Thursday, May 23, 2013

Too Many Babies

(I'd originally planned to combine this girl-boy story with the one of dramatic play gender "conflict" from yesterday, but wasn't clever enough to make it work in the time I'd allotted myself for blogging. The children involved in this story are many of the same kids from yesterday's story.)

"We're Chinese sisters." The girls had dressed themselves up in the Chinese robes from our costume rack and had taken up residence in the top of our loft with all of our everyday babies.

I said, "You have a lot of babies."

"We're waiting for them to find mommies and daddies."

"They don't have mommies and daddies?" I repeated sadly.

"It's okay because we're taking care of them."

"We're taking care of them, but we're only 12-years-old . . . Well, I'm 12-years-old, I'm the big sister, and she's 8-years-old, she's the little sister." They both affected wee and pitiful faces; almost tragic.

I said, "That's awfully young to take care of so many babies."

"That's why we're helping them find mommies and daddies. We're only teenagers."

"We're not teenagers. Teenagers have to be older than us."

There was short debate on the topic of teenagers and whether or not that was old enough to be a mommy or daddy. They finally agreed they were not teenagers, allowing them to set aside their questions about the propriety of teenage parents.

That settled, I asked, "Could I be the daddy of one of those babies?"

"Sure, do you want a boy baby or a girl baby?"

"Hmm, I think I'll take one of each."

The girls looked at one another as if searching for a silent agreement before answering, then, "You can only have one. We have to save some for the other daddies."

"Yeah, you can only have one."

"Okay, well I guess I'd like a girl baby."

The girls began checking our anatomically correct dolls, "This one has a boy bottom. Boy bottom . . . Here's a girl bottom." They handed me my baby.

It was about at this time that a group of boys marched into the lower level of the loft, acting as if their intent was to crowd into the small space where the girls had set up their adoption agency. I wanted them to recognize that there was already a game taking place in the space, so I summarized, "These are Chinese sisters. They have a lot of babies looking for mommies and daddies. This is the baby they gave me. I'm the daddy." Then to the girls, "How do I take care of a baby?"

They looked at one another again, then, "You have to already know how to take care of a baby. You have to feed it and change its diapers and hold it."

"That sounds like a lot of work."

She shrugged, "Babies also cry a lot and you have to give them stuffed animals and rattles."

I said, "But what if I don't have any stuffed animals and rattles?"

At this point, without saying a word to one another or us, the boys climbed back down from the loft, leaving us to continue our conversation about taking care of babies. As we began to come to the realization that perhaps Teacher Tom was not equipped to take care of a baby, the boys returned, this time with their arms full of stuffed animals. "These are for the babies."

Before long, all of our stuffed animals were in the top of the loft. The girls arranged them around the babies.

As I continued talking with the girls, I heard the boys talking behind me:

"There aren't any more stuffed animals."

"The babies need rattles."

"There aren't any rattles."

"We'll have to make them."

That morning, we were playing with the cardboard rings left over from spent masking tape rolls. The boys figured out how to slip one inside another, creating a kind of sphere. These were the rattles.

As I continued talking with the girls, both discovering and helping to create this world of Chinese sisters with too many babies, the boys came and went in a steady stream, delivering rattles to the top of the loft.

When I walked away, the rattles had given way to plastic food from our play kitchen, as the village took on the task of raising all those babies who didn't have mommies or daddies.

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Anonymous said...

Geez, this brought tears to my eyes. I am continually amazed both at the secret life of preschoolers and at your skill in perceiving and conveying that to the rest of us.

Pip said...

what a fantastic post! Thank you for sharing!

Robbie said...

Just beautiful!

Cave Momma said...

One of the sweetest things I have read. Both the girls and the boys. Absolutely amazing. Thank you for sharing.

Sofia said...

Hi TT, I found your blog last month and think I must have read every word now! I have been running our Waldorf School's Afternoon Care for two months now and am going to start KG training after the summer. This wednesday my group (aged 4 - 8) started talking and voting on rules, and the effect was immediate. It takes the pressure off me to be constant judge and police-lady! But there are some things I am finding hard to leave alone. Last week one older child induced a younger one to climb up the slide and hold onto a rope. Then the older child jumped down the slide with a 'Haha!' and the younger kid inevitably was yanked and bashed his forehead against the wooden roof of the slide. I did see it coming (or at least was dubious about older child's 'come and see this fun thing!' line) - I wasn't so much worried about the bash to the head, but I don't want to see a child planning something that is going to hurt another child, then let the action go through with the desired effect happening. How do you actually stop premeditated situations like this from happening? Or do you?

Teacher Tom said...

Hey Sofia, One of the adults' primary jobs is to help keep children safe. When I see a potentially unsafe situation brewing, I step in and start voicing my concerns. Not in a scolding way, but rather in the form of "That doesn't look safe to me," or "This looks unstable," or "If someone falls off this, they'll probably get hurt." It's an invitation to begin a risk-assessment, something that we want all of our kids to get in the habit of performing.

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