Advocacy of the heart (or insert title that sounds less like an ’80s song)

If you’re a parent, you advocate for your children. It’s just what you do. Sometimes, it’s easy: a matter of talking with friendly coaches, chatting with parents, or providing kids with the opportunity to try something new. Other times, it’s harder. Last week, Calvin was tested and placed in two math courses above his grade level. We knew he needed it, and so we poured a lot of energy into this process during the chaotic first week of school. Frankly, it was stressful and draining (our public school system really does want to find solutions for our children, but boy do you have to work at it). We felt strongly that it was worth the effort to get him placed in the ideal academic environment.

The same day we got him placed, two small things happened, unrelated to all the testing and school district back-and-forth: I received a compliment about Nate from one of his 8th grade teachers who observed him inviting a new student to sit with him at lunch, and Calvin came home with a completed back-to-school questionnaire which asked him for his happiest moment. “My happiest moment of my life,” he wrote, “was playing with my one-year-old cousin. When she laughed, it made me laugh.”

I didn’t post about Calvin’s math placement on Facebook, but I did post this, because it was a powerful priority check for me. I spend a great deal of effort encouraging my children’s academic success and nurturing their minds, and nearly as much providing them with athletic training to hone their physical skills and their bodies, but I’d neglected something big. My children have huge hearts, each of them, and I’m doing far less to nurture them.

I’m going to change that. I’m going to start advocating for my kids’ opportunity to serve, help, and contribute.

I have ideas how, including better communicating to the kids what their dad and I already do in our community, and encouraging them to help, but I welcome yours too. In what ways do you help your children’s empathy and compassion to grow? Volunteerism? Financial sacrifice? Simply prompting those follow up questions of ‘How are you,’ to include ‘What can I do to help’? I need concrete ideas I can work into our calendar, because wishful thinking never makes the to-do list around here.

6 thoughts on “Advocacy of the heart (or insert title that sounds less like an ’80s song)

  1. My guess, based on those two stories, is that you are cultivating their big hearts more than you realize.
    Each of my children keep a “fund” into which they put part of their allowance. They periodically choose a charity to donate to and we match their donation. Sometimes it’s something we find online and sometimes it is a local cause.
    I find that it is easier as they get older, into middle and high school, to find appropriate volunteer opportunities, often through the school and school-related organizations. Our high school has a page on their website specifically for available volunteer opportunities for students!

  2. I love this, Amy. Your boys are such gorgeous individuals, each in their own right. You and Charlie should feel rightly proud of them already!

    I think kids learn good habits by seeing their parents set the example. We try to do that with our boys by involving them in some of the volunteering activities we do, by encouraging them to write letters to our sponsored child, or by simply doing something nice for someone without being asked. It’s all about teaching them to think about someone other than themselves for a moment. The more they do it, the more it will become just part of their everyday life.

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