They Are Listening – Planting the Seeds of Empathy in Kids

AUTHOR: | POSTED: May 19, 2011 | COMMENTS: 2 Comments

Carolyn Savage

     It’s spring here in northwest Ohio.  That means it’s likely raining, the grass is growing at a rate you can practically see, and nature’s babies are entering the world.  We live in a bit of a rural setting, which has its perks.  Right now I can hear the birds singing through the closed and locked windows, and at night time the expanse of the starry sky can be seen, unspoiled by the lights of the city (but, admittedly, sometimes spoiled by the bright lights of our community baseball stadium).  Living in the “country” occasionally has its drawbacks, too.  I’ve had a few close encounters with nature that I could have done without.  Two of them were with inquisitive garden snakes (I hate snakes), one was with a misplaced skunk (who eventually moved into our neighbor’s yard, waking them every morning with his “ode-de-barnyard” trademark talent), and the worst was with a baby bunny, who made its way into a bowl of brownie batter compliments of our housecat, Reese (that’s a good story that I’ll save for another day). 

     Regardless of how much havoc the nature around our house can cause, I have always tried to teach our kids to respect the lives of the animals around us.  I admit, that I am one to rescue waterlogged bees from our pool, aid misplaced toads that fall into our window wells, and I can’t t tell you how many baby birds we have gently returned to their nests after a storm.  I think sometimes my bleeding-heart-animal-antics annoy my boys.  For instance, the day I stopped traffic to help a box turtle cross the road by pushing him to safety with an umbrella, I returned to my car to find the boys slumped so low in their seats that they were practically strangling themselves with their seatbelts. 

Me What on Earth are you doing?

Them – Hiding!


Them – Because you just stopped traffic to save a turtle!  Sorry to say mom, you looked like you were trying to attack it with an umbrella.  What if one of our friends saw you?  Totally embarrassing.

When I explained to them that it was our job to care for those that can’t…including animals….I know I saw eye rolling in the rear view mirror and I wondered if anything I said was making an impression. 

     Fast forward to the other day, when I was returning home after being gone for the afternoon.  The rain (which has been relentless in our parts) had stopped and Drew and Ryan had taken advantage of the weather reprieve by mowing our lawn.  It looked great, except for two unruly patches of grass that were left undisturbed in the front yard.   They were rather large and stuck out making it look like the person mowing the lawn had started drinking at the top of the yard, and had clearly over-served himself as he approached the bottom.  I parked in the drive way, and admit, I was a little pissed! I suspected that, once again, Drew or Ryan had exceeded the speed limit on the riding tractor in an attempt to get the lawn done in record time.  Boy was I glad that something stopped me before I flung the front door open and laid into them, and instead walked out into the yard to look at the patches because when I did…a feeling of satisfaction washed over me.  You see, it turns out that the boys realized that these were bunny nests, and instead of choosing to mow right over them, the mowed around them, protecting the babies. 

Well, I’ll be damned.  They ARE listening!” 

                It was a little sign to me that even when our kids are protesting, eye rolling and acting like they are oblivious to what we are trying to instill in them, they are watching—taking it all in and deciding how they are going to care for the others around them.  I want my boys to grow up to be empathetic to others and I remember reading that a great way to instill empathy in kids is through the care of animals.  That’s how we ended up with our cat.  I’m certainly not a perfect parent (there are signs of my imperfections all around our house)  and they aren’t perfect kids (trust me on this one), but the heroic saving of these bunny’s nests is a good sign.  They ARE listening…thank God.

Our bunny nest! 

2 Comments on “ They Are Listening – Planting the Seeds of Empathy in Kids ”

  • nicole fraser | May 19th, 2011 11:21 am

    Wonderful Carolyn. The boys truly are listening. I sat reading and ended up crying as i read about the eye rolling as you helped the turtle and the bunny patch, You and Sean are certainly teaching your children compassion and empathy in all that you do.
    Also congrats on the announcement of the upcoming birth of your two new daughters. Am so incredibly excited for all of you.

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  • Gretchen | May 23rd, 2011 4:55 pm

    Carolyn, I’m so glad that you blog! I haven’t struggled with infertility and I’m a “relatively new” mom to a 2 year old and a three month old (we haven’t hit the challenges of teenagers yet), but I find that I can relate to what you write in so many ways. Posts like this remind me to be the best mom that I can be, every day, because you never know what they may hold on to in years to come. Also, it’s just nice to know that there are still good people in the world who do nice things for others simply because it’s the right thing to do.

    Your baby girls are in my prayers…I’m so happy for you and your family that you’ll get to be on the receiving end this time around in thte delivery room! Best wishes to your family and to Jennifer.

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