I’m proud of my boys for lots of reasons.
But nothing makes my heart swell more than when I see them show empathy.
The other night I was prepping my coffee maker for a 4:45 am wake-up, heart already racing as I anticipated coaching my running group, then taking my personal training exam. Suddenly I heard footsteps racing down the hall, then down the stairs. I had already put Camden back in his bed twice, so to find him standing there beside me as I measured a scoop of grounds into the my pot’s filter caused a low groan to escape my lips. “Can I sleep in your bed?” he asked.
Jonah, who was downstairs packing his bag for the next day immediately spoke up. “Camden, you can sleep in my bed.” Which was met with, “Noooooo, I want to sleep with Mommy.” Naturally. What Jonah followed up with was what made me feel like I am doing my job with my oldest. “Come on, Camden. It will be fun. We can make a fort with pillows and tuck your animals in bed with us.” To which, after a bit of reluctance, Camden happily skipped off with Jonah. After kissing them goodnight, I slept a full night in my bed, without being disturbed once. In my house, that’s quite a good night’s rest.
The dictionary defines empathy as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Jonah recognized my feelings of anxiety about the next day and did what he could to help me. The empathy he showed me made me more proud of him than any homerun or perfect test score. And I believe we need to recognize empathy a little bit more than we do. Sure, I make sure to praise the A’s, the goals, the wins, and the good efforts. But showing empathy is something that, although a little more subtle, and a little more difficult to recognize, is to be praised.
Empathy is something to encourage our kids to practice. Because being empathetic will make them better students, better friends, and better teammates. And, one day, when they’re all grown up, this practicing will pay off as they are better employees, better spouses, and better leaders. Goodness knows, we need some leaders with the gift of empathy.
Teachers, counselors, and advice columnists urge us to be more creative with our questioning when our kids get home after a long day at school. Instead of asking, “How was your day?” why don’t we try “Who did you help today?”
I am thankful my biggest boy could answer, my Mom.