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Sunday, February 5, 2023
HomeFamilyParenting AdviceHomeschooling with Bubbie: A Lesson in Compassion - Good Parenting

Homeschooling with Bubbie: A Lesson in Compassion – Good Parenting

By Deborah Wood, Ph.D.

Let’s start with the tarantula.

Children have been known to attach to a wide variety of attachment objects – a teddy bear or a baby blanket would be typical examples. The object provides consistency through a child’s day especially if they have transitions from one caregiver to another. A child’s relationship with an attachment object might persist for years, providing tranquility at naptime and bedtime, assisting in recovery from a tantrum, or serving as a reassuring distraction from a vaccination. Or it could be a short-lived association with a tangible object that gets you through life’s ups and downs.

The above pictured rubber tarantula, named Steve, has recently come into the possession of our second grade homeschooling grandchild. It came from Momma’s work. Steve had been to my house once before, prompting our inquiry on the internet as to the level of toxicity of a tarantula’s venom. The answer is, not much. No more than a bee sting. The barbed hair of a tarantula’s abdomen, on the other hand, can badly irritate your skin, nasal passage, or eyes.

But back to Steve. Following along with our schedule for homeschooling that involves several possible transfer points, I picked up my students at Momma’s work, planning to take them to my house for the day. Side note, I had squeezed in an early morning swim knowing I could get back home to make my breakfast after getting the children. As the students climbed into my car, and Momma headed inside to start her work day, Steve’s absence was immediately noticed. The second grader was inconsolable.

The fifth grader and I discussed our options. It would take 30 minutes to get to my house – doubtlessly the crying would stop at some point – or we could backtrack to where Steve had been left behind, according to the second grader, in the child’s bedroom, and get to my house a bit before lunchtime.

Here’s how I came to a decision.

Reading Lesson

Just the day before, I was on my way into the parking lot at Momma’s work to pick up the students. There was a woman holding a handmade sign facing toward the cars that were leaving the busy parking lot. I assumed she was panhandling, felt bad for her for a moment and continued with the pickup.

As we waited at the traffic light to leave the parking lot, I heard the second grader sounding out the words on the sign. “Hungry,” she read. “And homeless.” Now we had a topic for conversation. Luckily for all of us the red light was long enough that when the second grader asked, “What do we have for snacks?” I soon realized she wasn’t asking for herself but for the woman with the sign.

“How about that bag of Bamba?” which I had placed on the back seat between the booster seats the previous evening. The second grader passed it up to me; I passed it out the window and we all got a warm smile and a “Thank you.”

“How did that feel?” I asked as we drove away, catching an opportunity to reinforce an important lesson.

“Nice,” was the answer from the back seat.

Decision Making

Sometimes we need to be reminded that something that is a minor inconvenience – giving up a replaceable bag of Bamba, for example – can make a happy moment for someone else, and feel pretty nice.

Facing the dilemma of whether or not to retrieve Steve, I reasoned that the flexibility of homeschooling allows for unplanned detours. Momma had given me a spare house key when we starting the homeschooling arrangements back in September. Driving a hybrid car makes me feel a little better about any extra driving. There was probably an opened bag of rice cakes somewhere in the car that would hold me over for another hour and a half. The fifth grader was in favor of whatever would get the crying to stop.

Sure enough, as soon as the second grader was convinced that we were on our way to get the beloved tarantula, the crying stopped. The extra time on the road gave us more time to enjoy the fall colors on the trees. The fifth grader volunteered to locate the treasure up in the bedroom, and gratifyingly returned it to the much relieved second grader.

I like this World Kindness Day quote attributed to Andrew Iskander: “That’s what kindness is. It’s not doing something for someone else because they can’t, but because you can.”

That’s a good lesson.

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood, Ph.D. is a child development specialist and founding director of Chesapeake Children’s Museum.

Read more of Dr. Wood’s Good Parenting columns by clicking here.

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