With her dry and itchy skin, Brenna loves to have her back scratched (don’t we all?) I’ll scratch other areas for her when they get dry, too – her cheek or her arm or her foot – and she always sits still and quiet because of how good it feels to her dry skin.
One day, I was sitting on the floor as we played and I pulled my pant leg up to my knees to scratch a spot on my leg that itched. Brenna noticed immediately and hurried over…and, with her little swollen fingers, began scratching my leg for me.
“Does that feel nice?” she asked me, and I smiled: “Yes it does, thank you.”
As Brenna has grown up, we’ve been very conscious about helping her learn self-awareness, which will eventually morph into self-care and self-sufficiency.
At three years old, she will tell us when she is tired and wants to sleep. She will tell us she wants to take a bath. She will most definitely tell us when she is hungry or thirsty.
Brenna is able to describe if something hurts and where, fairly specifically – elbow instead of arm or thumb instead of finger (thanks to her long daily bath, where we sometimes talk about different body parts as we wash.) If her skin hurts or gets cut, she will ask for medicine. And she is even becoming reliable at deciding if she is too hot or too cold.
In an effort to encourage this self-awareness and self-sufficiency, we often ask Brenna how she is feeling. Not only physically (though that is the majority of our questions at this point) but also emotionally.
And what I have been seeing in the last couple of months is a noticeable development of empathy in my daughter. Perhaps a direct result from helping her learn to be aware of how she is feeling, she is now very concerned with how others are feeling.
On Monday, I hit my knee hard on the van floor, leading to a stream of “OW” under my breath…and then all my pain was forgotten when Brenna questioned what happened, and then asked: “Can I kiss it for you?”
If someone gets hurt, she leans in with a kiss or a suggestion of medicine. If my expression changes, she’ll notice and ask “what?” If she does something for someone else, she’ll ask “Does that feel nice?” She asks questions about others being hot, cold, hungry, hurt, itchy…just as we have those conversations daily in our house.
And, perhaps best of all, Brenna will always seem to notice if a child is crying, whining or upset…and even if that kid is across a crowded room, she will ask me “Is he sad?”
Over and over, I’m being surprised by what results from Brenna’s health care needs – with both of my kids. Where I have felt guilty that Brenna’s extra attention would cause resentment in Connor, or been worried about the anxiety that Brenna’s surgeries and doctors’ visit may cause, I then look up to see them both being molded into more caring, compassionate, and sensitive children who, more often than not, have more concern over others than themselves.
So when Brenna asks “does that feel good?” as she helps me tend to a scratch, I can assure her that yes, her help does feel good – in more ways than one.
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