TIME health

Watch These Amazing Kids Talk About Their Real-Life Superheroes

"She flies in the clouds, and she gives us water."

Real heroes don’t necessarily wear tights. But they do have superpowers.

Here’s how kids in some of the toughest places on earth describe their heroes, the aid workers who bring relief from hunger, disease and illiteracy:

“She flies in the clouds, and she gives us water.” “He came and destroyed the mosquitos.” “They did something magical, and the maize grew from the ground.”

For “Superheroes: Eyewitness Reports,” Save the Children sent a documentary film crew to three continents to ask children about the heroes who swoop into their lives. The kids respond joyfully in their own languages making this PSA a sharp departure from more traditional international aid organization spots that feature silent children with big eyes and swollen bellies.

TIME animals

‘Animals Make a Hospital Happy': Classic Photos of Critters Helping Kids

Photos from 1956 illustrate the powerful, positive effect that being around animals can have on sick children.

Almost 60 years ago, in November 1956, LIFE magazine published an article with the deceptively lighthearted title, “Animals Make a Hospital Happy.” Noting that children, especially, are acutely aware of “how depressing it is to be in a hospital . . . the University of Michigan’s hospital at Ann Arbor runs a perpetual animal show which is enjoyed by the 3,000 children who pass annually thought its wards.”

Today, of course, animal-assisted therapy is common in hospitals, nursing homes, rehab clinics and other places where the pain and solitude that so often come with illness—and the stress associated with recovering from injuries or sickness—can be almost paralyzing. Whether or not spending time with animals can actually help spark long-lasting improvements in mental health is an open, and controversial, question. But anecdotal evidence suggests that patients offered the opportunity to play with and otherwise interact with animals appear to be more optimistic about their prospects for recovery, while certain animals (especially social animals, like dogs) can often help decrease the sense of isolation and loneliness that so often plagues those stuck in hospitals for long periods of time.

As the LIFE article put it, “for hurrying a child out of the sickbed, the Ann Arbor hospital has found that nothing can match a youngster’s natural fascination with animals.”

Here, in fond tribute to the critters among us, LIFE.com shares photos from that long-ago article, as well as many more that never ran in LIFE.

[Read Jeff Kluger’s TIME cover article on “the Animal Mind”]

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 16

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Accountability in education is essential and non-negotiable, and testing works. Just not in reading.

By Robert Pondiscio in Flypaper from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute

2. Carbon capture technology is costly, but could be an interim solution for climate change. And a carbon tax could pay for it.

By David Biello in Yale Environment 360

3. Immersive public art is improving lives and safety in one Detroit neighborhood — and serving as a model for other communities.

By Anna Clark in High Ground News

4. Presidential pool reporters are circulating their own news reports to bypass pressure from the White House Press Office.

By Paul Farhi in the Washington Post

5. Unregulated campaign cash and elected judges together undermine the independence of our judiciary.

By Norm Ornstein in The Atlantic

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Companies

Perk Up: Facebook and Apple Now Pay for Women to Freeze Eggs

Apple iPad Facebook
Peter Macdiarmid—Getty Images An Apple iPad displays Facebook's profile page on Aug. 6, 2014.

Two Silicon Valley giants now offer women a game-changing perk: Apple and Facebook will pay for employees to freeze their eggs.

Facebook recently began covering egg freezing, and Apple will start in January, spokespeople for the companies told NBC News. The firms appear to be the first major employers to offer this coverage for non-medical reasons.

“Having a high-powered career and children is still a very hard thing to do,” said Brigitte Adams, an egg-freezing advocate and founder of the patient forum Eggsurance.com. By offering this benefit, companies are investing in women, she said, and supporting them in carving out the lives they want…

Read more from our partners at NBC News

TIME Nobel Peace Prize

Malala: I Feel ‘More Powerful’ After Nobel Win

Peace Prize laureate said she and co-winner Kailash Satyarthi will use the shared award to strengthen the relationship between India and Pakistan

Updated 2:19p.m. ET

Pakistani education rights advocate Malala Yousafzai said Friday her Nobel Peace Prize would motivate her to redouble her efforts on behalf of girls’ education and children’s rights.

In a short speech reacting to the award, the 17-year-old Nobel laureate also said that she and Indian co-winner Kailash Satyarthi would use the shared award as an opportunity to build peace between India and Pakistan.

