by Kris Quinn Christopherson
My house smelled of bleach. My hands were very dry from washing them so much. Disinfecting wipes were my new best friends. My household had recently battled illness.
I cannot tell you how many times I asked my precious dumplings (ok, maybe shrieked in exasperation at times). to PLEASE stop putting their fingers in their mouths, PLEASE stop touching everything in the store and to PLEASE cough into the crook of their elbows. But, yes, two of the three dumplings had been sick. Even when you do everything right, kids getting sick is hard to avoid.
In the midst of one illness-filled day, while watching some show on a kid-friendly channel, one of the fashionably dressed teens said something about having a good heart. My youngest picked up on the statement and said to me that she had a heart. I nodded in agreement.
"You take care of my heart, don't you mommy?!" She proudly responded.
I paused for a moment while the power of that statement sunk in. “Yes, I take care of your heart."
I had been feverishly cleaning the door handles, frequently administering Tylenol and washing sheets and towels every other day. It took my 4-year-old daughter to remind me that I am responsible for my children's hearts as well. Yes, striving to keep them free from the various viruses and infections is important, but raising them to have a good heart and to be kind to others is essential.
I will continue my disinfecting routines when needed, but I will not let the good heart routines slide. I will try to set a good example. I will be respectful to store clerks even when I am tired and have said no to the many candy bar requests. I will really listen to my children when they have a story to tell me even when I am trying to go to the bathroom and they open the door without knocking. I will expect my children to practice nice manners even when they are cranky and really do not want to eat their green beans. I will sincerely care about my family and friends, and will do what I can to be a good friend, even when I think my to-do list is very full with too many things I have to take care of.
I will give thanks for my children, give thanks that I have been blessed to have their hearts and bodies to take care of, to nurture, and to love. Certainly, I cannot do it alone, and so I will pray for help, for guidance, and I pray for the grace of God to help me take care of my children's hearts. And, then I will go and wash my hands again.
Kris Quinn Christopherson is a wife, mother, children's literature lover and reviewer, writer, and proudly known as “Kris the Reader” through weekly story times in her community. Her essays have appeared on iParenting.com and cribsheet, an online column from the Minneapolis Star Tribune.