4 tips to help children grieve the loss of a pet

Until 5 a.m. this Valentine’s Day, we shared our home with a sweet ginger kitty named Sophie, These ear infection home remedy tips helped my puppy get back to normal but She was our special friend and bed warmer for 14 years. Her presence was an orange-colored angora thread woven through the fabric of our family’s life. Now we find ourselves confronted with having no choice but to traverse the rugged road toward accepting that our kitty is gone. We regret we could not spend more time with her due to our travelling all the time for work. This is one of of the primary reasons why we just found information on service animal registration and are going to get our dog “Bruno” registered on it as soon as possible so that we can take him along where ever we go. Dog Walking Insurance UK : Business Insurance for Dog Walkers : DogWalkerInsurance

At first, when a pet dies there is the shock of things being all wrong. The atmosphere changes in your house. Now we wake up and there is no sleeping kitty among the covers. That spot on the couch will never again be occupied by our fluff baby who smelled like sandalwood and cardamom. The void left by the death of our beloved cat makes us feel as if our house is not completely a home anymore, we are thinking about adopting one again, it just feels right, my cat sneeze so much back when we he used to be with us, that’s one of the sounds we miss the most. To learn more about preventing spread of infection Control Results can help your healthcare facility keep your patients protected from HAIs.

If you have pets, you know what they add to your family’s life. My daughter Nicole laughed for the first time when she noticed Sophie’s face looking down at her, one paw gingerly touching her baby belly. When Niki was 4, she told me that she was lucky to have 3 Mommies: me, Mother Earth, and Sophie whose nickname was in fact Mama Kitty as per an article we found in teacupdogdaily.com.

It has not been easy to say goodbye and let her cross over the Rainbow Bridge.

If you are interested there are Cat Boarding Melbourne services you can hire, they welcome pets boarding in all types of facilities (private rooms, boarding houses, hospitals, retirement homes, etc.) with the following conditions:

  • Cat must be allowed to have contact with children under the age of six
  • Cat must be kept in a clean environment free from contamination or hazardous substances
  • We do not allow cats with visible injuries such as bites, claws, or broken nails
  • In all facilities we provide a safe, secure environment for cats to stay, be greeted and loved.
  • The cost for boarding is paid monthly and the amount varies depending on the type of facility and the individual cat.

Loss of a Pet Could Be a Child’s First Experience with the Permanence of Death

Losing a beloved pet engenders a special kind of sorrow. It is grief that does not go away quickly, because it is not an event of sadness but, instead, is a process of readjusting to a new reality without someone who was loved.

Children need the freedom to feel all that they do for as long as it takes. When they are allowed to be present with their feelings in an authentic way and, even better, when they know we accompany them as they move at their own pace through the process of grieving, they learn that a painful loss will gradually become more tolerable.

In our culture, we don’t do grief very well. We are often at a loss when in the presence of someone in deep emotional pain. As parents, we might have to run interference when well-meaning friends, grandpas, or aunts try to help erase the child’s sadness without realizing that there is no way to rush the grieving process.

When someone suggests to a bereaved child that a new cat or dog or hamster will fix everything, it can make them feel worse. How can you replace the one you loved so much? You cannot, he is gone. Forever. And while, yes, it is good that the kitty’s suffering is over, that does not make it any less painful that she had to die to be free.

Tears and sobs are going to come in waves so we may have to ask our extended family, or a Papa who gets nervous when there are tears, to just hang onto the boat while it takes its course. It will not hurt this bad forever, but it will hurt for as long as it does.

That said, there are things that can help during the grieving process. When our beloved dog died, as I fumbled with red eyes to find my way through the terrible feelings of loss, I discovered some practices that helped us to lessen the overwhelming quality of our sorrow. But all the accessories that you might have brought for your dog would make it harder for you to move on, despite inculcating such practices.

