Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I've missed you, too.

There's a little boy in the centre where I work who makes no bones about letting me know he loves me. When I am off for a day, or out of the room all morning doing administrative work, or something else takes me away from the children for an extended amount of time, a few of the children run to wrap their little arms around my knees and have their heads tousled in a hasty, spontaneous toddler-hug upon my return. This little boy, however, is rarely one of the huggers (in fact, he is quite conservative in doling out physical affection of any kind, under any circumstances). Instead, he is usually the first to notice and announce my return: "Hey, Melissa's here!" Then, he makes eye contact with me, and very earnestly proclaims, "I miss you, Melissa!" to which I always reply with a smile, "I've missed you, too!"

Today marks the first day back to daycare after the Christmas holidays for a handful of children, most of whom either have school-aged older siblings or parents who are teachers, and therefore didn't come back last week with their friends. The boy I'm talking about was one of those for whom today was the first day back after two weeks. Today, when I arrived at work, rather than say anything at all, the boy leapt to his feet, abandoning his very interesting project in the block centre, and raced over to cling to my legs, starting the impromptu flood of hugs from his friends. "I've missed you, too!" I assured him, and he smiled and returned to his project.

I never cease to be inspired and amazed by the emotional honesty of very young children. They haven't yet learned the terrible lessons of life that lead us to fake our responses to one another. If they're angry, they scowl and clench their fists and stomp their feet. If they're afraid, they cry and seek comfort in the safety of loving adult arms. If they're excited, their little bodies cannot contain all of the energy that generates. But most of all, when they love you, you know it. Young children are generous with their love, and so very sincere about expressing it. They don't waste time waiting for the right moment, or looking for the right words to tell us. They are spontaneous, living in the moment, as for many of them the present is all that exists. They give us hugs and sloppy kisses. They follow us around, copying our every move. They bring us treasures. They tell us their joys and their fears. They may not always use the phrase "I love you," but the message is still there, plain as day. I think we all could learn something from them.

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