter decided to get up at the crack of dawn.

2145340Your kids will do this. They will do this on a regular basis. You will wonder how in the world they can know the exact right time to mess with you. You’ll wonder if they’re doing it on purpose, trying to see how far they can push you, to see if they can make you crack. It’s ingrained in them. It’s part of who they are. Get used to it, because it’s a bumpy ride filled with lots of jaw-clenching annoyance and fatigue.

Which, of course, makes the ride no less awesome and adorable.

Shown: No less adorable.
Shown above: No less adorable.

Things I Know About Kids: Pay Attention to What They Like!

Let me start off this post by asking a question: how many of you can recall at least one birthday, Christmas, or other present-giving holiday where you were disappointed by a present? Maybe you got the cheap knock-off version of the thing you really wanted, or maybe you got something that was way outside your age range, or maybe you got something completely different from what you’d asked for because what you really wanted was deemed somehow inappropriate. Or maybe, just maybe, you got something completely random that you didn’t want, and all you could think was, “Geez, does anyone even pay attention to what I like?”

2nnneNow here’s the thing. I’m not suggesting that kids shouldn’t be grateful for the presents they get, because they should, and it really peeves me when kids are ungrateful little brats. I’m also not suggesting that parents should break the bank when it comes to presents…if you genuinely can’t afford it, then your kids are just going to have to deal (and again, be grateful).

But I am saying this: for the love of god…pay attention to what your kids like.

I bring this up because of my “jobs I’ve had” post a few days ago. Mentioning my previous positions at various department stores reminded me of something I dealt with a lot while working retail: clueless parents. I can’t count the number of times I got questions from parents who had only the basest inkling of a concept of what their child wanted as a present. For example, once I had a mother come into Zellers and ask me for help finding a game that her kid wanted. She said the game was called “Mario”. I had to bite my tongue to keep from screaming as I asked her, “Which Mario?”

A SMALL clipping of the Wikipedia list of Mario games...notice the dates?
A SMALL clipping of the Wikipedia list of Mario games…notice the dates?

A brief discussion thereafter revealed that not only did the woman not know which one of the dozens of possible “Mario” games she was looking for, but she didn’t even know which video game console she was buying it for. She knew that her kid had a “Nintendo”, but not which version, and at the time N64 was still booming, while Gamecube was wracking up new sales. Each system had a plethora of “Mario” games, so I had absolutely no way of advising this woman as to what she should buy. In the end I practically begged her to go home and ask her kid about the game again.

Now seriously, folks…it’s one thing to get a little confused when you find out that there are multiple games with similar titles…but if you don’t even know which system you’re buying it for? Sorry, but you must have your head lodged firmly up your back-end. I know there are lots of parents out there who don’t know a damn thing about video games, but how can you honestly not even know which console(s) your kid owns? Is there really not enough space in your brain to commit the words “Gamecube” or “Playstation 3” or “Gameboy” or “XBox” to memory?

I don’t mean this post to torment parents who are a little out of touch with video games and toys and the newest gadgets. We can’t all know everything about everything. But this is your child (or children) that we’re talking about. Is it really so hard to pay a little bit of attention to what they enjoy? The toys they play with? The TV shows they watch? You have no idea how many times I watched parents struggle over a wall of action figures because they had no idea which superhero they were actually looking for, or how many times I’ve watched a parent pick up some random toy with a look of bewilderment on their face and ask me, “Do you think my kid will like this?”

You have no idea how many returns I’ve seen after a holiday, during which the parent grumbled that they’d, “Apparently got the wrong thing.”

Really, I swear, it’s not rocket science.

Yes, there are an outrageous number of options out there and sometimes it can be a little overwhelming, but you know what works? Ask your kid questions. If your kid is playing with a bunch of dolls, ask them what their names are and which ones they don’t have. BOOM, gift idea. Simple. Direct. Almost 100% success rate. Or you know what else works really well? When your kid asks for something specific, take ten seconds to really listen to what they said. The “Mario” game fiasco above could have been easily rectified if the mother had paid attention long enough to hear the full name of the game and, ideally, write it down so she wouldn’t forget. Bada bing, bada boom.

We can’t all be super-parents, and no parent has a 100% grasp on everything their kid is into…but that doesn’t give us an excuse to be ignorant. Your kids have as much right as anyone else in your life to have your attention long enough for you to be able to buy them nice presents without begging a bewildered sales clerk for help. It’s not difficult. It just takes a little bit of effort. Aren’t your kids worth a little bit of effort?

Shown: Something worth a bit of effort.
Shown: Something worth a little bit of effort.

Your Children Know What You Did Last Summer

Children are remarkably perceptive little creatures, and they are ever watching, ever listening, ever learning. Did you know that it is believed that children learn 90% of all the words they’re ever going to learn between the ages of 6 months and 18 months old? The theory is that they spend these months observing, often watching the mouths of others while they speak rather than focusing on their eyes. They learn the sound of the words, along with the motion the mouth makes while saying them, and gather up all this information for later. Only after gathering enough information about the way speech works do they actually attempt it themselves.

Many parents will tell you that you have to start watching what you say when you have kids, and this is definitely true. How often to you catch small children swearing, after all, because they recognize words that their parents say often? I don’t want to speak specifically about speech, however, because most people already realize that kids hear everything. What I want to point out is that kids see and feel everything as well.

