It is true that many things change as you age; not only physical aspects, but views and opinions, as well. One of the nice things is whatever your views or opinions are, they are often accepted rather than tackled as something to debate about.
I witnessed an experience through a child’s eyes this past week. I know it is a common occurrence in daily life, but this time I viewed it from a completely different angle. I suppose it was the expression on her little face and even the confusion in her eyes, although brief. Her age is that of beginning to understand the feelings of embarrassment while trying to develop her own personality. I think, as society, we far too often discard how truly fragile the whole core of development is for a child. Speaking from my memories, there are many that occurred in my younger years that had both positive and negative impacts on my persona.
Regarding this particular occurrence, we were standing in line at a Subway restaurant waiting our turn to order the favored sandwiches. This little child was so excited, as this is her favorite restaurant and she is learning to choose and make her requests known to the sandwich artist. She also selects her chips and drink and, of course, a cookie. After she had made her requests known, she asked politely if she could get some straws for her 2 chocolate milks. She was given permission. This was such a big deal for her, as she was expanding her responsibilities and gaining confidence in her choices.
There were several adults in the restaurant standing in line that had begun to watch this precious little child. Not only were her actions cute to observe, but also quite impressive for such a young one. On her way to retrieve straws for her drinks, she stopped and turned around to ask if it was alright to get some for her Papaw, Gram, and Mommy, too. Again, she was granted permission. Only the top of her little head could be seen as she collected the straws. As she rounded the counter and returned to join us, two women behind me burst into laughter. It startled the child and she stopped walking. There she stood with a handful of straws; her sincere offering of care for those she loved. The look on her face was one that would tug at the coldest of heartstrings. She was being laughed at and she recognized that.
I am quite sure the women meant no harm and their expression was one to applaud how cute was this little girl holding what looked like 20 straws for her family. However, this child did not understand their reactions in the same way it was expressed. To her, she had done something unacceptable and there were a multitude of eyes drawn to her blunder. Thankfully, the confusion was recognized and the child was offered a gentle redirection to offset the embarrassment she was experiencing. An expression of thanks was given for her kindness and consideration of her family. A suggestion was made to count how many straws would be needed and the rest could be used by those that were standing in line; therefore, the child had been thoughtful of not only her family members, but those that were waiting their turn in the restaurant. A smile returned to that little face and confidence, once again, exuded.
The way the scene unfolded caused me to have a different view than I might have had in the past. Although the expressions of laughter by the adults were not intended to harm or hurt, that is exactly what occurred. Children are precious and have so many cute actions and reactions, it is difficult to not express joy to such. However, a child will often have a completely different view and as adults, we must be diligent and aware of the effects of our expressions. This child was trying extremely hard to be strong by making her own choices and voicing her own opinions. I remember when I was young it being a bit scary to independently embrace the simplest of tasks. There is something uplifting and terrifying, at the same time, in those situations.
It all turned out alright and the momentary feelings of embarrassment and confusion expressed were diverted. However, it made me be very conscious of the actions many adults project. We must be careful that our laughter directed at a child is not perceived as a tool to discourage or make fun of. The world is an increasingly difficult environment of societal demands and bullying is at the forefront in schools and the workplace, alike. So many times we do not recognize or acknowledge the extent of our actions, regardless if intended or not, until the effects directly apply to us or our own children. Just as this child was being taught responsibility and offered encouragement to build confidence, it is just as important the lesson is taught to never laugh at another person. Laughter is to be used to uplift, not to cause humiliation. Even little ones feel hurt when being a subject of such disheartening attention.
With further thought, the elderly, disabled, and abused are also subject to adverse remarks and actions. Again, it is not necessarily intentional, but if thought is considered prior, it can be a great deterrent of unnecessary hurt. The next time a situation arises that might warrant a chuckle, it is imperative that it is not displayed at the expense of someone else.
I’ll see you on the flip side……..