Parenting has been such a transformative experience for me. My kids are constantly teaching me what it means to be human.

One of the nicest things about being a family with three kids is watching my older two children interact with the baby. Every time the baby cries out a need, the older two kids come running. Not necessarily because they are able to do anything to help but because they recognize her helpless cry and want to watch as her needs are addressed. “Mumma! The baby is crying!” they shout. They sit with her as tears roll down her cheeks and insist that I run to the baby with a sense of urgency. When the baby smiles or coos or gazes deeply into their eyes, my older two children melt with love. Their baby is safe and happy, so they feel safe and happy too. I’ve been watching these interactions since the baby’s birth and my heart swells every time.

Watching my children as we care for our newest family member, it dawned on me, every time I respond lovingly to the baby’s cries, it reaffirms my willingness to love and care for the older two. It reaffirms that our family is a loving and safe place where needs are responded to. When our baby is scared to be surrounded by adults she doesn’t recognize, or give her extra-long nursing naps when she has a stuffy nose, my older two are reminded of the love I have provided and continue to offer them. Since the arrival of this baby, my kids have experienced the purest form of empathy. They can relate so much to what the baby is going through that my responses to the baby also serve to soothe them. They know how it feels to be scared, then reassured with a loving embrace or the experience of a physical discomfort followed by a response of understanding and tenderness. By caring for the baby, we reinforce our family’s willingness to care for all our family’s members. There isn’t a hierarchy of needs, all of our needs are valued and respected.

This past week has been a challenging one for me to see unfolding on social media and on the news. Some of the events have left me at a loss for words, feeling scared, confused, and heartbroken. As a Canadian, the murders of 6 Muslim men in Quebec by a white man with a history of hateful racist online comments has me feeling especially sad. And yet, as I care for my baby and watch my older two children empathize along with her, I cannot help but think, therein lies the answer for society too. To soothe our societal fears and heartbreak, we can lovingly, respectfully, work to understand and meet the needs of the most vulnerable. Who among us is in pain? In small but sincere ways we can stand with our community’s most vulnerable and, in responding to their requests for love and safety, we can meet our own needs for safety and love too.

My children have taught me that we all feel more secure when we see the most vulnerable among us are well cared for. It’s one of the underlying principles at Learning in the Woods and our future Barn School. By honoring the needs of the most vulnerable around us, we show that all needs are respected.

I am learning so much from my kids. I am so thankful for this timely lesson.

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