Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Pain Or The Shame Or The Frustration

When I'm sick or injured, my loved ones will tell you that I prefer to be left alone. If there is to be a cool cloth placed upon my brow, I'll do it myself. Indeed, except in rare instances, I'd prefer you go into the other room or even leave the building altogether, and whatever you do, don't keep asking after me, I only find it annoying at best and sometimes infuriating. If I need something from you I'll ask, but otherwise I just want some space within which to get over it on my own terms. And I know there are other grown-up people for whom the exact opposite is true.

Young children fall down a lot: indoors or outdoors, while running or walking, on hard terrain or soft. At any given moment, it seems, there is a child down somewhere at Woodland Park. And just as often as they fall there is an adult reacting to it.

As a cooperative school, with so many loving adults around the place, someone is always there to provide the comfort that is needed, usually a mommy, but often a daddy, someone to be with the child as the pain or shame or frustration builds, reaches its peak, then fades, coming and going like the tides. Many of the kids want to be comforted with soothing words, but no one wants to hear, "Oh, you're okay," and more than a few would rather that you shut up. Some want to be held, but many do not. And they all feel a surge of panic when adults run toward them, because after all, when adults run without first putting on the proper training gear, something is must be horribly, horribly wrong.

Yes, it's always best not to run. Those few seconds you save in getting to their side does little to serve them and often makes matters worse. When it's my turn to deal with an injury I always walk, sometimes briskly, but always with the intent of bringing calmness to an otherwise tense and unfortunate situation.

When I speak, I strive to continue that same calmness, never asking, "Are you okay?" because either they are and the question is redundant as they pop back to their feet to go about their business, or they are not, which should already be evident by the expression of pain or the stream of tears. Instead, I let them know I'm there to help by stating the facts, such as, "You fell," or "You tripped." If there is blood evident, I'll say so, then ask someone else to retrieve the first aid kit. Then I drop to my knees beside them, sometimes with a hand on their shoulder, but usually not, and wait for them to let me know what they want from me.

Some throw themselves upon me, making it clear they want my arms around them, to feel my warmth or my strength or my comfort. Some say, "I'm okay," through their tight grimace, making it clear they don't need anything from me, but space. If they say it with enough intensity, I might even ask, "Do you want me to go away?" but usually I just remain there, my eye on the parts of their body most likely to show signs of injury that might need my attention whether they want it or not. I never pick them up unless they ask or otherwise make it clear that is what they need from me. Naturally, there are some who don't make it clear what they need. When that happens I might ask, "What can I do for you?" If they are too overwhelmed by their pain or shame or frustration to respond I wait with them, my hand on their shoulder, or not, depending on what I know of the child.

And that's, of course, the bottom line. I usually already have a relationship with the child. I know this one tends to belt it out and get it over with, short and sweet, while the next one tends to turn within, to take the pain to an inner place of healing. I know that some have a comfort item in their backpack for just such circumstances while others are looking forward to an opportunity to laugh their way out of it, but whatever the case, my role is to calmly wait for the fallen child to let me know what they want my role to be.

It's sometimes hard to remain calm, but that's the most important thing. It's usually nothing and any hysterics on my part can only serve to make it into something. And if there is a serious injury, well, any hysterics on my part can only make it worse. Falling down is as much as part of childhood as running, climbing, pretending, and laughing. It's an essential part of how we learn about our world and ourselves within it. As loving adults their falls concern us, but their falls and their pain belong to them. Just as adults get to tell our loved ones what we need from them, so do the kids. Like us, they themselves are the only experts on their own pain and suffering, and only they know what they need to deal with it.

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