Sunday, April 3, 2011

the heart of a giraffe

For quite some time, Brynn has been convinced that mommy is going to have a 'giraffe baby'.  She tells friends, family, random strangers at the store.  It's been a little ongoing joke with people I know, hence the adorable gift we recieved from a dear friend this week:

Baby giraffe's musical giraffe lovey
Of course the response to Brynn's creative imagination refer to the height of our family.  I'm not too concerned that Brynn's dreams will come true, as we've seen the ultrasound photos and unless they were playing a trick on us, we definitely saw a baby human.  But, it's still fun to laugh along with the joke, and enjoy the innocence of our little girl. 

Brynn's random decision that we're having a giraffe baby has sparked somewhat of an interest in the creature.  Aside from the obvious height advantage, and beautiful markings that lend themselves wonderfully to covering a Dooney and Burke bag (the pattern, not their acutal hides, of course), the giraffe boasts the largest heart of all land mammals.  They're also one of the few animals born with horns (uh-oh!).  I also found a fact that stated giraffes generally sleep between just 20 minutes and 2 hours a day (another uh-oh!). 

I could go on and on, but I'm not writing to teach giraffe facts.  I thought about that first fact, having the largest heart out of all land mammals.  It made me wonder if this baby will grow up having a generous and giving heart.  I would hope so, as that's a quality that I want our children to exhibit, all three of them.

Of course, we won't know that for a we watch the little munchkin grow and develop into his/her own person.  I know we'll work hard as parents to ensure that our children understand the importance of exhibiting compassion, empathy, kindness, generosity, etc, etc...  But, we're not the only influences on our kids' lives.  They will encounter people every day that may positively or negatively impact their lives.  It's our job to teach them how to surround themselves with the positive and avoid the negative. 

While searching around for infomation about the giraffe, I came across the website for a woman who offers presentations and workshops centered around the concept of 'compassionate communication'.  She 'uses the metaphor of the giraffe's heart to describe a feeling of connectedness to our authentic perceptions, feelings, needs, and desires' (from The Basic Giraffe).  I like the whole idea of that metaphor, and especially feel that by following her steps of communication; clarify what we are observing, what emotions we are feeling, what values we want to live by and what needs those values create, and what we requests we want to make of ourselves and others; that I can begin to foster a climate in our home where our children learn how to effectively communicate, all while incorportating and demonstrating the virtues we want them to exhibit in their daily lives.

I can't begin to count the number of times I've asked (to no one in particular), "where is this part in the parenting manual?".  I've searched for answers to questions for all kinds of parenting dilemmas; from the minor to the ones that leave me speechless and wandering how in the world I'm going to address that challenge.  Turns out (and I really knew this all along), one of the best ways to teach is to lead by example.  Model. Model. Model.  And no, I'm not talking about the catwalk. 

If I want my children to possess and demonstrate these virtues, I model them.  If I want them to communicate effectively, I model how to do so.  If I want them to surround themselves with others that help bring out the best in them, I seek out healthy friendships, relationships, acquaintances that will bring out the best in me, and remind me of what's really most important in life.  Sometimes, however, these healthy and positive role models aren't nessecarily people whom I have sought out, but rather have been 'brought' to me.

Take, for instance, the following interaction that occurred on Friday. 

I was walking back to my classroom after dropping my students off at P.E. when I noticed one of the substitutes standing near my classroom door.  I knew her well, as she subbed in the library often.  She always asked how I was, how the kids were doing, and how my pregnancy was going.  Earlier this year, she pulled me aside and told me she thought I was an outstanding teacher and she just wanted to let me know.  It was a complete surprise, especially because I generally felt like a military leader when I had my class in the library; reminding my class to keep their voices down, make wise choices with books, and stand quietly in line while waiting on their classmates.  It was one of those compliments that came out of nowhere in my eyes, but apparently she had observed me 'in action' and felt that I was doing a good job in keeping my students on the right track.  I greatly appreciated it (and still do). 

Back in the hallway, I approached the sub and asked her if she needed one of the teachers.  She replied that she was actually waiting for me and continued to tell me that in her free time, she enjoyed painting watercolor pictures.  That's when I noticed she was holding a piece of artwork at her side.  She told me that she had painted something that she wanted me to have for the baby's nursery.  She turned the picture around and I almost immediately had tears in my eyes:

We will forever treasure this special gift for 'baby giraffe'
I was floored.  The picture of the giraffe was amazing.  A-maz-ing.  I was speechless for a moment (definitely something that doesn't happen often), before embracing her to show my appreciation.  I proceeded to tell her just how appropriate this picture was, considering Brynn's thoughts on her new brother/sister.  I wish I can honestly say I remember her response, but I was still in such shock over her thoughtful and generous gift, that I can't recall how she reacted to the story about my 'giraffe baby'.  I thanked her again and told her that this picture will most definitely be hanging up in our nursery, and be one of our most treasured gifts for the baby. 
I'm still in a small state of shock over this seemingly random but overwhelmingly thoughtful demonstration of generosity.  I can't help but smile as I look at the gorgeous picture, and am on the search for a frame that will compliment it well.  I don't want to wish time away, but I look forward to the day when I can tell this little 'baby giraffe' the story behind his/her giraffe picture that will hang in his/her bedroom so long as I have a say in the decor.

Talk about a 'teachable moment' for my children (and for me as well).  I know that her gesture came from a place of generosity, benevolence, and sincerity.  She did not present me with this gift with ulterior motives.  She simply painted it, and wanted me to have it.  She didn't want accolades, acknowledgement (and here I am blogging about it!), or payment.  She just wanted to give a gift.  Little did she know the true value of her gift is priceless to our family.  Of course, we will be sending her a handwritten thank you note, and probably several pictures of the baby (to prove he/she isn't a giraffe! :)  The kids will take part in the thank you note as well, because if I've learned anything about parenthood it's that these little 'sponges' who live under our roof will best benefit from having a mommy and daddy who lead by example.

1 comment :

  1. What a great story! And what a great piece of art. Your blog posts always either make me smile or think, and this one was extra special!