I’ll give you an example. My daughter loves to do puzzles, which is awesome because it’s great for her brain, but she always wants myself or my husband to sit with her while she does her puzzles. She doesn’t necessarily want us to join in or anything, she just wants us to be there. So okay, that’s fine; I’ll usually sit with her and have my iPhone or my laptop with me and I’ll pluck away at something while she’s doing her puzzle. I’ll smile and nod and praise her at the appropriate intervals, while also multitasking on something else I have (or want) to do. This is what we were doing a few weeks ago, up in her bedroom. She was plucking away at her Tinkerbell puzzle, and I was praising her while browsing Twitter on my iPhone. What I failed to realize as this was occurring, was that I wasn’t really so much paying attention to her as I was smiling and nodding while focused intently on my phone’s screen. I didn’t notice what I was doing…but she sure did. Even though I was doing basically the same thing that I would have been doing had I not had the phone with me (smile, nod, say “Good job!”), she was fully aware that I wasn’t paying attention, and she didn’t like it. Before I knew what was happening, she stood up, took the phone right out of my hand, placed it on her bookshelf, and said, “There, that’s better!” before returning to her puzzle. I was shocked for a moment, but it didn’t take me long to burst into laughter. She really told me! She knew that I was only paying her lip service while I was glued to the Twittersphere, so she resolved the issue herself.

Kids notice these things. They are a lot more in tune to what is going on around them than adults give them credit for. They know when you’re patronizing them, they can tell when you’re flat-out lying to them, they notice when you’re genuinely upset, they see things that you don’t even realize you’re doing. Think of all the times a child has spouted off a surprising phrase that you didn’t notice you said all the time, or the times a child has followed you around, copying mannerisms you never noticed you even had. If you don’t have kids of your own, think back to when you were a kid. Couldn’t you tell if your mother was sad about something, or your dad had suffered a bad day at work? Didn’t you try to copy the way your mother applied lipstick, or the way your father shaved? And don’t even try to tell me that you can’t think of at least one instance of a parent or a loved one bursting into laughter or getting embarrassed because of something you said, and you didn’t understand what the big deal was because you were just repeating something they had said.

"Don't worry, ma, I've been paying attention and I've totally got this."
“Don’t worry, ma, I’ve been paying attention and I’ve totally got this.”

It’s an important thing to remember when dealing with children, although we tend to forget it more often than not. Remember that this little creature is watching you, seeing everything you do, hearing everything you say, picking up on your emotions and moods, and learning. Most of all, learning. Everything you do or say, everything you present to them in everyday life, is a lesson. What are you going to teach your children today?

Cherish What You’ve Got

These days parents tend to be needlessly overprotective of their kids. They’re terrified of germs, they lose their minds if their child gets a cut or a bruise, and they refuse to let their children have any independence for fear of something horrible happening. To these people I point out that children are not, in fact, made of glass, and that making mistakes and getting hurt every now and then are important parts of childhood.

But this post is not about how kids are not as delicate as we make them out to be. This post is about how kids are not invincible.

When we become parents for the first time we take a lot of things for granted. We expect to watch our little bundles of joy grow and learn. We expect to see them start, and finish, school. We expect to someday see them find the perfect person, get married, and have children of their own. We expect that as long as we love them, teach them, encourage them, and take care of them that they’ll grow into happy, healthy adults. We expect that someday, far in the future when we’re very old, that we’ll pass on and leave our beautiful legacy behind us.

No one expects their child to leave them before any of these things can come to pass.

A little over a week ago I got some awful news: my cousin’s son lost his battle with sickness and passed away. He would have been seven years old at the end of this month.

I am not close with this cousin – in fact I very rarely ever see her – and I’d never met her little boy, but when I got word that he was gone from this world my throat went dry and I felt terribly ill. No parent should have to suffer the pain of losing a child, especially when that child is still a child. I can’t even fathom the pain my cousin is going through right now and I just hope that someday that pain lessens, though I know it will never leave her completely.

In the days following this terrible news I think I hugged and kisses my daughter a hundred times a day. I probably spent twice as much time on the floor playing with her, and when she was bad I couldn’t find it in me to get mad. I was haunted with the idea of what it might be like to lose her, because even when she’s pushing every single one of my buttons, she’s still my beautiful, precious little princess. But then I began to think: it shouldn’t take a tragedy to remind me of that fact.

I mean, come on…how precious is that?

As much as we wish it could be otherwise, our children are not invincible. Sometimes terrible, cruel, unfair things happen. Knowing this doesn’t mean that we should coddle our kids or make their lives miserable by being ridiculously overprotective. It simply means that we should cherish them…for as long as we are given the chance.

Kids will do wrong. They’ll be brats. They’ll be unreasonable and insufferable, and do things that make us want to pull our hair out. They’ll do everything they can to make us lose or minds, and we will: we’ll get mad and frustrated and we’ll lose our cool. That’s life and it’s part of parenthood and childhood. But beyond those moments, take a breath, look at your children, and cherish that they are in your life. They are the most precious thing in the world, and it should never, ever, take a tragedy like what my cousin is going through for you to realize that.