I didn’t need to be told by someone else that being around children can be healing. But this morning, while reading the beginning of Chapter 3 of The Shack, the introductory quote resonated with me quite strongly:
“The soul is healed by being with children.” — Fyodor Dostoevsky
I’ll admit, there are times that being with my children has been the opposite of restorative. They can quickly empty my emotional reserves on a particularly needy day, or a day when my emotional “tank” is low to begin with. But…the healing nature of being around children can also be quite profound, oftentimes completely spontaneous, and extremely effective in reviving a depleted soul.
I learned this at age 10 when I accepted my first babysitting job two doors down from our home (with my mother close by, should I need help).
I learned it again when I volunteered to help with Vacation Bible School as a teenager. I’ll never forget what it felt like at Mass the following Sunday when my eyes met those of the kids I’d helped nurture the week prior; how joyful I felt at seeing the glee in their eyes upon spotting me going up for Communion, and then watching them turn toward their parents and mouthing, “That’s my teacher!”
I learned it when I was in college and, after being away from children for long bursts of time, finally having a chance to be around them again. During a summer nanny job in New Jersey, my favorite times were fishing out on the lake with my “nanny” kids, hooking worms, watching sun rays glide along the water’s surface, having philosophical conversations with them, teaching them camp songs.
And I’ve learned it many times over as a mother, especially when difficulty comes, as it often does in its cyclical way. This weekend was one of those stretches when the world seemed a little heavier than usual. When I had to run errands, I brought my 8-year-old along, and just being in her presence and hearing her thoughts brought me to a brighter, more hopeful place. She was light to me, and I could physically feel my spirits lifting each passing moment we were together. Her presence was indeed healing. I am still feeling that gift today.
I was looking forward to two days’ worth of that with my older daughter. She was to accompany me this afternoon on a trip to Minnesota, where I was to present at a Young Author Conference. Snow thwarted our plans; the conference was, unfortunately, canceled. So, we’ll have to work with Plan B.
I will try to see the opportunity here. Instead of focusing on my sadness in not going, I will try to let my chance to be present here to all my children today be the unanticipated gift.