4 Tips to Help Children with the Bereavement Process of a Cherished Pet:  

1) The Necessary Rite of Passage of a Proper Burial

The mind and heart need a rite of passage to help us comprehend that things are no longer the same. Years ago, when the vet put down another cat, he had the wise insight to ask me if I wanted to take his body in order to give him a proper burial.

When my stepchildren’s tiny turtle died, it was very important for them at ages 10 and 11 to give him a funeral. They made a little mausoleum out of marble tiles in the corner of our yard and ceremoniously laid him to rest with a heartfelt tribute. I found his food canister there once, and on the Day of the Dead, they put flowers on his tomb.   

2) A Traditional Funeral

It is tradition in Mexico — where we live — to keep the body of a deceased family member laid in state in the family living room for 24 hours after death. Relatives, friends, and neighbors come to pay their last respects. This allows the mind to comprehend that the person has transitioned out of their body. It is sad, but it helps since it gives everyone the opportunity to let reality set in.

After she released her last breath, we laid Sophie on her cat bed and arranged flowers in a vase next to her. We lit a candle that burned while Niki was in school. The fact of her death was undeniable, but we could stroke her fur and talk to her while having the benefit of still being able to see her body, the one we had hugged and loved so many years.

Once a proper grave was dug, we put on our prettiest dresses and prepared for the burial ceremony. Niki filled up a little basket with magenta bougainvillea flowers. We gathered up Sophie’s toys. Also a model train set is a very good gift for your kid, so he can distract himself by having fun. It made us laugh when we remembered to get some yarn for her to play with,because she never accepted that knitting was not a game. Niki said that it was too bad we could not send her off with the couch she had destroyed. The couch damage aside, recalling good memories helped…then hurt…then made us laugh…then cry and hug. That is how grief goes. That’s how it is shared.

We carried Sophie to the place under the trees overlooking the valley. We laid her down into the grave, head facing east to the rising sun. We arranged the toys and Nicole’s drawing that had been made to encourage our kitty when she got sick. We thanked our beautiful friend for being our lovie. We said everything we needed to. Then we covered her in flowers, sang a eulogy song, and finally let the dirt cover her. And when that was done, we placed a flower arrangement on her grave, a pretty one, because that was how much we love her.

3) A Candle Ceremony

Creating ceremonial space in this way connects children to a sense of reverence for the love shared with their pet while also teaching them to take care of their own sad heart.

Petloss.com is a sweet website that offers a loving space where bereaved humans can register the name of the deceased family pet and upload a tribute. It feels important to do that, like you are declaring that the life, now gone, mattered — a lot. We added Sophie’s name this morning. Our dog is listed there, too. There also is a link on the site to online pet loss counseling.

The website also offers a gentle opportunity to join with others in the solidarity of grieving every Monday at 10 pm EST, when bereaved humans from all over the world light a candle at the same time for their lost pet. People are encouraged to do this every week for as long as they feel moved.

This Monday, we lit a candle and felt the comfort of knowing that others are also celebrating their friendship with one who had brought them so much joy. This will help.

4) Honoring the Fond Memories and the Friendship

The love does not go away because our pet left her body. We now have to dispose of things like her medicine that are painful reminders that she suffered illness that led to her death. We remove them, because seeing them makes us sad. At the same time, even though it is painful with her passing so recent, it would be a mistake to avoid thinking about the good times or to try to forget everything we shared. We want to celebrate and hold on to good memories. They are what give sacred meaning to the tears. Our kids can learn to hold the joy close in their hearts even while the grief looks on.

One way to help them navigate the complexity of feelings is to give them a symbol of the friendship that encourages them to anchor their remembrance in the safe harbor of happy memories. It can be a framed photo of them with their pet on the nightstand or a symbolic object that reminds them of the special friendship for the treasure that it was.

 

Our kitty was a real hugger. Fortunately, among the odd fabrics in my stash, I had an old angora sweater with a hole in the sleeve that miraculously was the same color as Niki’s Sophie. I sewed it up into a soft, huggable pillow in the shape of a full heart and put it in Sophie’s spot on the bed. This morning, I found Nicole hugging it and saying, “I hope you are happy where you are now.” She told me that I can use it when I start to miss Mama Kitty. I know I will.

