Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Whispers Of The Angel

From across the room I heard the wailing cry go up and in the midst of it was a boy who struggled all year with being physical in dealing with conflicts. They were in the loft, a venue frequently visited by conflict. I didn't see what happened. My notice was drawn by the sound: it could have been caused by a fist or a word or simply by accident. As the crying child turned to remove himself from the loft, the other boy said, "I'm sorry," calling him by name.

The crying immediately stopped. The offended child accepted the apology by turning to re-climb the short flight of stairs to rejoin his friends. For a brief moment the "offender" attempted to block the stairs, using his knee to physically impede his friend, almost as if by habit, then suddenly he stopped himself and stepped aside, saying, "Come up," again calling his friend by name.

This is an important thing to remember when you're an adult who works with young children: just because something was easy for you to learn, or for your child, or even for most children, that doesn't mean it's an easy thing for everyone. We've all struggled to learn something important and this was a boy who was challenged by the urge to use his superior strength or assertiveness or what some might call aggressiveness to impose his will on other children. The fact that he so quickly offered his apology, that he stopped himself from physically blocking his friend, that he pointedly and repeatedly used his friend's name, in those behaviors I saw that he was listening to the whispers of the angel on the shoulder opposite the one upon which was perched his devil.

We had been working together all year, often in tears, sometimes physically, not commanding him, but rather trying to give that angel a louder voice. We had talked often, for instance, in both good and bad moments about his desire to have lots of friends and about how no one, not even he, would play with someone who hurt or scared the other people. We strategized in both good times and bad moments about other ways to let his friends know about his frustrations, his wants, his sadness.

Things were more or less settled by the time I was amongst them. As the other three boys dropped back into their game, our struggling friend stood silently, standing over them, separate, watching. I like to think he was still thinking about what had happened, reviewing not only how things at first went wrong, but also how they then again went right.

I tried to imagine myself saying something, but I had nothing to add to his imagined internal dialog, so I just stood nearby, not certain any of them even noticed my presence.

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