“I felt more powerful and more courageous, because this award is not just a piece of metal… its really an encouragement for me to go forward and to believe in myself,” Malala said. “This is not the end of the campaign I have started. This is only the beginning.”

“I want to tell children all around the world that they should stand up for their rights, they shouldn’t wait for someone else,” she continued. “This award is for all those children who are voiceless, whose voices need to be heard.”

Malala also said that she and Satyarthi, an advocate against child labor, had spoken on the phone after winning the award, and had discussed working together to fight for the rights of children in both India and Pakistan:

We are the two Noble award receivers, one from Pakistan, one from India, one believes in Hinduism, one believes strongly in Islam. It gives a message to people, it gives a message to people of love between Pakistan and India, between different religions. If we both support each other it does not matter the colour of your skin, what language you speak, what religion you believe in. It is that we should all consider each other human beings and respect each other and we should all fight for our rights, the rights of children, or the rights of women and the rights of every human being.

She said they also agreed to request that their respective Prime Ministers, Narendra Modi of India and Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan, attend the Nobel Prize Ceremony in December, in order to build a stronger relationship between the two nations.

President Obama, who won the award in 2009, congratulated the winners in a statement. “In recognizing Malala and Kailash, the Nobel Committee reminds us of the urgency of their work to protect the rights and freedoms of all our young people and to ensure they have the chance to fulfill their God-given potential, regardless of their background, or gender, or station in life,” he said. “Even as we celebrate their achievements, we must recommit ourselves to the world that they seek ­— one in which our daughters have the right and opportunity to get an education; and in which all children are treated equally.”

TIME Opinion

The Perils of Nanny Cams and Kid Trackers

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For hours, my almost-4-year-old gets lost in play in his room. Would he act the same if he knew I was watching?

I’m acutely aware of how much time I spend fretting about my kids. I’m an admittedly nervous mother – all hell breaks loose in my house if someone dares to give my toddler a whole grape or a hot dog that hasn’t been halved down the middle. Stories about choking or children who go to bed and never wake up haunt me. I sometimes wonder if all parents watch for the rise and fall of their child’s chest when they peek in on them at night. I also wonder if that is something I will ever stop doing.

If we didn’t raise our first child in a tiny apartment in Brooklyn where we were forced to share a bedroom, I probably would have invested in one of those video monitors that have become so popular among parents like me – the ones who worry. I always assumed that’s who those monitors were for, but a New York Times Motherlode blog post opened my eyes to another type of parent who likes to use them–the observer. In the piece, Thanks to Video Monitors, Parents are the New Big Brother, several admitted to holding on to infant video monitors once their children were well into toddlerhood, because they enjoy peeking into their kids’ world:

Beyond the peace of mind and potential safety benefits that come from extended use of video monitors, many moms and dads would agree that “it’s more fascinating” to watch your child via a video monitor than to listen to him or her via audio, said Alan Fields, co-author of the baby gear review book “Baby Bargains” and the “Best Baby Monitors” online guide. The early audio monitor was a way for parents to hear remotely when their baby woke up, but video monitors let parents see what their baby is doing when they’re not there.

I never really thought about the concept of toddlers and privacy, but if I stop and examine how I feel about it, is it ridiculous to say that I believe they should be afforded some? I think all parents love to peek in on their sleeping children or sneak up and look in unnoticed when their child is lost in play. I certainly understand why parents would be drawn to making a habit of it by ogling a video monitor nightly. But there are things I remember about my childhood – and a lot of my best memories were solitary ones.

I was a private child. I loved playing alone. I see my almost-4-year-old doing the same thing I did as a child—getting lost in play in his room for hours. Would he act the same if he knew I was watching? I don’t think so. I happen to know he is not too young to crave privacy; for one, he’s very adamant about having the door closed when he uses the bathroom. Sometimes when I walk into his room when he’s playing he tells me to “Leave, Mommy.” One child in the New York Times article admits to knowing when she is being watched; her mother hushes her through the monitor when she and her brother play too loudly. “On a recent Saturday morning, Abby pointed out the camera in her room. ‘It’s used for Mommy and Daddy, so if I bang, they are going to talk through the camera,’ she said.”

We’re observing our children more than ever before. We may be raising children to believe – from a very early age – that they’re not entitled to their own space and privacy. As they grow, we hammer this idea into their heads a little more, through a device most of them beg for: the cell phone. Everyone’s favorite accessory isn’t necessarily surveillance, but it is performing the same function—enabling parents to track and observe that their children are okay, without the need for blind trust.

