Recapturing the innocence of childhood

Although Belle is 13 now, and has moments where she looks at me like I am possibly the most embarrassing parent ever to have walked the earth, she has always had a strong streak of concern for others.

If I’m upset about something, she knows. If I’ve been crying, she sees it, and does what she can to make me feel better. Basically, she cares about other people. She may be super bossy with her friends, and genuinely believe that she shouldn’t ever have to do washing up, but essentially she’s a thoughtful child.

I will always remember picking her up from nursery one day, when she must have been about two and a half years old. To help you picture the scene, I looked up this picture, which was one of those standard portraits they make everyone sit for at school and nursery. When I saw it then, for the first time in a while, I felt my chest constrict and my heart rush up into my throat. Where have my babies gone?!

recapturing childhood innocence

Imagine a chubby-cheeked Belle then, in her Monsters Inc t-shirt, at nursery.

It’s the end of the day, and I’ve arrived to pick her up. Her keyworker takes me to one side. At first I’m worried, in case Belle has done something awful, like bash one of the other children over the head with a toy tractor, but I needn’t have worried.

“I just wanted to let you know how kind Belle has been today,” she said. “We had a new girl start this morning, and she was a little bit upset, missing her mum. Belle noticed that she was crying, so she went and got her a tissue without being asked.”

Look back at the picture again, and imagine her noticing the little girl crying, and worrying about her, and toddling off to fetch her a tissue to make her feel better.

Doesn’t that just melt your heart?

recapturing childhood innocence

What I’m wondering though, is when we lose that simple urge to help others, and what we can do to get it back. If you saw someone crying, a stranger, would you feel brave enough to whip out your Kleenex? If you came across someone at work or in the street who looked like they needed help, would you offer it? And if not, what would hold you back? Embarrassment? Shame? General awkward Britishness?

Wouldn’t it be better if we just cared with no strings attached, without worrying about what other people thought of us?

What’s especially lovely about Belle is that even though she’s at that age now where you aren’t meant to care, where caring is distinctly uncool in fact, she’s still that podgy toddler inside, and she’s not afraid to show it. She buys presents for her teachers if she thinks they have done a good job*, she makes cards for people and she gives her friends random gifts.

She found a skateboard left out for the rubbish once, and she picked it up and carried it all the way home for a girl who lives a few doors away from us, who once mentioned that she wished she had a skateboard.
A couple of weekends ago, we were away for the weekend, feeding some horses in a field. My fiancé had never fed horses before, and he was absolutely loving it. Belle, you could see, loved that he loved it. She went back to our caravan, quartered some apples, and brought them back across the field.

Once we were done, we watched the horses for a few minutes longer, before sadly turning away to head back. It was at this point that Belle produced one last piece of apple for fiancé – she had seen how much he was enjoying it, and held one piece back, knowing what a lovely surprise it would make.

Isn’t that just the sweetest thing?

I feel like we could all learn something from Belle. Maybe we all just need to keep an apple, or at the very least a Kleenex, in our pockets just in case.

It never hurts to care.

*It works the other way too mind – she once made me make a complaint about a science teacher because she didn’t think he did enough practical work with them.

In association with Kleenex



  1. 3 May, 2016 / 5:40 pm

    What a lovely article. We can learn so much from children and how they interact with the world. Being connected to our intuition, trusting, and listening to it, is one of the most important steps in becoming conscious, awake, and aware individuals.

    • Jo Middleton
      5 May, 2016 / 10:55 am

      You’re so right, we can definitely learn from children – they have an openness and wonderful trust in the world that we could all do with hanging on to.

  2. 4 May, 2016 / 10:34 pm

    What a beautiful post. It really reemphasises the importance of our roles as keepers of our families memories. My little girl is baout to turn two, and I find myself having those same ‘where did my baby go’ thoughts. The thing is, I love the toddler she is turning in to, although I still miss the baby she was. Reading your post makes me think that if I can’t have my baby back, the girl and then woman she will grow to be will be compensation.

    Belle sounds as though she has such a lovely nature, you must be very proud.

    • Jo Middleton
      5 May, 2016 / 10:54 am

      Thank you so much for that comment – it really made me smile, because it’s true, it is sad when they leave one stage, but then they move to another, and you begin to see how they are growing, and how the things you do shape them, and it is very special.

  3. 5 May, 2016 / 7:45 pm

    Oh my goodness, that photo! She was he cutest toddler ever!! x

    • Jo Middleton
      5 May, 2016 / 8:51 pm

      She was ADORABLE Jess. I mean, I would say that, obviously, but she really was!

  4. 5 May, 2016 / 9:51 pm

    love this post Jo! What a sweetie she is {and how cute in the photo!!!!}

    • Jo Middleton
      6 May, 2016 / 9:41 am

      Thanks Polly – she IS a sweetie pie :-)

  5. Claire P
    6 May, 2016 / 9:22 pm

    Some children are naturally caring and notice these things. My 5 year old daughter is always looking to make others happy, which sometimes means she sacrifices her own happiness. Even at this tender age some others will take advantage of her kind heart.. I am trying to help her find a balance.

  6. 6 May, 2016 / 10:54 pm

    It’s so lovely to hear that she is concerned for others – such a wonderful trait to have. Also I cannot believe your Fiancé had never fed a horse before :)

    Laura x

  7. Nicky
    7 May, 2016 / 2:05 pm

    My daughter, now ten, when a little older than your Belle at the time of her tissue incident, saw a friend of hers upset at pre-school drop off. I suggested she went over and tried to cheer her up. She looked at me like I was mildly deranged and calmly replied, “Why? I’ll play with her when she’s ‘not’ crying!”

  8. 9 May, 2016 / 11:59 am

    This is such a sweet post. Kids can teach us so much about compassion and thoughtfulness.

  9. 9 May, 2016 / 5:34 pm

    Oh my goodness, that photo and story melts my heart and I’m not even her month – so very sweet! x

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