Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Let Your Feelings Flourish

Let your feelings flourish and get on with your life of doing. ~Lao Tzu

I had put out fabric scraps in needlepoint hoops along with large gauge needles loaded with yarn. The idea was for our 3 and 4 year-olds to experiment with the concept of pushing the needle through the fabric. It was my first year and I made the rookie mistake of putting the balls of yarn on the table with the rest of the stuff.

Sure enough, like a kitten, Henry got himself tangled up in the yarn and it frustrated him. He yowled and shrieked, fell to his knees, then rolled helplessly on the floor. Parents descended on him and he reveled in their motherly attention by taking it up a notch. Yeah man, Henry was pissed and he wanted the world to know it.

When I banged the drum announcing clean-up time, Henry was still expressing his outrage. Transitions often help a child collect himself, but Henry just kept wailing at the fates.

He cried as he picked up armloads of blocks.

He cried as he put the blocks on the shelf.

He cried as he took his seat on the Circle Time rug.

He cried as he sang our first song.

When I grow up, I hope to be just like Henry.


Charlie was crying. I saw what happened. Dennis crawled down through our climber head first – an impressive and challenging physical maneuver. Charlie tried to follow him a bit too closely and got his cheek in the way of Dennis’ foot. It was an accident.

I lifted Charlie from the climber partly to sooth him, but mostly to get a closer look at his face. It hadn’t looked like a big deal, but it’s always good to check. The intensity of his tears abated almost instantly, although they continued to flow. I could detect no visible marks. As I walked Charlie a few feet away from the scene, I said things like, “That was an accident,” and “That must have hurt.” Within seconds, still crying, he started to wiggle his legs, indicating he wanted me to put him down.

The moment he hit the floor he was moving back toward the climber, still crying.

When he got to the climber, he clambered back to the spot where he’d been kicked, still crying.

He stood on the climber, still crying. He turned his head from side to side as if wanting to make sure we all heard him, as if making an announcement: I’m mad. I’m sad. I’m here!

Another adult responded, but I intercepted her before she could scoop him up. She said, “But he’s crying.”

I answered, “I know, but he’s also climbing. I don’t worry about children who are crying while they’re still doing stuff.”

Watching Charlie stand there on the climber crying, I was reminded of my own daughter Josephine, who used to actually get mad at me if I tried too hard to sooth her. After a few minutes she’d say, through her tears, “I just have to finish my cry!” which was my signal to back off and let her take care of herself. That’s what was happening with Charlie. He’d wanted his feet on the floor. He’d wanted to get back up on that climber. 

Still crying, he then attempted the maneuver he’d been trying when his cheek had come into contact with Dennis’ foot. By the time he was back on the floor, he’d stopped crying.

I asked him if he wanted a tissue and he answered, “Yes.”

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Cape Town-Patsy said...

I like the way you think! I often see parents interrupting a good cry because they themselves are uncomfortable with a crying child. What a good rule of thumb: a "busy" cryer is managing and doesn't need adult intervention.

Weena said...

Today, I had a toddler crying incessantly. She knew if she cried loud enough her mother, (who was in the next room, my co-teacher) would hear her. She was sitting at a table squishing playdough. Then her mama came in and asked why she was crying. My assistant told my co teacher she wanted to see her. I smiled (despite being upset that my strategy did not work) and nudged her a bit to walk back to her classroom. My co teacher promised to control her mama instincts tomorrow. High hopes. :)

Malke said...

I have to laugh at your first photo. That looks like my living room did for at least two years. Any time there was something yarn or string-like laying out, the living room would be a spiderweb death trap. What do you think that's about that preschoolers do that? I've always wondered...

Eliza P. said...

Malke: it the natural consequence of combining yarn and intense curiosity--like he said, a cat/cats would do the same thing :-)

Amy Lyn said...

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