~ Toni O’KEEFFE
Today as I sat on the beach with my little dog Bo’, a young girl, about 4 years old, ran up to us happily excited to see Bo’ digging in the sand.
She gushed at how cute he was, stroked his fur ever so gently, softly tapped his head and utter the words; “good boy” and giggled as he licked her hands and face.
Her mother ran up to where we were and apologized for her daughter’s intrusion and excitement and told her to leave us alone.
“It’s quite alright,”I said. “His name is Bo and he loves the attention.”
Then, quite spontaneously, the little girl looked up at me and said “I love you, and I love Bo.”
It was very sweet.
“We love you too,” I replied.
“Thank you for making Bo so happy today.”
The little girl smiled.
Her mother appeared very uncomfortable, quickly grabbed her child’s hand and pulled her away. She turned to her daughter and in a harsh tone said; “You don’t tell strangers you love them. That’s silly, stop bothering this lady.” She went on publicly scolding the child and told her; “You don’t even know this person, You save those words for people you know.”
A quiet reserve fell over this sweet child’s face, erasing her glow and her smile.
Her slumped shoulders and nervous hair twirling, were signs she was confused about what she had done wrong.
I wanted to pick her up, hug her, tell her she had done nothing wrong and, in fact, she had made me and Bo quite happy.
But, I couldn’t, it wouldn’t have been “appropriate” and, her mother had quickly whisked her away.
Let me be clear, I understand the importance of educating our children about stranger-danger. Some people might not want their child running up to strangers saying “I love you”. This situation was different. And, it was a lost learning moment for the mother and the child.
There is nothing more beautiful than the innocence and vulnerability of a child speaking their truth.
Most young children do not possess social restraint, so their raw honesty can be insightful and even comical when they say things we might find inappropriate, such as;
“your breath is stinky like a dog butt”
“I think I barfed in my underpants”
“farts are my favourite thing about granpa”
“mom you look dizzy in that dress”
“we don’t eat meat ‘cause our moms trying to be a virgin”
……or other words and phrases describing the plethora of thought swirling inside a tiny human mind(and yes these are actual raw honest phrases spoken by my two little boys, in public, decades ago).
So when a child is moved to say the words “I love you” its a beautiful act from a little soul under construction.
Saying “I love you” in a platonic way, shouldn’t feel scary (my god I just wrote about this a few weeks ago).
When children say it, it should feel wonderful and they shouldn’t be shamed or scorned.
In a world filled with anger, hate and distrust, we need little people to feel comfortable expressing LOVE.
So what’s the moral of this story?
Our words have power.
The words spoken by this sweet child, lifted me up. Her words were beautiful, authentic and spoken from the innocence of her tender heart.
The words spoken by her mother, were filled with anger, disappointment, perhaps fear, and quickly had the power to bring a very happy, excited child down, and put me off balance for the rest of the day.
Our words can create ripples that echo on long after we’ve left them behind ( this post is an example of just that).
So lets create ripples of kindness that flow gently into (and beyond) each other’s lives, rather than cause and waves of fear, hurt and destruction.
****Fun fact, I was not successful in my attempts to eliminate meat from my diet. I did not become a “vegetarian”. (You might have to go back and re-read paragraph 11 to fully understand 😁)