Learned Reactions

This post is about the dear two-year-old I nanny. Oh children. Remember how I nanny the cutest child ever? Well, she still maintains her title. And she’s still brilliant. What I particular loved about her this week, however, is that she’s in that stage of looking for others’ reactions to cue to her behavior. That probably doesn’t make much sense so let me explain by means of a story.

Yesterday, this sweet girl and I ventured to a park that also contained a miniature water park. We were having a jolly time, running in and out of the water. Well, technically she was running in and out of the water while I was observing. Anyway, at this park there was a particular pipe that sprayed water out with a little bit more force than the rest. At first, this sweet girl was rather timid about approaching this particular spout. With time, however, she inched closer and closer. Then at one point another little boy covered the spout so it was no longer spraying. Thinking the water was off, this sweet girl ran right at the spout. I hadn’t the time to rescue her. As soon as she reached the spout, the little boy moved and the water shot her directly in her face. My first thought was, oh no she’s going to be so upset! After rubbing the water from her eyes she frantically looked around for me. As we made eye contact I instantly sensed that she was looking for my reaction, almost unaware how to react herself. Thus, I started clapping and exclaimed, “Wow! That was awesome! You’re so brave!” With that, she suddenly looked thrilled and brave! Her moment of hesitation that at first looked near tears suddenly turned into an elated grin and she ran back at the spout! It was hilarious.

Sigh. I love kids. And I’m nearly convinced children only become pansies if we treat them like pansies. I still remember my first day working in an orphanage in Ecuador. A four-year-old little girl was swinging extremely high on an old rickety swing. She was laughing and having a spectacular time. Suddenly the sweet thing flipped off backward and landed flat on her back. On instinct I ran to comfort her. Before I reached her, however, the head nun at the orphanage stopped me and insisted I observe and learn. I did so. As I watched the nun walked over and gave her a high five telling her she was awesome and super brave! That little girl who I’m 90% sure just had the wind knocked out of her went from grimace to grin. She knew she was a rock star. The nun came back over and informed me that with so many children at the orphanage we couldn’t afford to make them weak. I wasn’t sure I agreed then. And I still don’t always agree. I mean, if someone breaks a bone please cry, and cry hard! I still cry when I break things! That being said, however, I’m finding more and more there is some very real truth to what she taught me. Consequently, I agree with her lesson more often than not.

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