I learned a valuable parenting lesson from a fictional rabbit.
In “The Green Ember,” Pickett, a young rabbit, feels like he has been abandoned by family and ignored by the people he loves. Now that’s not really true…but regardless he feels unloved and unaccepted. Pickett finds a brusque, crusty old rabbit who is a warrior. Pickett asks the warrior to take him on as an apprentice. At first, the warrior rejects Pickett…but then he speaks the words that signify he is willing to take Pickett on as an apprentice. “I accept you.”
Picket replies, “I am accepted.”
Then the warrior says, “I bind you, with all honor, to release you better after.”
Picket replies, “I am bound.”
In that brief exchange of acceptance, Picket’s life changed. He was accepted and entered into an apprenticeship that would teach him, equip him, and provide him the safety of a relationship in which to grow.
When I first read this story aloud to my children, I fought back emotion as I imagined the calm and security that flooded through Picket with the words, “I accept you.” It gave Picket a place in their culture. It gave him a valuable place in their society.
As I continued to think about this exchange, I realized I wanted to create that sense of safety, security, and responsibility within my own family. My children sometimes struggle with feelings similar to Picket’s feelings. I wanted to speak truth to them so that their emotions and feelings were influenced by truth.
So I began telling my children, “You belong. You are accepted. You are loved.” I’d have them repeat the words after me.
I told them, “You belong in our family…and you always will. I accept you, and you are an important part of our family. I love you, and there’s nothing you can do that will change that.”
When they get upset or become angry and feel like they don’t belong, I can remind them. “You belong. You are accepted. You are loved.”
I gradually began to see these words take root in the mind of one of my children in particular. The words spoke life to her and reminded her that she is valuable and important. The words—and the meaning behind them—helped build a foundation and understanding that as a family we stick together. We accept each other, and we work together as a team.
This is what I learned from a fictional rabbit.