Every so often, something happens in your life that reminds you of the good things and the innocence that walks the earth. One night, about a week or so ago, I received a call. The ringtone that was playing told me that it was one of my cousins. Most of the time I cannot pick up the phone due to my anxiety, but sometimes I can. I’m so glad this is one of those times that I did.
I answered with a “Hello”, thinking that my adult cousin was on the other end, when suddenly this tiny little voice said, “Hi, cousin Summer (using my screen name).” I immediately got a smile on my face, as I always do when I hear this little one’s voice, or the voices of her little brother or baby sister. It was my cousin’s five-year-old daughter on the other end. We’ll call her Alice for the sake of this post. Well, Alice then proceeded to tell me that she was calling to ask me a question. Her mommy and daddy were redoing her bedroom so that it had her own personal touch. She is old enough to make decisions now on what she likes, and so my cousin and her husband wanted her to have a say in how her room, which she’ll be sharing with her baby sister, will look for both of them. Then, once her baby sister is old enough to make those same decisions, they will have to decide together how to redo their room in the future.
Well, Alice then goes onto say that she knows that I helped to paint her room almost four years ago when she was still a baby herself. She has always known, and has many times repeated, her knowledge of that fact to me in the past. But, now that her parents are giving her the option to change its look, Alice has been in a bit of a quandary, and my cousin and her husband didn’t even realize how much of one until recently. Alice then continues on and says, “My mommy and daddy said I can paint my room any color I want, but I told them I didn’t know if I wanted to do that. I told them I wanted to ask you if it was ok, since you helped paint my room. I don’t want to hurt your feelings, ‘cause you helped to paint it.”
All I can say is that the tears welled up in my eyes so quickly. That little girl was asking me if it was ok for her to do something that she had every right to do. But, she was worried about it because it might hurt my feelings. It’s times like those that really hit you right in the heart, but in a very good way.
First and foremost, I thanked my little cousin for thinking of my feelings like that, and I told her she was so sweet and so considerate to think of me like she did. I then told her not to worry, that it was her room and that she could paint it any color she wanted. And, that any color she picked I’m sure would look pretty. She then said, “You’re welcome,” for the thanks I gave her and her voice turned completely relaxed. She started talking with me about school and her siblings and just anything else that crossed her mind at that moment. She’s quite the articulate five-year-old and it’s so awesome to carry on a conversation with her. She then handed the phone to my cousin who wanted to talk with me, but we had a small interruption right after she got the phone.
That small interruption was Alice’s little four-year-old brother. And, after a brief and absolutely adorable and hilarious conversation with him (seriously, my heart was melting while talking to these kids), my cousin began to explain more of the story. Apparently, she and her husband had been asking Alice for the last two weeks which color she wanted to paint her room, but each time Alice would just say that she didn’t know. She was on the fence for two weeks until finally she spoke up to my cousin about her reason. My cousin told her that I would not care what color she picked, but that didn’t ease Alice’s mind. So, Alice told her that she wanted to make the call herself and ask me that night.
Reinforcing the Good
Needless to say, that little girl is being raised well. Upon hearing these additional details, I became so relieved that I responded to Alice in the way that I did. Of course I didn’t mind if she repainted her room, but I’m so glad that I thanked her and praised her for her consideration and thoughtfulness. My therapist has always said that one of the big reasons that people grow up one way or another is based on how they are encouraged and treated while growing up. If positive behavior is not only acknowledged, but also reinforced through encouragement, then it will lead the child to continue with such positive behavior in the future.
As I responded to Alice, I had that thought going through my mind. However, not until hearing my cousin’s detailed account of everything, did I realize just how important it was for me to respond the way that I had. If all I would have said was, “Alice, I don’t care, that’s your room, don’t worry about me,” then I would have put her mind at ease about changing the color of the room, but I would have given her the impression that her feelings did not matter. As if her worries and concerns were unfounded, and that she was being silly or ridiculous, or whatever word would have went through her mind. That would have not been good. That would have hurt her in a way that might not have even been immediately noticeable.
When I repeated this story to my therapist at the next session, she said she was so glad that I responded the way that I did, for the very reasons that I gave above. If not for therapy, I’m not sure if I would have responded properly. I’ve learned so much about myself. I have learned how events from my past have affected me, and I don’t want to repeat those same things in the lives of others, especially ones of such vulnerability.
Since that night, I have been unable to forget about that conversation. But, that’s ok; I don’t want to forget about it. I cannot get past the thoughtfulness that this little kid had for another human being. To me that is huge. And, to be on the receiving end of it is such a heartwarming feeling.
Did she have to ask me if it was ok for her to paint her room? No, she absolutely did not. But, at the core of all of this, it’s not even about the room and whether or not she paints it a different color. It’s about the fact that she was thinking about someone else. The fact that she was worried about my feelings and was so concerned that she wanted to ask me shows just what kind of person that little one is growing into. Her generation is the future. This means that there is hope that society may finally consider the impact of their words and actions on others.
Is that likely to happen? A part of me says, “No.” However, there is still another part of me that says it’s possible that someday the world will reach a point of universal acknowledgment, understanding and consideration for others.
For me, my little cousin’s innocent heart is proof that it’s still possible.