I struggled with what to say to my daughter after the flooding in Columbia. She was nine months old when Hurricane Sandy ravaged Lindenhurst, NY, where we lived and were left without power for three weeks or clean water at our home. We stayed at my parents house then, because without power, we had no heat and it was cold! My friend and her son also stayed at my parents home, as the first floor of her home was flooded. Lucie, my daughter, was too young to remember any of it. I knew she would understand more this time, as our new city was struck by a natural disaster. Several friends’ homes were destroyed by flooding.
We are blessed that my neighborhood sustained virtually no damage. Some homes closer to Lake Frances may have experienced a higher lake level and some sand erosion, but I have not heard of any homes in the area flooded. What I did see on Facebook from my neighborhood was people opening up their homes to those who had lost theirs. I saw a few requests for personal care items. One woman asked for baby wipes for a child who was staying with her. I had a big box of wipes, and I decided to give her some.
After I picked up Lucie and my son, Asher, from the sitter that day, I asked Lucie, “Do you remember when it rained the other day?”
“Yes, it rained a whole lot!” she said.
“Well, some of that rain went into people’s houses, and they lost everything — clothes, and diapers, and baby wipes, and I’d like to take a walk to bring some baby wipes to help out a kid who needs them.”
Without skipping a beat, Lucie said, “If kids lost everything because it rained in their houses, then they lost their toys! Kids have no toys! I have a lot of toys, I can share.”
Tears came to my eyes at that moment, big proud Momma tears. I told her, “Lucie, if you share your toys, you won’t get them back.”
“It’s okay, Mom,” she said, “I have a lot of toys, and there are kids who have no toys at all. I can give them some of mine.”
When we arrived at home, I unbuckled her from her car seat, and she raced into the house. She started bringing me toys to give to the “kids who have no toys.” What surprised me is she didn’t dig to the bottom of her toybox to the toys she never played with. She handed me her favorite doll, and my favorite book, and her first toy babywearing carrier.
I said to her, “That’s your favorite doll!”
“I know,” she said, “but some kid has no doll, and they will love her even more than I do. I have lots of dolls!”
In that moment, I realized just how attached to material items I was, and here she was, giving her favorite things up without being asked.
When the weekend arrived, I decided to try to help at my church sorting clothes. Lucie begged to come and help. Being aware of her 3-year-old attention span, I knew we would probably only stay an hour or two, but I agreed to let her come with us. We found a task that was age appropriate: sorting baby shoes. She matched up every single pair and placed each matched pair in a plastic Ziplock bag. She kept saying that she was happy to be helping kids who had no shoes.
What I learned from this experience is that I should give my daughter more credit. She understands a lot more than I thought she would, and she is making connections from what I do tell her. I also learned that I need to watch what I say, because she understands everything!