Bridges Cross A Divide
Can you think of your favorite bridge? Perhaps you simply like the way it looks. Or it means something special to you. My favorite bridge no longer exists, but when it did it was a majestic crossing over the Ohio River on the way to my Grandparents' home. The "new" bridge which replaced my favorite is quite beautiful, but it just doesn't hold the same place in my heart.
Bridges make connections. They cross a divide. And the collapse of the Forbes Avenue Bridge in Pittsburgh in January illustrates what happens when we don't make a significant investment in maintaining those connections.
The same could be said for building and maintaining relationship bridges.
Little Guy is fascinated with blocks, gears, machines and drive-thru car washes. Recently he worked to build a bridge for his toy cars with wooden blocks: he needed ramps and arches and space. It was fascinating to watch Little Guy finish the up ramp, drive his car up to the top and realize he needed to build a descent side!
By building a bridge with his blocks Little Guy is learning how things work by putting them together himself. This play is foundational work in understanding how the physical world operates. For a child obsessed with putting things together and then taking them apart, a bridge building contest in high school will be just the kind of nerdy cool he will love.
And I hope Little Guy will grow to be a bridge builder in more ways than simply with blocks or balsa wood.
Rearing Bridge Builders?
What does it take to raise our children to be bridge builders? Just like Little Guy learning about the physical world while playing with blocks - building & re-building - so, too, will he learn about how to make connections with others, to reach over a divide. The only difference is that these will be real-life lessons.
While there are specific, distinct skills a child needs in making friends or getting along with siblings, these skills are layered on top of a three-legged stool of respect, empathy and humility. Picture tomorrow's sweater, jeans and socks stacked neatly on the corner ottoman ready to wear - without the ottoman, the clothes are still tucked in the drawers or closet or maybe even the laundry, not ready to use when needed.
Whatever behaviors we want to stick with our child for a lifetime are the ones we must consistently model long before we purposefully teach them. Why is it important to model - to live out for and with our children - these three attitudes before we begin to teach them? We are not only laying the foundation for learning important interpersonal skills, but we are giving our children a resilient foundation - one with strength and give which will stand the tests of life.
When we are respectful in our behavior towards and with our kiddos, teaching them to respect others does not ring hollow.
When we are kind and empathize with our children, they experience how to care for others.
When we apologize to our children or let them know it's okay that we don't have all the answers to a problem, our humility gives them safety in their own mistakes and problem-solving.
Our world needs bridge-builders - those who will reach across some pretty difficult divides to keep society healthy, safe and functioning. Remember, your kiddos are watching and learning how to be the next generation's bridge-builders from you.