"Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?" "I see a yellow duck looking at me..." Many a preschool child knows the beginning of this beloved Eric Carle book by heart and soon they can recite the whole story to you, long before they can read the words. Many a parent has read this story over and over and over to their favorite child. When I hear the words "brown bear", my brain goes into reciting the story mode, too. Our brains build neural pathways and patterns based on repeated words and actions.
How many of us drive to the "old house" without even thinking after we have moved away? Or we pick up the phone to call a loved one who has recently passed away, or we cannot find our silver Toyota in the Walmart parking lot because we forgot we traded it in for a red Subaru? The patterns in our brain, etched over time, take over. How we see the world depends on what we "read into" our brain over the days and years of life.
Our outlook on life depends so much on what we heard, saw and experienced as children. What were the "stories" you heard over and over? What experiences defined how you see yourself and the world? If your family's motto was "Children are to be seen and not heard", you may have trouble speaking up even as an adult. If you heard, "you will never amount to anything", you may have spent life proving that wrong or you might still believe it.
What about filling our brains with good, quality ingredients like nurturing, kindness, compassion and value? Adults have so much power in the hearts and minds of children. Our words, attitudes and behaviors give a child's brain a million cues about their value and worth. The time you take to listen to a child invests in their value. When they want to sing the same song a million times, or hear "Brown bear, brown bear" once again, you are telling them they matter when you respond patiently to "again!".
For me, the important question on every page of Eric Carle's book, "what do you see?" is about a lot more than the brown horse or the purple cat. It is about what you see in life...your perspective on what is happening around you. Our perspective is colored by the days and years and experiences and attitudes we collect. The image I posted with this blog is an example; I thought I was taking a photo of a sunset, yet when I look at it now, the clouds and the sun look like an angel to me. "What do you see?"