We love our children deeply. They love to run, scream, and play. They sometimes remind us of wild animals. But they are sweet children acting like just that: kids.
When I encounter other people's children in public settings, I am often tempted to be annoyed. They're loud. They're tearing things off shelves. They're sticky.
Yesterday and today, I had two opportunities to extend kindness toward children while at work. Two separate occasions wherein different children approached me to ask questions. Both times, I answered. Without annoyance in my tone or face.
Yesterday, I was leaving work when a little boy approached me, much to his mother's and brother's chagrin. He asked what I had bought. I answered. The mother and brother pulled him away, acting like he was problematic. I assured them it was fine. Based on how they reacted to the interaction, I presume the child had autism, or some other social difficulty that embarrassed them. Though they couldn't see my smile, I hope they saw the genuineness of my interactions with them.
Today, a child and his mother walked past where I was talking with a co-worker. The little boy asked where a certain toy was. I clarified to be sure I understood him, and the mother interjected that he knew where the toy was as they'd just been there. I asserted he was trying to get mom to buy more, and mom said he was just trying to talk up the girls. We chuckled, and moved on. Again, my voice indicated I was invested in the interaction, not annoyed by it.
I didn't change these children's lives by showing them I cared. I didn't change the mothers' lives by accepting their children's inquiries. I may have made children who otherwise feel unseen, feel valued. Even if I didn't affect their days at all, they affected mine.
If we can treat even the youngest, most potentially annoying people with dignity, we can become more human ourselves. In my daily work of shopping for others at the store, teaching my children, and other children, I see many cross-sections of humanity. My time with my children, my niece and nephews, and other kids I teach is the most fulfilling time. Learning from them about how to treat others regardless of their social, physical, or mental statuses is refreshing.
These little ones are great teachers if we just take a minute to listen to their curiosity about life.