Do you remember the nursery rhyme The Three Little Pigs? It’s the story of five fictional pigs who we meet one by one starting with “the first little pig” who “goes to the market.” We never learn why the pig is going to the market; instead, we hear about what each successive pig is doing. The second little pig “stays home,” the third little pig “has roast beef,” and the fourth little pig, sadly, “gets none.” By the time we get to the fifth pig, we suspect that things will be worse than the fourth pig’s fate, so it is no surprise when we hear that the fifth little pig “cries wee, wee, wee, all the way home.” But one day, in a $1 illustrated foam book, I was surprised to see a different illustration for the fifth pig. In this book, the illustration wasn’t a sad crying pig; it was a delighted pig, riding a tricycle and crying with joy the words, “wee, wee, wee!” It never occurred to me that the fifth little pig could have been happily crying!
The ending to this very short and simple nursery rhyme is a great example of how we understand stories, and really life, because of the lens through which we view it. I can imagine there are some readers who already knew that the last little pig was happily crying all the way home but I think for just as many of us, our lens led us to conclude that “wee, wee, wee” meant crying tears of sadness.
Our life experience and education create the unique lens through which we look at life. We use this lens constantly and it is why we don’t always see things the same way that others do. Almost always, there is more than one way to see and understand everything that happens in our lives, and we begin to appreciate this fact as we get older.
For me, this new ending became a reminder to not only be open to other possibilities, but to try different lenses when making decisions and finding different ways to understand circumstances in life. It reminds me that when I don’t agree with people, if I try to see things through their lens, then I don’t have to feel angry or disappointed when something doesn’t go the way I expected. A different ending to The Three Little Pigs is an unexpected gift because, on a deeper level, it reminds us that life isn’t about being right; it’s about understanding and love.
Reminders like this become especially helpful when difficult times or difficult discussions take place. Right now, we are in a difficult political time as we wait to hear about the impeachment hearings that are taking place in Washington, D.C. Every single one of us has an opinion about what is happening and each one of us only understands what is happening through the lens we unconsciously use. However, being reminded that we all have different points of view can help us become conscious of how we see situations and lets us take a step back from trying to convince others that we are right. Instead, we can begin to ask different questions and to take a bird’s-eye view of this political picture. What can we learn about getting to know family and friends better by genuinely trying to understand the world through their eyes?
This is also a great time to think about the lens that is forming in our children. How do you want them to see the world? Do you want their point of view to be a single one or do you want them to be aware that many lenses exist? Helping our children to know that there can be more than one way to understand life is very loving. Learning to recognize different points of view is a way to teach compassion and understanding for others.
One way to help children understand different points of view is to read stories that portray life in different ways. For young children, this is easier because the theme of almost any children’s book is acceptance and understanding. When you are looking for books at the library or online, look for stories about people who don’t look like you or for stories about feelings and emotions.
For older kids, you can begin to ask a variety of unique questions when they are struggling. Ask your teen to see situations from another’s perspective with questions like, “how do you think your friend/teacher/stranger viewed what happened?” You can also mirror back what you hear your teen saying and ask if you heard them correctly because we hear things differently too.
Share when you have a different opinion and ask teens how they see things, which will help them feel comfortable discussing their views. Teaching our kids that multiple lenses exist, expands their world and you may find that one of your children holds a view that teaches you compassion and a different ending to what you have always understood or previously thought.