Teaching the way of gratitude

mindfulness-gratitude-childrenHave you discovered how very powerful giving thanks is for uplifting your mood, day and life? Coaches and spiritual teachers these days suggest that we keep a gratitude journal or set aside time to be grateful every day as a way to shift our focus toward a more positive frequency.

It’s not just another thing to try so we can feel better — in my experience, it really works.

Making a shift toward gratitude

The study of neuroplasticity confirms that when we intentionally and repeatedly focus on “taking in the good” — as neuropsychologist Rick Hanson PhD, suggests — we cause changes in our neurons that shift us away from the innate bias toward always looking for threat.

In other words, when we develop a conscious gratitude practice, over time we can actually change our negative mind chatter into a more settled way of being that is open to the possibility that good things just might indeed come our way. I like to think of it as quality elevator music that accompanies us as we intentionally choose to experience life on higher floors.

If you are like me, noticing what I already have that is good enough does not come naturally. I was raised to be constantly prepared for whatever problems were inevitably on their way to my door. I was taught to be constantly doing, preparing, and preventing with a kind of “storing up food for the harsh winter” mentality. But even though the experiences of the Great Depression were passed down to me in my DNA, I am determined that this fear-based way of living will stop with me.

If we can instill the habit of giving thanks, we prepare our children for a life of pleasant contentment. 

Ever since my daughter was very small, we have made it a practice to express gratitude. In that kind of “Do as I say, not as I do” way, it’s easier for me to notice how she says things and to offer a course-correct toward a more positive view.

To my delight, out of the blue, she will sometimes spontaneously list all the things she loves about our house, our neighborhood, our view, the store that offers the stuff we need, the birds flying by, and on and on. It just bursts out of her! In those moments, I get to switch channels from brooding over my to-do list to instead witnessing her enthusiasm. It makes me give thanks that I must be doing something right after all.

A good way to create a readiness to be grateful is to establish the habit of giving thanks. Giving thanks together, in whatever way suits your family, makes everyone slow down and take a mindful moment.

A fitting place to do this is at mealtimes, because they happen at the same time each day and everyone is sitting down together. Even a sandwich on the hiking trail can serve as another opportunity to pause and recognize the gift of nourishment. Food comes from somewhere and it ends up on the table because of the effort of people — so that’s something to appreciate.

In our house, we like to make up songs. If they catch on, we keep them. Below is one of our gratitude prayers before we eat. It is a little song we sing at the table to bless and enliven the food we are about to eat. It also gives the less-than-favorite vegetables a little more status, I hope. Imagine it going with a pleasant sort of Irish music tune.

Thank You for My Food
Thank you for my food, thank you for my food,
Made by Mother Earth and warmed by Father Sun.
Thank you to the seed that grew in the soil,
And blessings to the farmers who made food from their toil.
Thank you for my carrots, thank you for my tacos, thank you for my…
Thank you for my food.

Sometimes my child will add a line to thank the cook, which I accept with a gracious bow.

4 tips for cultivating a “yes environment”

kelly-shealer-and-daughterChildren hear the word “no” about 400 times a day. Being told “no” constantly doesn’t feel good and often times can be frustrating. The more children hear it, the more likely they are to have tantrums and power struggles, and feel disconnected from their parents.

Creating a “yes environment” can help families to feel happier and more connected.

This doesn’t mean you must say “yes” to literally everything, or that the word “no” should be nonexistent. It’s important to keep boundaries and to set the limits that are right for your family. The point of creating a “yes environment” is to save the “no” for the occasional vital situations — safety reasons, things that go against family rules, or times when something truly isn’t possible to do.

