Last week, Sooby's kindergarten teacher asked her class the proverbial pre-Thanksgiving question. "What are you thankful for?" she asked each child in turn, prompting them to share the objects of their gratitude with the class.
The answers were as predictable as the question. "My family," some said. "My home," said others. These were the most common responses, with perhaps some "moms and dads" sprinkled into the mix.
I have been around children enough to know that there is a lemming-off-the-cliff effect with questions like these. More often than not, kids this age will take their cue from their peers and give the same or similar answers. So I would guess this was a pretty ho-hum kind of exercise--until Sooby's turn rolled around.
"And what are you thankful for?" the teacher asked Sooby, to which my oldest grandchild, in keeping with an infinite wisdom ranging far beyond her five short years, replied, "My conscience."
Her conscience? Really? Where did that come from?
Sooby's mama filled me in. It seems that, not long ago, Sooby had gotten into some sort of trouble at home and was crying because she thought she would never be able to be good. Cookie explained to her that, at age five, she was still learning what it means to behave correctly.
"When you don't know whether to do something or not," Cookie told her, "just listen to that little voice inside your head that tells you what's right and what's wrong. That's called your conscience. When you listen to your conscience, it will help you do the right thing."
Sooby's response to her teacher's question shows that she has been thinking about--and probably listening for--that little voice inside her head that helps her make sound choices regarding her behavior. More importantly, I think, is her growing awareness that her little five-year-old failures are things to be understood and even expected by those of us who love and nurture her.
I am glad that Sooby is beginning to see, in her own way, that making mistakes can help her to learn. Hopefully, the little voice has explained to her--using kindergarten vocabulary, of course--that parental (and grandparental) discipline is something administered out of love and with the goal of helping her to act more appropriately in a world she shares with others.
So Ms. Kindergarten Teacher, in a couple weeks, when you ask the kids what they want most for Christmas, don't be caught off-guard if Sooby seems to pull another answer out of the blue. After all, this is a child who not only knows what her conscience is, but is thankful for it. So don't be surprised if she announces that she wants a microphone to make that little voice a little easier to hear.