Recently, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio vowed to end the cell phone ban in schools to a collective sigh of relief from parents everywhere. He admitted that his own son violates the ban and called it a “safety issue” for parents to be able to keep track of their kids. Raising children in the city is potentially worrisome, but is having a direct line to your child at all times really a safety issue? When I was growing up and a parent had to reach a child in an emergency, they called the school. Perhaps we have more emergencies now, or are we just so used to being on top of our children that we truly believe they can’t make it to school and back without being able to reach us, immediately?

In our attempts to protect our children, we may be crippling them instead. Learning how to move through the world without a direct line to your parents is an important skill for older children. We’re demanding our kids be reachable at all times for their own good. Or is it for our own good? “On the one hand, being able to reach our children at all times gives parents a sense of security and it gives kids a sense of security,” says Eileen Kennedy-Moore, a Princeton, New Jersey psychologist and professor for the new video series, Raising Emotionally and Socially Healthy Kids. “But I think also that it can be an easy out – to immediately call a parent if they struggle. If we leap in too quickly to solve problems that our kids can figure out on their own, we steal their opportunity to develop important coping skills.” What’s more we let them think they need our help. “Of course we want to take reasonable steps for safety,” says Kennedy-Moore, “but we also want to give our children the message that ‘I have faith in you. I believe that you can handle this.’ That’s a very empowering message.”

In addition to putting kids in a position to constantly outsource problem-solving to their parents, cell phones are effectively putting our children on call – all day long. Imagine forfeiting the freedom you had as a child, to leave the house and be absolutely free of your parents until you returned. One mother who grew tired of having her calls seemingly ignored, even went as far as creating an app that will shut down your child’s phone if he doesn’t answer it. Does that sound like someone who is worried about safety, or control? I’d say the latter.

Tonya Rooney, an Early Childhood Education lecturer at Australian Catholic University, has done a lot of research on the repercussions surveillance has on children. In her research article, Trusting children: How do surveillance technologies alter a child’s experience of trust, risk and responsibility, she concludes:

Without a surveillance gaze, children have the opportunity to be trusted, to learn how to trust others, and perhaps to show others they can live up to this trust. Once the surveillance is in place, this opportunity is greatly reduced… if surveillance is applied as a response to fear rather than a more balanced response to any actual risks involved, then arguably both adults and children become reactive agents, contributing to a cycle of suspicion and anxiety, robbing childhood of valuable opportunities to trust and be trusted.

I stomped through Europe in my early twenties without a cell phone and with only a promise to call my mother once a week. If I observe my child secretly in the days of his young life and hand him a cell phone to track him as soon as he’s old enough to leave the house on his own, am I setting him up for the same independence I enjoyed? Will he be able to handle it? It’s a trajectory that we have the power to stop if we realize it may not be in the best interest of our children to raise them to think it’s okay to be watched and tracked.

But, our kids will probably never know the freedom we did, so they won’t know what they’re missing.

TIME

How Letting Your Kids Stay Up Late Could Wreck Your Life

Father and daughters watching movie in home theater
Getty Images

I plan on putting my kids to bed early until they are older and no longer want to hang out with me

I never, ever, want my children to stay up past 8pm.

Ever.

I don’t want them to have a later bedtime until they are older and no longer want to hang out with me. I love my children, but I also love my sanity, and that sanity comes from bad TV and sweet, sweet silence.

I have six-year-old twins, and right now they go to bed at around 7:30 p.m. I hear other parents talk about their first graders staying up and hanging out with them until 10:00 p.m. at night and it horrifies me. That isn’t because their kids are staying up too late, but because, my God, when do those parents get to have their evening fun time? When do they watch The Bachelorette and eat the cookies they hide from their children?

By 8:00 p.m. at night, I am done. That’s when Mommy clocks out. At that point, I am unable to even pretend to parent anymore. All conversations my children try to have with me between the hours of 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. are met with one word: No.

“Can you fix my sheets?”

“No.”

“Can you get me more water?”

“No.”

“Can you –”

“No. And before you ask your next question, the answer is also no.”

