Sunday, January 31, 2010

listening to our children

One of my kindergarten students has been haunting me this weekend. She's an adorable little girl with a bright smile, who cares for the friends in our classroom and is always ready to try her best. She's also going through some pretty traumatic events at home. Events that would cause me, as an adult, to go to bed for a few days and refuse to deal with the rest of the world. Events that if you told me "____ happened so I'm going to take a week off work and stay in bed" I'd think you had every reason to do so.

On some mornings she comes in with tears in her eyes. Her whole body tells us how sad she is and she looks up at us with these big, beautiful brown eyes that seem to be asking us why- why do these things happen and why can't we make her safe and happy again.

The other day when we asked her if she wanted to talk she nodded, very seriously. "I'm so scared" she whispered, "because I don't know where my stuffed animals will sleep tonight"

It sounds silly- like she doesn't have a care in the world. She's worried about her stuffed animals- don't we all wish our only worries were about our stuffed animals.

But if you really listen to her voice and look into her eyes you see that to her, in her 5 year old world, telling us she's worried about her stuffed animals is the same as saying she's worried where she will sleep tonight. She's worried about her safety, her security, and her own needs, and being five, she's projected those worries onto her stuffed animals. Because if she's homeless, her stuffed animals are homeless too.
Their just toys- yet what do they represent in her 5 year old world? Her safety? Her happiness when her family was together, before things went wrong?

In the midst of the busy mornings it is easy to tell her that her stuffed animals will be ok and that she didn't need to worry about them. Easy to give her a hug and distract her with coloring, or a book, or by giggling with her and a friend.

But when we take the time to stop and wonder what she's really worried about- her family, her safety, her security- how do you tell a 5 year old it will all be OK, when you don't know that it will?

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