Yesterday, I agreed to watch my little brother while my parents went to a wedding. Mario is thirteen years younger than me so our relationship is very unique. In some ways, he is like my little brother who likes to bug me but loves me. Other times, we are more like babysitter and child who play together with one in more control. Whatever our relationship, Mario and I enjoy being together.
As I cared for Mario yesterday, I realized that watching him not only helps my parents but also brings me great joy and life. Together, we posed for a fun photo shoot, watched an episode of the old Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew TV show, played a Nancy Drew computer game, read part of The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis, and made our own homemade personal pizzas with tortillas, cheese, lunch meat (or veg meat), and lots of vegetables. Gasps of excitement when we solved a clue, giggles at corny special effects, and little boy yells filled the house. Overall, it was a successful afternoon and evening.
Watching a child can seem like a huge responsibility especially if you are not a parent. Often, I fear that I will mess up Mario for life. However being together helps us both. He has someone to play with and even though I am not perfect, he learns from me. Instead of judging others by their appearance, he more often looks at who they are deep inside. My brother is also more aware and sensitive to mental health issues. He knows what an eating disorder is and how detrimental it can be for all involved. Depression and anxiety do not have their grip on him but he knows what they are and sympathizes with those suffering from them. Mario’s kind heart and education about mental health helps him to be a strong, loving child to all people.
I also gain a lot from playing with Mario. He helps me to see the beauty in everything. Every night, he prays for me to be healed. This gives me the strength to keep moving forward in recovery. I do not want him to remember me as the girl who gave up on life. Each day, I want to move forward and be a bit healthier. He gives me the courage, joy, and hope that this world is indeed a good place to live in despite all of the darkness inside of me. Because of Mario, I am becoming the woman who I want to be.
Yesterday, I also realized what a wonderful coping skill it is to play with children. I am lucky to have such a great little brother. However, any kid that you connect with (ever in a small way) can work.
Often, I do not trust myself with children. What if I mess up? If they don’t like me, how do I respond? When I start to become anxious, paranoid, or depressed, what steps can I take to keep them and myself safe? How am I going to do this? With questions like this hold me back from bonding with the children. Some of these are real issues that must be addressed. However, often you can trust yourself more rather than less. Children need love, fun, and creativity. As long as you remember safety and kindness, things should go well. Most children are not too picky or aggravating.
Choosing what to do with them might seem overwhelming but it can be very fun. I came up with the idea yesterday to do a photo shoot with Mario. After asking my sister to take the pictures, we embarked out with bags full of props. Some of our poses were cute but a lot were just goofy. For example, he posed with a piggy bank while I zoomed a airplane around. This simple but fun activity left us laughing, enjoying the outdoors, thinking creatively, and with lots of pictures to look back on someday.
Now, you might choose to simply read to the child you are with or watch a movie with them. Being with a child does not mean that you need to have an elaborate plan. However, I encourage you to try this coping skill. Getting in touch with your inner child is something that is often overlooked in our world today. However, it can be extremely beneficial.
For one thing, children have know how to live in the moment. Some struggle with anxiety but they still are able to stay more grounded in the present than most adults. Although this leads to more temper tantrums when a child does not get his or her way, it also leads to more enjoyment of each minute of the day. Trying to see the world from their point of view is a beautiful thing.
Also, children love themselves. This sometimes borders on being selfish or self-centered but many times it is just healthy self-acceptance. As we grow up, we begin to compare, belittle, and even despise ourselves. Being with children who see the good in themselves and others is an eye-opening experience. It reminds me that I may not be perfect but I am good. Seeing the good in oneself opens you up to seeing beauty and light in others.
There are numerous other reasons why playing with children is a great coping skill. However I am going to stop there. I encourage you to try playing with a child sometime. Not only will it be fun for the kid, but you might also find some joy, peace, and encouragement. I know that I sure do with my little brother and great friend, Mario.