In this fast-paced world, isn’t it wonderful when your children do or say something that causes you to pause and reflect on the innocence and sweetness of their youth?
My youngest daughter was super excited last week for a special activity her 5th-grade class would be doing at the Emily Follensbee School in Calgary.
The school offers programming for kids ages 2-1/2 to 15 years old who have moderate to severe cognitive and developmental disabilities.
After school that day, we rushed (as we usually do) to have an after school snack and get changed into ballet clothes, and off we headed to dance.
As we’re driving she says to me, “Mom, can I tell you about our trip to Emily Follensbee?” Of course, I said, and apologized for not asking sooner.
She then proceeded to tell me how she and a friend were paired up and given a small group of children to work with. She told me the children in her group were all girls, about the same age as her. She said they were in wheelchairs and really didn’t speak that much or have much facial expression. At first, she said, she was a little nervous…she didn’t know how they were going to react to having strangers in their classroom.
Well, they weren’t strangers for long.
The teacher told the girls their job would be giving hand massages to their new friends using Bath and Body Works Lotions. The kids were excited; we all know how good that stuff smells, right?
Before they started massaging their hands, they let their new friends smell the products. She told me it was so fun to see their faces light up and smile, as they sniffed the bottles.
As she’s talking from the backseat, I can feel tears welling up in my eyes. Of course, I cry at almost anything these days; my hormones are making me an emotional basket case.
In her group of girls, there is one girl in particular who seems “unsettled” with her arms flailing about at random moments. The teachers tell her repeatedly to settle down, so the girls can give their hand massages.
As my daughter starts to rub her hands, the girl’s eyes started to close and she began to drift off…finally, fully relaxed and at peace.
“Wow,” I told her. “That sounds like such an amazing experience, sweetie.” Looking back, I know I should have asked the question, “So, how did that make you feel?” But in the heat of the moment, all I could muster was, “Did you have fun??” I asked. “Yeah, and I can’t wait to go back next week!” As part of this club, the children will visit the Emily Follensbee School weekly during lunch time.
When we got home that night, after my daughter went to bed, I told this story to my husband. Just like me, his eyes started to water; it touched his heart too.
The fact that our daughter could help to bring so much joy to these students with such a simple gesture was really remarkable. And we are so thankful to our school for giving her that opportunity. There is so much learning that can be done outside the classroom, and I told her principal that when I emailed the school yesterday. As parents, we are quick to criticize when things go wrong at school, so I wanted to make sure I applaud them when things go right.
I also reflected on the words of my friend and parenting expert Julie Freedman-Smith, who talks about helping our kids develop a strong core…raising kids who are compassionate, empathetic and have a sense of social responsibility. If they are shiny and perfect on the outside, but weak on the inside…have we done our job?
As parents, as teachers, as a community, we need to foster these growing opportunities. I’d love to incorporate more volunteer work into our family routine, and not just around the holidays. Anytime we can encourage our kids to give back in some way, I think we should take advantage of it.
I hope you all have a fantastic week! Comment below if you have some great ideas on how kids can give back to their communities.
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