Here are 4 tips for cultivating a “yes environment”:

  1. Make sure your “no” is really a no — Sometimes we say “no” to a request before we even really think about it. It’s important to take the time to think before answering children’s requests. For example, Is it really unsafe when my sons are roughhousing? Can I make it safer by removing obstacles from the room and helping them set some ground rules? Or, Do I have the time to do this art project? Am I inclined to say “no” just because I don’t want to deal with the potential mess? There are many times when my children will ask to go the playground, but I simply don’t feel like it and I want to start thinking of every excuse not to go. However, when I try to stay in “yes” mode and give it a try, so often I have more fun than expected. I end up feeling grateful that I chose to have that moment of connection with my children and to say “yes” to adventures and exploration.
  2. Save “no” for when it matters — When we say “no” all the time, the word loses some of its significance and effectiveness. “No” is a strong word. Our children need to know that it really matters. That’s important both in having them listen to and respect people who tell them “no,” as well as in situations where their own “no” needs to be respected by other people. When we save “no” for the situations that really matter, it makes the word more powerful — our children know that we indeed mean it.
  3. yes-1137274_1280“Yes…later” — Sometimes your child will ask to do something that would be a “yes” at a different time, like wanting to go to the playground shortly before you need to pick up an older child from school. Instead of saying, “No, we can’t go now. We don’t have time,” you might say, “Yes, we can go to the park after we get your sister from school.” Reframing your words in a positive way, rather than using negative language, is helpful to children.
  4. Explain the “no” — Imagine your toddler is pulling your hair. Your first inclination may be to say, “No!” After all, it hurts, you’re angry, and you want to make it clear that it’s not OK. A more positive way to handle it would be to remain calm and say instead, “That hurts Mommy,” as you move her hand away from your hair. You’re not using the word “no,” but you’re also not allowing the behavior. Explaining it to her in this way will help her understand why you’re stopping their behavior. It also helps develop empathy and gives young children exposure to more language than just “no.”

Thankful kids

Effie2 (2)It’s this time of year — Thanksgiving holiday — when we pause and take a moment to reflect on all that we are grateful for.

A few years ago, I adopted Thanksgiving as a daily practice, and to my surprise, it has transformed my life for the better: I’ve become more centered and peaceful which naturally affected the well-being of myself as well as my family.

Having a deep sense of gratitude benefits us in developing the ability to savor the pleasant moments in life and preserve through the painful ones.

I find that as challenging and complex parenting can be, it is equally inspiring and simple — that is, if we are mindful and appreciate every challenge, pain, delight, and triumph on our parenting journey.

Our children serve as our constant reminder that the ordinary is actually the profound. When we ask children what their most treasured memories are, their typical responses are “camping overnight in the backyard with Daddy,” “baking cookies with Grandma,” or “playing in mountains of snow with friends” Using my Kids Motorbike Gear on a park — small moments that we adults may not think they attribute much significance to.

I am grateful for being around children on a daily basis — observing their actions and interactions. Getting a glimpse into their delightful world keeps me grounded, reminding me that connection, mindfulness and simplicity are the essentials that fill our heart and soul. Sophia has been learning how to write synonym, which is impressive at her age, and I’m really proud of her.

In celebration of Thanksgiving, we bring you reflections from kids around the United States as to what they are most grateful for:

Emma, 7: “I am most grateful for my family and health. I am grateful that we are all together. I am grateful to God for everything.”

Sophia, 5: “I am grateful for my parents, sister, brother, and grandparents. I am also grateful for breastmilk when I was small since it made me grow strong.”

Valerie, 2.5: “Food. Yogurt, peanut butter in a bowl, apples, and peanut butter sandwich.”

Abby, 4: “Strawberries, because I love strawberries.  It’s my wordcloud6favorite fruit.”

Josh, 9: “Family, food, and water. Family because it’s family, and food and water because we need food and water to survive.”

Nicholas, 12: “Having a good mom.”

Tatiana, 11: “I am thankful for my family. I am thankful for the house that I live in, for the food that I eat, that I have education, that I’m healthy, and that I am alive.”

Gianna, 8: “I’m thankful that my mom makes dinner for both sides of our family.”

