It’s hard to develop relationships with the little ones. As a big sister, there are times when I have little ones around me and they are—simply—getting in the way. Admit it—you probably have times like that, too. Then we’re expected to remember that we were once that age? Really, how hard does the job have to be?
When I was around seven years old, my then recently-married aunt and uncle came to spend a few days with us. At the time, my uncle’s family was living on our farm as well, and so when they came, our two families plus our visitors took a trip north to some sand dunes bordering several near-by lakes.
There were many fascinating things about the dunes, but one of the things I remember clearly was after we walked over the dunes to where they touched one of the lakes.
We played along the shore for a little while, but it was time to head back for lunch. My aunt and uncle took off before me, along with a few cousins. By the time I realized they were going and I was left behind, they were already quite a distance away. Dad and some of the other adults were still at the beach, but I wanted to spend as much time as possible with my aunt—who I had rarely seen, since she had been living with another aunt before her marriage.
I took off running after them, slipping and almost falling in the soft sand, calling for them to stop and wait for me. They didn’t seem to hear, and I got desperate. Eventually, I realized my floundering was useless, and I had to go back with my dad instead of spending the time with my aunt that I knew my cousins were enjoying.
It was traumatic, as a little girl, to realize I was being left behind . . . left out. I don’t think that it actually hurt me in the end, but it is something that I’ll always remember about that visit.
I understand that we can’t always incorporate the little guys into our lives. Sometimes, we have to tell them “Sorry, but I’m busy right now.” Even when they sweetly offer to make us an (imaginary) cup of chai. Whenever possible, though, I believe we should try to get them involved in what we’re doing.
Recently, I was reading a great book named Elsie Dinsmore. While I was enjoying the story, I noticed several fascinating things in the events depicted in the story—things that directly impact how we develop relationships with little children.
There were three things, in particular, that stuck out to me.
(But I’ll put in an extra two, because they’re also very important.)
- If you correct someone, never leave them in disgrace or questioning whether you still love them or not. Horace Dinsmore—Elsie’s father—is always correcting her. While she willingly complies to all his wishes that do not violate her conscience, he sometimes makes her wonder if, under all his sternness, he really loves her at all. Through his actions, he makes himself almost a tyrant in her life—even though she loves him dearly.
- Hear the other side of the story before you make any decisions. Several times, Mr. Dinsmore is very displeased with things Elsie has done—whether out of ignorance or other people just making it look like she’s done wrong, when she’s actually in the right. Several times, he makes harsh decisions and punishments without hearing the whole story.
- Make your decisions based on what the Bible says, not on your wants. Dinsmore is not a Christian, so many of his decisions are made without the wisdom of the Bible. If he had allowed Biblical standards to rule in his life, his relationship with Elsie would have been much better—and happier—for both of them.
- Don’t leave them out. Sometimes, you have to stay behind and help them, even though it means you might miss out on something. It’s a hard decision, but almost always—in the end—it is the best. It’s better to look back and say “I did miss that, but look at the relationship building I had there!” than to say, “I wish . . . .”
- Play along. For most of us as children, imagination was a huge part of our daily life. We made up our own friends, imagined our own families, lived our own imaginary lives. And when the “grown-ups” joined in, it only increased the fun. Don’t hinder the games they try to play with you—whether they’re “cooking” you a meal, “chasing” your cows into the field, or “hunting” for you, try to play along and encourage them—they’ll find it a lot more fun, and you’ll enjoy it, too!
Taking time for the little ones is often hard to do. It takes much patience and understanding, but eventually it is attainable. Look back to your childhood, and see how much it meant to you for an adult to leave the adult world and be a bit of a child again. There were special memories made, weren’t there? Take that experience and apply it to the little ones around you today—they’ll love you for it, and you will get beautiful memories in return.
Even if all they want to do is make you a cup of chai out of dead poplar leaves, let them. They’ll love you for your participation.
Question: What is one way you took time to develop relationships with the children in your life today? If you haven’t yet, what are some ways you could?