The more I talked to other parents about bedtimes, however, the more concerned I got that 7:30 p.m. might be too early. I have a tendency to get lulled into complacency by the habits of day-to-day life, and sometimes forget that my children keep getting older and occasionally the rules need to change. So when I learned that my kids had the earliest bedtime of all of their first-grade friends, it made me a little nervous. Was I putting my kids to bed way too early? Was I about to lose the only time of the day when I am able to fully and completely relax? When they’re at school I’m still on alert because my phone could ring at any minute — the school nurse could call asking me to pick up a sick kid, or the principal might ring, telling me that my shy child tried to run off of school property to avoid picture day. Night-time is the only time when I know that my children can’t possibly ask me for anything because they are unconscious.

To address my concerns, I decided to ask an expert for guidance. I called Rebecca Michi, a trained Children’s Sleep Consultant in Seattle who has a British accent and a great attitude. Did she think that 7:30 p.m. was too early a bedtime for a couple of first graders?

“Wake up time has to dictate the bedtime,” she said. “Children can go to bed late if they wake up late. First graders need ten to twelve hours of sleep a night. Otherwise they are sleep deprived, and we all act like two-year-olds when we are sleep deprived.”

My kids wake up at 6:30 a.m. every morning on their own. I can put them to bed at 5 p.m. or I can put them to bed at midnight, and they will still wake up at 6:30 a.m. It’s something my husband and I have had to accept, and by accept I mean we’ve had to murder the part of our souls that has hope. So you can imagine how thrilled I was when Michi didn’t tell me that my kids should stay up later. In fact, based on Michi’s recommendations, 7:30 was a perfect bedtime for them. I couldn’t believe it – I was doing something right…completely by accident, of course, but I’ll take it however I can get it.

Before I ride my high horse off into the sunset, though, it’s important to point out that in addition to my accidentally appropriate bedtime, it’s likely that many inappropriate bedtimes aren’t chosen thoughtlessly. I don’t think there are a lot of parents who are watching The Tonight Show with their kindergartener and saying, “Eh. He’ll go to bed when he feels like it. Now Timmy, go get Momma another martini.” I think there are a lot more parents who keep their kids up due to external factors they can’t control.

For example, there’s Michi’s recommendation that wake-up time dictate bedtime. My kids don’t start school till 9:30 a.m., and with their 6:30 a.m. natural wake-up time that means I never have to force them out of bed in the morning. If I had older kids who were doing homework and then going to bed at 9 p.m. or 10 p.m., who then had to be at school and in class at 7:30 a.m. the next morning, I’d be dealing with some overly tired kids and I would be seriously aggravated. I understand the recent push by some parents to move school start times back, because I’m not sure how anyone can expect kids to succeed when they can’t get the rest they need.

I’m also a work-at-home mom. I take my kids to and from school every day. I have three hours with them before school and three hours after. I am not hurting for time with my kids. If I had a job where I had to be at work by 8:00 a.m. and I didn’t get home until 7:00 p.m., and I put my kids to bed at 7:30 p.m., that would mean spending less than an hour a day with my kids during the week, if that. Of course I understand why some parents would want to push that bedtime back by an extra hour or so in order to get some time with their children. You know, for bonding. Or for algebra, which is the opposite of bonding.

Thankfully, I no longer feel any pressure to let my kids stay up past 8:00 p.m. I can turn off their lights, say my final no’s, and ease myself onto my sofa, where frozen yogurt and The Voice await me. Even the experts understand my need for “night time means no children time.” As Michi told me, “Some parents love having their kids up late. I can’t think of anything worse. I want to watch inappropriate TV with my husband and have a glass of wine.” Preach it, British priestess of sleep.

Here’s how I look at it: this is a parenting rule that is not only good for the kids, but also brings me joy. There aren’t a whole lot of those. I’m going to take advantage of it while I can.

Meredith Bland is an award-winning humor and parenting writer from Seattle. She works as a staff writer at Mommyish, and has a humor blog called Pile of Babies. You can follow her on Twitter at @pileofbabies.

TIME

‘Broad Consensus’ that Media Violence Can Lead to Increased Child Aggression

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In the past, there was a perception that the field was divided about whether violent content leads to increased aggression in children, but this study refutes that notion

The vast majority of parents, pediatricians and media researchers all believe that violent movies, video games and television shows can lead to increased aggression in children, according to a new study published in the journal, Psychology of Popular Media Culture.

In the past, there was a perception that the field was divided about whether children’s behavior could be affected by violent content. This study dispels that notion completely by showing that, in fact, there is broad consensus that violent content can lead to more aggression.