Adriana, 4: “I’m thankful for pancakes, because I don’t like turkey.”

Rachel, 10: “I’m thankful for God, for veterans, for my family, and for my pets.”

Emily, 9: “I am grateful for my life and everything that God created, and for heaven, and I’m grateful for my family, my house, my clothes, my food, everything.”

Nathan, 5: “I am thankful for birdies and that we love animals, and I’m grateful for my family and pets.”

Camille, 18: “I’m thankful for the people who love me and the opportunities I have been given.”

Nicole, 10: “I am thankful for Tapping (EFT) and the breathing technique Mommy taught me to discharge stress.”

Luke, 14: “I’m thankful for being able to choose my career. I’m thankful for Internet. I’m thankful for love, and I’m thankful for family.”

Zaiah, 10: “Friends and family. The chance to live every day and have food and water.”

Julienne, 14: “I am grateful for music.”

Kaiya, 11: “I am grateful that not all animals are endangered.”

Ethan, 2: “Toys!”

Jared, 9: “I’m most grateful for my family.”

I am thankful for Attachment Parenting International (API) for granting me the opportunity to be part of an organization that promotes an intuitive, kind, and gentle approach to parenting — the foundation of our quest for a more tolerant world. I am also grateful for our API volunteer community and readers for all of your support, and for spreading the message of peace and harmony — because together we are a greater force, capable of making a real positive difference in the world.

My warmest wishes to you and your family on this Thanksgiving holiday. May you always find inspiration and gratitude on your parenting journey.

With Mindfulness and Light,

Effie

Sharing gratitude on a nightly basis

Before my children go to sleep at night, I have 3 questions that I ask them:

  1. What did you learn today?
  2. What was your favorite part of the day?
  3. What are you grateful for?

These questions have become a ritual for us as we have been doing it for years. We continue to do so even as we navigate the middle school days for my youngest and now are moving into the high school years for my oldest. I know we all look forward to this time of connection as it opens up a conversation that goes beyond the simple responses to those questions.

I have been surprised to find that the topic about gratitude is often the one that is discussed the most. There is an appreciation for all of us when we take the time to offer our thanks for something that happened during the day. My girls’ answers may be about a material item they received or a favorite food that they were able to eat — especially if it is a dessert — and I have found that is a practice for me to listen to their responses without judgement.

hands-heart-grainsIt is a gift for each of us to pay attention to one another in a way that offers a willingness to receive whatever the other person has to offer. I am thankful for this opportunity to connect with my kids and for us to grow in our understanding that often it is the simple things in life that we are most grateful for.

Sometimes my girls give me the same answer for all 3 questions, and I am fine with this as I recognize that maybe being tired overcomes the desire to engage in conversation. I trust that they are offering what they can in the moment and that on a different day I may hear much more when they are ready to share. It is also possible that one event was the highlight of their day and the one thing that does answer all 3 of the questions. When I realize this, I am excited that they were able to engage in an activity that was filled with joy.

The time just before we fall asleep is one of my favorite moments of the day. I know that this can be a magical time when both girls are willing to open up with me and express what they are thinking or how they are feeling, which they might not do during any other time of the day. Every once and awhile, I have tried to get them to answer the questions over dinner only to be confronted with the comment that the day is not yet complete so I will just have to wait until later in the evening.

Over the years, I have grown to realize that this simple time with my kids is one of the best ways to engage in peaceful parenting as it reminds us what we are thankful for and encourages a dialogue that may not have taken place. I am amazed at all the events that they encounter in a day without me. I trust that they are navigating each experience with grace even when it is not so easy. I know that they will talk to me when needed.

As we move into a season where many families are expressing gratitude, I am reminded of how lovely it is for me and my kids to share our thanksgivings on a nightly basis. 

Being present for another

dandelionEditor’s note: This post was originally published on Oct. 26, 2008, and it continues to inspire parents to give presence to their children.

