My 11 Year Old Teaches Me Compassion Every Day

“Stop the car!”

My son’s shout panicked both my friend, driving, and I, fearful we were about to collide with something or someone. Liam pointed out the window at a women who had just walked past us, struggling to carry a laughably (she herself was obviously chuckling) insurmountable load of grocery bags and boxes. “I need to help her,” said Liam. And he did.

He is naturally compassionate, always. I am, not as often. Having been shown a great deal of compassion and empathy during my journey into sobriety in the last year, an ongoing pursuit for myself is to connect with others on a daily basis without judgement — to be of benefit to them where I can. It has shocked me how quickly my mind gets lazy, or irritated or frustrated with the other humans around me. Liam is a constant reminder of patience.


Liam’s father (my ex-husband) has two beautiful daughters now. Liam’s patience with these two doting, rambunctious girls has always amazed me, but never more so than now. I am in awe at my own child’s loveliness. Is this a universally parental conundrum, this “how on earth was this exquisite human given to me?”

Life-lessons from my 11-year-old — amazing. My greatest hope as we enter the teen years is that he’ll continue being as comfortable as he is talking to me, regaling me with funny stories about school, times he got in trouble, worries he has. We discuss bullying, the Internet, girls.

I am well aware how little (horrifyingly minute) control I truly have over him as he grows older and makes his own choices, but like the incident in the parking lot, his behaviours remind me regularly that I’m raising a young man that takes other people into consideration. This is not a credit to my parenting, really, but to his father, his grandparents, our extended families that have loved him and exhibited their own compassionate, kind behaviours for him to learn from. And, I believe, from some sweet, natural spring of exquisiteness innately in him.

When do we become jaded and cynical? Or, rather, when did I? When did I stop seeing each moment as an opportunity, and instead something to get through, to surmount? Childhood certainly doesn’t come with bills to pay and the responsibilities of adulthood, but Liam is at the age where there are stressors, life isn’t as simple and uncomplicated as it was at say, five or six.

I am a grateful student in my own household — when the world is becoming heavy and I am ploughing through chores or homework or the copious multitude of neverending things we adults have to do, I only need to glance his way for a reminder to take a joy-moment.

Quick to laugh, quick to hug, quick to help others, these are the Liam lessons we are practicing daily in our household.


Published by Keeley Milne

Keeley Milne has an irrepressible joie de vivre. She is most content when with her son Liam, a pile of books, or in the woods—and best yet all three at once. She loves to run marathons in other countries, go on solo adventures, and drink a perfect cup of coffee. She is a voracious reader and loves to write, listen, and laugh. Keeley makes her home in Medicine Hat, Alberta, where she is completing an English degree, going for runs in the coulees, and hugging Liam as much as she can, every day. You can connect with Keeley on her Facebook here, on Instagram, or Tumblr.

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