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Giving Back

By Brian "Fox" Ellis

Anyone who works with children knows they demand a lot of your time and attention. They will gladly take all of the love and affection you can give to them and still want more. I have been a classroom teacher, summer camp counselor, and baby-sitter, but this is the first time I have undertaken the responsibility of parenting.
 
A tough two weeks
 
When our twin daughters, Laurel and Lillian, were 19 months old, our day care provider took her children on vacations, so while my wife was at work, I took care of the kids.
 
At this development stage they were becoming aware of ego identity and possessiveness. To state it bluntly: they had a real hard time sharing. Several times a day I had to physically separate them, take the toy they were fighting over, show them its mate and give them each one since we, thankfully, had two of most everything.
 
Even when things were going well, which was most of the time, it was exhausting keeping up with them and making sure their basic needs were met. Incredible amounts of psychic energy are required to read their feelings and anticipate their desires. But anyone who works with children knows that this kind of nurturing and care is repaid 100 times with just one warm smile.
 
My wife and I have the habit of putting our hands on the girls' cheeks when we rock them to sleep or whenever they cry. It is a wonderfully soothing and comforting gesture. I know, because at one point I was lying down with my daughter Laurel, trying to get her to take a nap, and she put her hand on my cheek and looked into my eyes with a rosy smile. Even at that young age, she understood that life is so much richer when we make an effort to take care of those around us.
 
I must admit that I loved it when Lily brought me a book to read, climbed into my lap, and "read" me the book. Of course she didn't know how to read at that age. But she turned the pages and made singsong sounds while pointing at the pictures. More importantly, she learned that a lap is a warm and secure place where a special kind of bonding takes place.
 
Communing with nature
 
The high point of the week came after a long trek around the fields and forest edges of our rural home. We had covered more than a mile in search of the plumpest blackberries. They rode in the stroller while I pushed them up and down the roads, stopping whenever they cried, "More, more, more!" "Blackberries!" I had the large plastic cup, and they both had empty yogurt cups that I refilled several times. I admit that some of the plumper ones never made it to their cups, but far and away they ate the black bear's share of berries.
 
Laurel was getting a little fussy as we were heading home. Lily ate her berries slower, savoring each one, while Laurel gobbled hers down. Laurel wanted Lily's cup. I picked a few more berries for Laurel, but she was not satisfied. She threw her cup down. She threw a fit! She screamed, cried, and fussed, refusing to be consoled. I ran home, zigging and zagging, singing and dancing, trying to entertain them, trying to calm Laurel.
 
Something new to savor
 
When we arrived home, I put Laurel in the house with the yogurt cups. I stepped out to get Lily from the stroller. When I stepped back into the house with Lily, I saw that Laurel had discovered the last berry. This was an especially large berry that I was saving for myself. She was smiling. I sighed, resigned to giving up the berry if it made her happy. As I bent over to pick her up she reached up and put the berry into my mouth, giggling . . . and I knew then that all of the love and affection I could ever give to them was given back a hundred-fold in that one moment.