For the study, the researchers — Professor Brad Bushman of Ohio State University, Carlos Cruz, a doctoral student at Ohio State, and Mario Gollwitzer, a professor at Philipps University Marburg in Germany — surveyed 371 media psychologists and communication scientists from three professional organizations; 92 members of the Council on Communication and Media of the American Academy of Pediatrics; and a nationally representative sample of 268 American parents. The study revealed that 66 percent of researchers, 67 percent of parents and a whopping 90 percent of pediatricians agree or strongly agree that violent video games can increase aggressive behavior among children.

Brad Bushman, lead author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at The Ohio State University believes the journalistic drive for fair and balanced reporting is partially to blame for the view that there is a lack of consensus. “I think there’s a perception partly driven by the mass media that the field is divided,” said Bushman. “When they report on a finding that violent media produces aggression in children, to find a balance, they find someone else who disagrees with it. It leads to the conclusion that scientists don’t know about this topic and that the field is divided. But the field is not divided. There is broad consensus that violent media leads to increased aggression in children.”

He compared the drive for balanced reporting to John Oliver’s piece on climate change, in which the late night host revealed the trouble with showing a one-to-one debate, when in fact 97% of the science community believes climate change is real and happening. To make the debate more representative of reality, Oliver invited three climate change deniers to argue against 97 climate scientists who believe in global warming.

The results in Bushman and his team’s study go hand in hand with a study published last year in the journal of Pediatrics. That study, lead by researchers Lindsay A. Robertson, Helena M. McAnally and Robert J. Hancox showed a link between children and adolescents who watch two or more hours of TV per weekday— in which most of the content contains violence — and antisocial behavior in early adulthood.

But there are other factors besides screen time and violent content that can lead to aggression in children. “Many factors can contribute to increased aggression in children. Things like being male, poverty or having a low IQ are not easy to change, but limiting exposure to violent media can be changed,” said Prof. Bushman.“This is one of the factors that people can do something about.”

Aside from going full-Tipper Gore and founding a media watch group and petitioning Congress to limit violence in the media, what can a parent do? Bushman has a few suggestions: Limit screen time, monitor what your kids are watching or playing online and talk to your kids about it. It’s what Bushman does with his own 14-year old son. “The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours of screen time per day —[My son] has more than that. But, we carefully screen the content,” said Bushman. “There’s no TV in his room, he has an iPad, but has to use it with the door open and give us the iPad at night. All TV programs with violent content can only be accessed via password. And the internet filters out violent content. There are no video games that are age inappropriate.”

When asked if his two older children — ages 18 and 19—ever show their younger sibling something inappropriate, Bushman laughed. “Their dad has been studying the affects of violent media for over 25 years. They know better.”

TIME Innovation

A Piece of Cardboard Is Helping Transform India’s Schools

These desks cost only 20 cents to produce and are making a huge difference for schoolchildren

lost-at-e-minor_logo

This article originally appeared on Lost at E Minor.

A single sheet of cardboard can’t do much, right? Wrong! In India, many children go to school but don’t have the luxury of sitting behind a desk. To address this issue, the nonprofit organization Aarambh created a necessity out of a single sheet of cardboard: a school desk. The Bombay-based nonprofit worked with designers to come up with the desk design from a simple sheet of cardboard.
They transformed that cardboard into a modern-looking backpack for kids to carry all their school supplies, but when folded out, the briefcase then turns into a work desk.

What’s brilliant about this eco-friendly design is that it costs just 20 cents to produce and each desk is cut in a way so all the student needs to do is fold it together—nothing more is required. This makes education and school supplies even more accessible for families everywhere.

Building the cardboard desks
Courtesy of Aarambh
Students using cardboard desks
Courtesy of Aarambh
Completed cardboard desk
Courtesy of Aarambh
TIME Parenting

The Pain of Passing My Disability on to My Child

Parenting
Cecilia Cartner—Getty Images

When my daughter was six weeks old, we received official word that she had inherited my bone disorder, a condition that would likely cause her many fractures and possibly painful corrective surgeries

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This article originally appeared on Patheos.

When my oldest daughter Leah was born, many people made the same observation: “Look at those fingers! So long and skinny…just like yours, Ellen.” Right after she was born, my husband went with her for a bath as I was stitched up after my c-section. When he returned, he mentioned that her eyes were a “funny color.” All of those observations, straightforward and innocent on the surface, let me know that some of my darkest fears were probably being realized.

