A new baby fills our lives with a special joy, a special hope. A baby is a living soul, formed through the union of a spirit created by God with the physical elements of your body. William Wordsworth put it beautifully:
Many adults have looked at a child blissfully enjoying playtime, and have, for a moment, wished they were children again. They look so peaceful, so happy, with hardly a care in the world. Children laugh easily, they enjoy what they do, and they get excited about the simplest things. They generally have minor, temporary worries that rarely last more than a few minutes or an hour. They likely spend so much more time than you do just being happy and engaged.
I’m sure parents the world over share my dread of wrestling with children’s homework and preparing for tests. Calming my teenagers’ anxiety before a test or trying to get them to eat breakfast before a benchmark exam are parenting moments I’ll be more than happy to be done with.
My daughter Kristen is a celebrity. Has been since birth. My wife and I follow her every move and document her moods, faces, and actions. We talk about her a lot and share stories about her funny habits or latest tastes. We give her our support and care, and do our best to protect her from harm. She has all our attention, even in the middle of the night, and we get up eager to see what she’ll do in the new day. Her laugh always makes us smile, and her tears spur us to remedy situations. To us, she’s the best.
For years I monitored children during recess and playground activities. Between all the running, jumping, rowdiness, and good-natured play, someone would often end up getting run into, tripped, shoved, etc.
Often the child who had caused the accidents would immediately raise his or her hands and say, “It’s not my fault” or “I didn’t do it on purpose!” But of course, establishing guilt wasn’t the immediate priority. The most important issue is the welfare of the “injured” one.
At the heart of Christmas is the Child of Bethlehem, who was born into this often cold, hostile world to warm us with His heavenly Father’s love. It was a child who began the first Christmas celebration, and it is children who keep it alive in their own special ways.
Children are natural learners. As long as their basic needs are met, their thirst for new information and experiences is boundless. If they’re happy and have interesting things to do and safe places in which to do them, that’s even better.
On the way home after an evening outing with some friends, I asked my youngest if he had a good time.
“Sort of,” he answered. “But the kids on the playground were teasing me.”
“About what?” I asked. He sometimes reacts strongly to comments, so I assumed it wasn’t a big deal.
Believe it or not, young children like to help out. It’s true! Children actually enjoy and take pride in being helpful until they are “taught” otherwise. It’s only when they hear their parents or older siblings grumbling about “having to do” this or that around the house that helping out becomes a chore.
It was 1996, and our family had just moved from the safety of Italy to a somewhat still troubled and unstable post-war Croatia, settling in a large apartment on the outskirts of Rijeka.
Our neighbors—a mix of refugees, widows, and elderly relatives caring for children whose parents had died or left to find work—had all gone through traumatic experiences as a result of the tragic conflicts that had only recently ended.