I find the whole concept of “being present” for another person so relevant to our world. How many of us have not really been given sufficient presence by our parents while we were growing up or even by other influential adults that helped to shape our lives?

There really is so much to be said for looking another person in the eye and just listening to what they are saying no matter what their age.I hear you,” “I hold this safe space for you,” and “You matter” are the subliminal messages of this action, and it feeds a person’s soul on a deep level.

When we do this with our children, we are teaching them that they are important and deserve to be heard. They then can learn from a very early age that the most important people in their life — their parents, who hold so much power in influencing their self esteem — really do care about how they feel about things and what they have to say. We just have to hold the space for them to do that.

Since my son is a preschooler, this skill is becoming ever increasingly more valuable to our family. He wants to talk to us more often now about many different thoughts he has, and both my husband and I try to always look him in the eye and either hold him or sit next to him or play toys with him while he is speaking, or if he was off in another room, making sure to enter into that same room with him.

Giving him direct attention while he is speaking about something really makes him feel so validated, and it boosts his confidence in himself. I try to recap what he has said each time to let him know that Mommy understood his thoughts and ideas. He then usually goes on into greater detail on the topic, because he knows that I listened to him and he feels so happy about it and wants to share more with me.

We have started teaching him about how when another person is talking, we all need to pay attention to that person just like we paid attention to him when he was speaking. It seems to be getting through to him as I’ve seen him give this kind of presence and respect to both of us and even to some friends lately.

To me, this is one of the most important life skills a person needs to develop to live in harmony with the world around them.  Not only do our children need to be given presence, but we all must give presence and respect to each other and be the example of this for the younger generations to emulate.

Editor’s note: Melissa formerly wrote about sustainability, green living, alternative health, nutrition, parenting and life in general at Nature Deva.net

The Gift Is You

This post was written by TheAttachedFamily.com contributor Stacy Jagger, MMFT, owner of Sunnybrook Counseling, www.sunnybrookcounseling.com.

Many parents I see in my counseling office are spending thousands of dollars on a variety of technological devices for their children each year–gaming systems, digital cameras, cell phones, etc.–while the children, who are displaying maladaptive behaviors and internal turmoil, are truly missing the parents themselves. Kidnapped by technology and the busyness of life, these parents and children often do not even realize what is happening to them until an outside source brings the truth to their attention.

1092533_41672492The best gift you can give your child is yourself. Living in a split-attention society, many children have rarely experienced the full, uninterrupted attention of a parent. We are so wrapped up in culture, jobs and keeping up with the Joneses that we have forgotten that the true meaning of life is connection. What we all want and need is true connection: connection with life, nature, our neighbors, our loved ones and ourselves. If you want best gift shop contact to Shield Republic Co-founder.

Whether married or co-parenting, single parenting or fostering, mothers and fathers have the choice to model healthy, forgiving, mutually respectful relationships full of unconditional positive regard to enhance their family life. This creates an atmosphere where the children feel safe to receive the attention and care they need. True lasting security and positive relational skills are given parent to child, not Xbox to child.

Give your child the gifts of security and well-being that come from your time and undivided attention. Turn off the phone, television and computer. Go for a walk. Play with Play-Doh. Cook a meal. Play a round of Crazy Eights. Camp in the backyard. Have 5 minutes of special playtime where you paint fingernails, throw a football or teach a hand-clap game like “Say Say, Little Playmate.” Laugh. Play in the leaves. Smartphones can also make excellent holiday gifts, but purchasing one for someone other than yourself is more complicated than shopping for other gadgets. Unlike a tablet or a new camera, a smartphone requires a service plan to use any voice or data features — otherwise you wind up with a very expensive paperweight. In some cases, you won’t even be able to leave the store or complete your online order until you get that angle set up. And beyond just being an additional expense, that service may require a long-term commitment. There’s no reason to stress, though because there are many online mobile store here to help you.