My daughter’s long, skinny fingers and toes, the bluish color in the whites of her eyes—these were signs that Leah had inherited a scrambled gene that would wreak havoc on her skeleton. When she was six weeks old, we received official word that Leah had indeed inherited my bone disorder, osteogenesis imperfecta (OI)—a condition that would likely cause her many fractures (I had about three dozen before the age of 11) and possibly painful corrective surgeries. I clutched her fiercely against my chest and told God that he had damn well better take care of this child. That day 14 years ago was the hardest day of my life.

I have spent much of the past 10 years or so writing about genetics and disability and the choices made possible by increasingly sophisticated technologies that allow parents to choose, to some extent, what sort of child they might have. I have talked to dozens of potential parents who, like me, have some serious genetic baggage and fear putting its weight on their children’s shoulders. And I have talked to some people who wonder whether, if their child does inherit some genetic menace that wreaks havoc on that child’s health and well-being, will they regret that they took such chances with a genetic lottery stacked against them?

I tell such people that I think it’s impossible, barring extreme psychological dysfunction, to regret your own child’s existence. And I tell them about my daughter Leah, who is bearing the weight of my own genetic baggage on her fragile skeleton, who has, yes, broken a dozen bones and deeply mourned the losses that come when yet another broken bone messes with our plans. I have watched Leah sink into a place that is really dark and really sad. But I have other stories to tell about Leah, not just the dark and sad ones.

There’s this story: One Sunday morning several months ago, I slipped on some black ice when going to get our newspaper. Landing hard on my back, I broke two ribs and a shoulder bone, and partially collapsed a lung—the kind of injuries that stronger-boned people incur when they fall from trees and roofs. I managed to crawl from the frozen front walk into our entrance hall, but couldn’t go any farther. While I lay there waiting for the ambulance to arrive, as my husband reassured my two younger children and called my mom to come stay with the kids, as I struggled to breathe, Leah sat next to me on the floor. She just sat there, silent. At one point, I said to her, “You know, Leah, don’t you? You know how I’m feeling.” I wasn’t talking just about the pain, but also the crushing disappointment of a regular day ruined, the weightier knowledge of the ruined days to come. I was talking about feeling powerless in the face of something as stupidly mundane as ice, and being betrayed by the fragile body gaining the upper hand on the strong spirit. Leah nodded. Yes, she knew.

A few months later, I was heading to pick Leah up from church choir practice. I was dreading it, because I knew that Leah would be getting some bad news at the rehearsal. For Leah, singing is a passion, and when she joined our church choir about three years ago, she found another family, a community. The choirmaster was a young man called Dr. Roberts. Dr. Roberts is a talented musician but also a gifted teacher. Leah will, I’m sure, remember him for the rest of her life as the kind of teacher and mentor who changed her life. I knew that during this particular rehearsal, Dr. Roberts was planning to let the kids know that he had taken a job in New York City and would be leaving. I knew Leah would be devastated.

She came out from the church to the parking lot and with tears streaming down her face, she said, “You know Mom? This is his dream, this job he’s taking in New York. It’s good. It’s just all good.”

So it seems that, at not quite 15 years old, Leah knows what love looks like. She knows how to help carry another’s burden. She knows that sometimes an empathic presence is more helpful than words. She knows about wanting the best for someone you care about, even when their best is your worst. That she is capable of such wisdom at such a young age is proof to me that I can never regret anything about the person Leah is and is becoming, brittle bones and all.

I want to be perfectly clear, though, about what I don’t mean. I hate those clichés about how we should be grateful for the shitty stuff in our life because it teaches us so much, about how “Everything happens for a reason.” I don’t believe that one bit.

But I’m beginning to understand that Leah’s inheritance from me is not merely a faulty gene and a fragile skeleton, but also the truest kind of compassion—the kind that arises when you know what pain looks like and feels like, and you recognize another’s need, and know just what to do.

Do I regret that Leah inherited my fragile bones? I don’t love it. I even sometimes hate it.

But while I sometimes wish I could have spared her that particular genetic fate, I’m also profoundly grateful that it was not in my power to decide what kind of kid I would get.

Because I never could have predicted, much less devised, the wounded and gracious person my daughter is becoming.

Ellen Painter Dollar is the author of No Easy Choice: A Story of Disability, Parenthood, and Faith in an Age of Advanced Reproduction (Westminster John Knox, 2012). She blogs about faith, family, disability, and ethics at Patheos. Dollar also serves on a working group sponsored by the Yale University Interdisciplinary Center on Bioethics, exploring bioethical issues related to health care and people with disabilities.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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