My Toddler May Just Be The Most Empathetic Person I Know

I am not exaggerating when I say my daughter is a sweetheart. I mean, she’s also smart, strong, sassy, and hella funny; but her hugs are tender and full, her words are genuine and sincere, and her kisses are gentle and … well, kinda sloppy. (What can I say? She’s a sometimes slobbery toddler. But I digress.) In other words, my daughter is loving. My daughter is compassionate. And my daughter — my two-and-a-half year old “baby girl” — is about as sweet as they come.

But how do I know she is empathetic? How do I know she is able to relate to others — to vicariously understand and identify with the thoughts, feelings, or experiences of others — and then respond in a caring and helpful way? Because of the things she does, the words she speaks. Because of the way she loves.

You see, every time we watch The Lion King — every freakin’ time Mufasa dies — her small fists ball up, her nose and brows furrow, and tears well-up in her eyes. But instead of worrying about herself, she asks “Mommy, what happen? Dis sad?” She pauses and waits for my response, but when I let silence linger a moment too long, she asks again, “Dis sad, Mommy? Dis sad?”

Of course, I tell her the truth: I tell her it is sad, and it’s OK to feel that way. But when I explain why the scene is sad — when I explain Mufasa has died (i.e. his body stopped working) — I can feel her little body tense up. She snuggles in close and, in a whisper, asks, “He OK? Is he OK?”

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