|Hayden. Copyright Andrea Paterson. 2014|
In a world so full of terrible things I am finding great peace and hope in watching my nearly three year old son develop powers of empathy. My Hayden changes every day, becoming strangely articulate, his thoughts only sometimes outpacing his capacity for language. He is developing a sense of empathy that seems impossible for such a young creature. It's as if we are born with great wisdom and compassion that we slowly lose as we age and then have to work hard to recapture. If we maintained the simple kindness of a child, the world might be a very beautiful place.
A few days ago Hayden was playing with a friend, also two and a half. His friend, at one point, became despondent and pouty. Hayden was clearly concerned but the sudden change in mood.
“Let's run!” he said, trying to prompt his friend to play. But he got no response.
Hayden peered under the other boy's hat and tried to make him laugh by imitating the pathetic sighs his playmate was dramatically producing. No response...then maybe just the smallest twitch of a smile. Finally, Hayden reached into his pocket, produced a bouncy ball that he had borrowed from his very reluctant friend earlier on, looked at it wistfully and said, “Do you want my bouncy ball?” His friend lit up immediately, took the ball, and the two boys ran down the path together holding hands.
I was dumbstruck. My two and a half year old child had given up a hard won and treasured object simply to make his friend happy. I wasn't sure that an adult would have done the same thing in his place. It was an unbelievable sacrifice that showed, I thought, a beautiful sensitivity to the emotions of others. This small child was such a bright light in that moment.
He surprised me again this morning. We had a rough night. Hayden was up a fair bit and I was exhausted as a result. I went about the morning routine in a fog, feeling my control and patience slipping.
“I'm really, really tired,” I said to Hayden and he ran upstairs. He came back with the blanket and pillow off his bed. He proceeded to make me a bed on the floor.
“Have a nap Mommy!” he said. I lay down on the floor and my son tucked me in under his blanket. He then got a plastic cup out of the drawer, ran to the bathroom and came back with a glass of water for me. After I had my water he brought me his alarm clock and said I should stay asleep until the clock's green wake-up light came on. I was laughing, but almost crying as well, because it was a ridiculously thoughtful and lovely thing to do and it completely blew my mind.
I want to say to you, Hayden, that I hope your capacity for love and kindness will endure. I hope it will never be beaten out of you, or your sensitivity discouraged. It's a rough world out there and it's easy to become jaded. I dream you a future in which you maintain at your core that luminous sweetness and grace.