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Lessons from a Preschooler by Dr. Allan Hunter

One day I had a bad cold and couldn’t babysit. So I called up my daughter to tell her. Little Ellie (just 3) immediately said, “Let’s take grampy some soup to make him well!” Zoe (almost 5) immediately wondered how they could get soup to me without spilling it.

There’s a little of Zoe and Ellie in all of us. There’s the big picture idea and then there are the details that seem to make it impossible. That day I learned that beautiful, generous gestures sometimes get lost in the details. The trick is to make sure those big ideas don’t get sunk. We need both ways of seeing.

Sometimes when the kids get a bit rambunctious I start singing opera to them. They keep doing whatever they were doing before, but you can tell they’re listening, and actually getting calm, quiet, more thoughtful. Music, even of imperfect delivery, has its own magic.

When Zoe was about 18 months her mother one day started to sing “You are my Sunshine” to her. I joined in. Then her grandma joined in, too. The experience of three adults, all singing the same thing, all in tune more or less, entranced her. She kept saying, “Agin” until we were tired and switched to another song. Since then she’s loved any kind of community song (especially ‘Happy Birthday’). Her sister has too. When we sing together we model something that has to do with cheerful solidarity. And Zoe, even at that early age, knew it.

Birthdays are fun. Everyone should get a present.

Relative to Ellie (2 ¾) “What do you want to be when you grow up, Ellie?”

Reply: “Ellie!”

Safe places are good. We all need one or two.

“It’s OK. I can play here by myself. But I like it more if I can see where you are.”



DR. ALLAN HUNTER is a professor emeritus of Literature at Curry College. He is the author of 12 books, a counselor, and an explorer of the deep truths conveyed by storytelling.