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Teaching a 2-Year-Old It’s Still Okay to Say 'Hello' 

click to enlarge ELISA JÄRNEFELT
  • Elisa Järnefelt

On the seventeenth day of our isolation due to the global pandemic, we went for a long walk to a field near our home. At the field, a woman and a man passed us, staying distant, like we have learned to do nowadays. Our 2-year-old daughter held my husband's hand and started growling her "dinosaur growl" in the strangers' direction. "Daddy, I tried scaring them away," she explained.

During the past three years, as an introvert stay-at-home parent, I have done my best to offer our daughter various chances for social interaction. Against my own inclination, our weeks have included story hours, music lessons, and yoga and gym classes. I have felt proud to witness my daughter's growing comfort with meeting new people. Suddenly, all those daily contacts have been taken away. Left are long family walks in the woods and video connection.

On our way back home from the field, I told our daughter: "We shouldn't scare people away. They all have to stay at home and they can't meet their friends, just like us. So, we should be extra kind now. Can you see those two people walking toward us? Why don't you try waving and saying hi this time?"

I could see our daughter concentrating. Once the people passed us, she turned around and waved and yelled to them: "Hi!" The woman and the man returned the wave. Our daughter smiled wide. We will start there. 


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