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Smile Train and the...

Smile Train and the Complexity of Age Three

A copy of a magazine was left open in our house the other day. It was stopped on an ad for Smile Train, a charity that helps children with cleft palate and lips. There are at least a dozen photos of babies with cleft lips and palates on the page, along with details of the charity. Immediately, my daughter Allie seized the magazine.

At first, she was puzzled.

“What’s wrong with their faces? Why do they have boo-boos?” she asked, worried.

As I slowly explained it to her, her eyes became rimmed with tears, and she automatically began searching her mind for solutions. “Who will help them? They need a doctor,” she assessed. I explained that that was what the ad represented. A charity that wanted to help these babies.

She cradled the magazine in her arms with the photos staring up at her, and talked about how she wanted to hold the babies, kiss them, and make them better, still heartbroken from the fact that they suffer.

When she went to sleep that night, she took the magazine with her. “Why are you sleeping with that?” I asked, because I only thought pubescent boys slept with magazines. (And I won’t bother to mention my intense fear of paper cuts, because I can only imagine how many one might get if they slept with a magazine.)

“I don’t want them to be lonely and sad,” she replied in an air that made it seem as if I had asked the dumbest and most uncaring questions she had ever heard. Allie then curled up around the photos of the babies, placing her tiny hand on the page, and eventually went to sleep with them.

In short, that is the beauty and complexity of both Allie and the age of three.

At three, she is more compassionate than most adults I know. She is concerned when she sees someone hurting. She cries sometimes for babies on television who are clearly undergoing treatments or having difficulties. Her tender heart is worn on her sleeve adjacent to the Little Mermaid emblem covering the front of her tiny t-shirt.

Most of the time, I want to cradle this girl in my arms the way she allowed me to do when she was an infant. But now, my allotted cradling time is whittled down to a series of seconds before she has to run off, because one of her Barbies is having a “emergency” or because she’s “not a baby.”

In the midst of it all, hissy fit throwing aside, I thought it would help the world if more of us had the compassion of a three-year-old, if we were all genuine and whole with goodhearted intentions. Now, that would be fabulous.

As a parent, there are many times I am frustrated. However, this is certainly one of the many times that I am proud.

Photo courtesy of Shamelessly Sassy

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