Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes


This post is a part of my “Board Book Beauty – Savoring the small as I read to my toddler” series. To see all of the posts in the series, go here.

Katie vandalized one of her books yesterday afternoon.

We’ve had a few days recently where she decides she doesn’t need a nap (clearly not realizing that her afternoon rest is for her Mama and not for herself), and yesterday was one of those days. In an attempt to make the transition to quiet time, Jonathan put her in her crib with a stack of books and told her to read on her own, without calling for us, until one of us came to get her. She had a tough time with this directive, on multiple levels – not only did she let us know several times that she was “all done in her crib,” when Jonathan opened her door, she greeted him with a cheerful, “My tear my book, Daddy!”

After a talk with her about how this was not a good thing to do, how we need to treat our things with respect, he showed me the damage. I wasn’t surprised. The book – Mem Fox’s Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes – already had a crack in the spine, and I’d caught small fingers teasing the peeling paper in times past.

Given the political and social climate these days, the object of her destruction is apropos. Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes is a delightful “celebration of baby fingers and baby toes all over the world from two gifted picture book creators,” as the blurb on the back of the book puts it. The refrain throughout – “both of these babies, as everyone knows, had ten little fingers and ten little toes” – reinforces the idea that, despite our differences, at the core, we are all the same. All human.

I’m not naïve. I know people have major differences – political, social, theological, to name a few – and these differences matter. They cannot just be shrugged away. I know the problems we face as a society and as a race are complex and difficult, that they won’t be solved by holding hands and singing “Kumbaya” around a campfire. I know there are men (and women) bent on destruction, that there are some enemies that will not be quelled by polite conversation. I know that as long as there have been human beings on this earth, there have been violence and conflict, and there will continue to be such things until Christ returns.

I know all this. And yet, when I see the latest headlines, when I read about politics or protests (and the events that spark them) or the many controversial issues and discussions that fill social media feeds, the idealist in me thinks that if we could only go back to the fundamentals that we teach our toddlers – that we are all the same, all human, all worthy of basic dignity and respect, no matter how much we disagree with each other – the world would be a better place. If we could only remember to see each other with compassion, searching for our similarities even as we recognize our differences, it wouldn’t solve all of our problems, but we could at least have civilized discourse.

I patched Katie’s copy of Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes with a generous application of shipping tape. My work didn’t restore the book to its original condition, of course, but it will protect it from further damage, will make it functional again.

Would that the damage done to our hearts, our society, our world was so easy to fix.

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