Get in touch with the child within you. Let it be OK–because it is OK. You are connecting with the child Love placed in your care, and there is no richness greater than that. You are their leader. They are following you, watching you, learning from you. It is worth the time, the frustrations, the joys and the sorrows. Feel the fullness of your feelings and, at the end of the day, fall in your bed exhausted with a heart full of gratitude for the richness of life, as you live in the blend of the beautiful and the challenging.

Children are truly a treasure and the greatest gift you can give them is you.

Click here to read API’s white paper on giving children presence.

 

Courageous and Creative

We end our 2013 AP Month blog event with this post from Zen Honeycutt, founder of Moms Across America.

Today I invented the possibility with my accountability partners (yes, I have two … it takes two to keep me in line) of being Courageous and Creative. That is my theme for this year.

No more business as usual.

That means some things are changing. I am completing things that aren’t working. I am giving up things I once loved to create a new future. I am purging my home of the unnecessary and unused. I am catching myself when I speak the usual broken record words or sound like my parents in their frustrated moments. Not always, but an astonishing amount of miracles are emerging where I would least expect them.

Simple miracles in simple moments that become the most meaningful.

Today after school, I picked up my eldest son at the second pick-up for the day, the sixth errand perhaps, and because I told my accountability partner that I would, and because I knew I could, I asked my children what they wanted to do.

“What would we do if we were being courageous and creative?”

Now, normally my son would get in the car, the kids might bicker a bit, talking over each other, vying for attention suddenly, and we would go home, spread out to our corners … Ben on homework near me on the computer and Bodee playing with a toy, his back to Bronson to protect his momentary obsession. We would have a snack together, maybe read a few books, but the day would continue predictably for the rest of the evening, including much whining as I cooked dinner, and terse reminders that the dinner table is not a trough and we are not pigs.

But this time, today was different. I am committed to being and causing Courage and Creativity!

We declare Hike Time! And then Ben suggests afterwards we go home and write about it. “That would be creative!” he says cleverly.

Boys in tree with Glee Gum

We hike through a new area by a secret marsh in Irvine. Being courageous, it’s a new area and we don’t have a map. As soon as Bodee even sniffs a whiff of boredom, I suddenly stop in my tracks and point, “BIGFOOT! TRACKS!” The boys are on high alert, and we urgently inspect the huge tracks of what seems to have been a very large-footed walker. Then … “SNAKE!!! The longest snake in the WOOOORLD!” I shout … at a long striped water hose.

“Oh Mommy, you’re funny, that’s not a snake.”

I am inspired by being considered funny. “Are you suuuuure?” I say slyly, and they realize they are not sure and boldly approach anyway.

We courageously go off the path and walk through winding trails. The boys pee in the bushes with glee and we christen it the “Pee Bush,” walking past it with our noses pinched. The afternoon is a delightful adventure of nature, trees, rocks, mud, birds, lizards, flowers, marsh ponds and singing boys filled with freedom.

We go home, and their drawings and writing about the adventure are as if we had gone to Disneyland.

Bodee also created an apology letter to a boy he insulted in school. It took great courage for him to acknowledge that he did that, and he very creatively wrote, “There were two boys who were MAD and then became friends.” Instead of, “There, ARE YOU HAPPY?” like he wanted to. It took courage for me not to get angry with him and to create understanding and the freedom to express himself … even if it did take three attempts at an apology.

We ate a delicious dinner and made a video for Daddy, who was working late. Bodee and the boys sang a song about how much they love Daddy. Priceless.

We even did a Venus Fly Trap science project afterwards–even though I really wanted to check out and write–because my children wanted to create something WITH ME. And it matters that it’s me that does it with them.

I am inspired by our creation. Inspired by the joy and glee in my children. When I bought them a pack of gum on one of the errands, they sang songs for ten minutes about Happy Glee Gum. When we found a new path, they shouted at the top of their lungs with bravado.What if we created like that? Expressed joy like that?

When my boys saw a tiny path, they took it, regardless of knowing where it might go. What if we were courageous in everyday actions … what new things, what miracles, might show up?

Courageous Boys

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