I heard something at dinner last night that caught my attention. I had walked over to a restaurant here in my neighborhood. It was still a little early so the only other people in the dining room were a grandfather and his three or four year old granddaughter. If you know three and four year old children, they talk all the time. There was never a moment when the little girl wasn't talking to someone...her grandfather, the daughter of the owner, no one in particular. The owner's daughter sat in a booth behind the little girl and her grandfather, so the granddaughter was constantly turning around to talk to the other girl (sometimes she answered, sometimes she didn't) or just to watch what she was doing with the deck of cards she was playing with.
What caught my attention was when the little girl, the granddaughter, said to her grandfather, "I wish I was her." I've worked with a lot of preschool aged children over the years-thirty six years- and as I sat there listening, it occurred to me that I don't believe I have ever heard someone so young make a comment like this. I've heard kids say that they wished they had the same toy or the same game or book bag or countless other possessions, but I don't believe I've ever heard a three or four year old child wish they were someone else. "I wish I was her" is a comment an older youngster might make, or a teenager, or an adult, but certainly not one so young.
They pretend to be puppies or kitties, they pretend to be princesses or veterinarians, they pretend they are mommy or daddy or Dora, but I've never heard someone so young say they wish they were another child. As I thought about it, I wondered why she would make a comment like that. There are several options, I suppose:
- She's heard the adults around her make similar comments. Remember, children learn more from watching the adults in their lives than from all the words we use to "teach" them. It's very possible that this little girl has heard her mother or her grandmother or her father or maybe even her grandfather say this same thing. It's possible that an important adult in her life makes this comment and she is repeating what she has heard.
- Perhaps it's something she has learned from television. It is so common in our world today for parents to use the television as a babysitter. Children may be inundated from the time they wake up until they fall asleep (sometimes in front of the television) with all the not so wonderful images from the world of television. Watch MTV or VH1 or any of the 'reality' television shows and I would venture a guess that you would hear something like this comment.
- Maybe there is an older sibling that has voiced this feeling. Young children learn so much from their older brothers and sisters; more than we even realize, just by watching and listening.
What also surprised me was that the grandfather didn't question the little girl about what she'd said. I was amazed that this older man carried on a pretty consistent dialogue with the little girl, but when she made this comment, it was as if he hadn't heard her. I wondered at her comment for from my point of view, the little girl sat all alone in her booth with nothing but a deck of cards to play with. She didn't have food or drink, no one spoke to her the entire time I was there. What was it that made the granddaughter envy the little girl? I certainly saw nothing that would make me want to be her.
I think it was a good reminder for me that we can never be too careful with our children. This was obviously a loving relationship between this grandfather and his granddaughter. She enjoyed being with him and he was very attentive to her and her needs while they were there, but there was a red flag that went up for me when I heard this for this child is too young to have already learned from her world that she is not good enough. Middle school aged children, high school kids, these are the kids who, unfortunately, have already learned that there are others that have more things, nicer clothes, bigger houses--stuff. Preschoolers? What does it say that a preschooler has already learned that she'd rather be someone else?
This just disturbs me on so many levels. I doubt that I will ever see this little girl or her grandfather again. I don't know that I would even recognize them if I saw them. I don't know, maybe I would, because she made such an impression on me. The best I could do at the time was to say a prayer that someone would show this child just how lovable and valuable she is, just as she is. I will continue to remember her in my prayers.
Please remember the children in your life and let them know that they are wonderful, just as God created them. If we, the adults in their lives, don't tell them how much they are loved just because they are, how will they ever know? It's up to you! Show them. Tell them. Let them never doubt their worthiness!
Blessings to each of you and to the children in your life!