A Columbus arts educator, author and all-around inspiration shares her wisdom
February is that month featuring a holiday centered around love!
Valentine's Day is great for the economy. Cards, candy, jewelry, toys and parties fuel the celebrations. Symbols of love are everywhere. Shops even offer cards for pets.
February encourages humans to share feelings. I've always wondered what happens to love in the other 11 months of the year. Sadly, there are many people who hesitate to voice it. Some folks find it hard to say, “I love you,” anytime. I had a friend who never heard those words from his father. Imagine a lifetime of silent feelings.
That's why I hang out with young children. Despite daily calendar time in most early childhood programs, many of the students have no real concept of months. Every day, throughout the year, most youngsters tell you how they feel.
When young children love you, it is with their whole being. It is total. They forgive you. They tune into you. They are never tired of being with you. When you are gone for a while, they miss you terribly.
Contrast that situation with my high school teacher friend who took a sabbatical. When he returned after a one-year absence, the students hardly blinked. The most he got from the cool high schoolers was, “Hi.”
When one of my kindergarten buddies arrived at school to find his teacher absent, he was so distressed that he threw up and cried so bitterly his mom had to take him home. I'm still looking for the Valentine's card that conveys that kind of love.
Another of my colleagues, a first-grade teacher, had to stop at the dentist on her way to work. Arriving an hour late, she was greeted with hugs, questions and welcomes. The kids all tried to tell her something at once. She told them, “I can't listen to everyone talking. How about you just write me a note about what you want to tell me.”
She passed out paper and watched the children excitedly writing. One first-grader came to the desk and whispered, “I don't know how to spell your name.”
She told the child, “It's right outside on the wall next to the room.”
The child went out to find it. When the teacher collected the papers, she found a special note. “I love you fire exit!”
Four-year-old Avi didn't really know his months. He only knew it was summertime and the flowers his mom planted were in beautiful bloom. When she glanced out the kitchen window to the garden, she could not believe the sight of Avi picking every blooming flower. His arms overflowing, he came to the door and poured them into her arms.
She said, “You didn't need to pick all the flowers. You could just give me one flower.”
He explained, “Mommy, I love you too much for one flower! I love you enough for all the flowers.”
One of my favorite books is a little hardcover picture volume, I Love You, Sun I Love You, Moon by Karen Pandell and Tomie dePaola. Every page shows a child loving the sun, moon, flowers, trees, etc. The book ends with “I Love You, Earth and You Love Me.”
I danced and read the book with a few of my early childhood classes in November. During the Thanksgiving season, the book helped us expand our list of things we love and for which we are thankful.
One of our projects was having the children create their own pictures and pages of “I love you” focusing on nonmaterial objects. They had many ideas to add, such as kittens, puppies, babies, clouds and rainbows. Even children need to be reminded of all that is around us and in us that we love all the time.
We might need February to nudge us to say, “I love you,” to someone else or sing, “I love you,” to a beautiful sunset or a walk in the woods. Why not take pen in hand and write an “I love you” note to someone special. It could even be addressed to Fire Exit!
—“Mamaloshen” is the Yiddish term for “the mother tongue” and we have adapted it here to represent the wisdom of Columbus arts educator, author and all-around inspiration Mimi Brodsky Chenfeld, who is on a mission to help parents raise happy, healthy, creative children.