Tuesday, April 23, 2019

"That Was A Kind Thing To Do"

We were playing with our very cool, new-to-us, train table. There was a crush of kids vying for space and vehicles. One boy was particularly excited, so much so that his emotions were right on the surface and it was almost too much to bear when he couldn't get his hands on a specific pair of train cars. He did not want "regular cars." He did not want the other colors. He wanted the cars that were in the hands of his friend who was not about to give them up. He alternatively stood passively saying, "Please" and making grabs for the prized objects.

It's a fairly typical scenario. I reminded him that we had all agreed to not take things from one another, suggesting that if he wanted the train cars he would have find a way to do it without just taking them. He said, "I want them."

The other boy said, "I had them first."

"I had them first!"

"You did not. I had them in my hands!"

"I wanted them first!"

"Well, I have them in my hands. You can have them when I'm done." And with that he continued moving his two-car train along the track.

His rival's body went tense, then he shouted a sound something like a roar. I said, "I see several regular cars on the ground you can use." He ignored me. I said, "You can use the cars you want when he's done." Again, nothing. He was full of his emotion -- anger, frustration, sadness -- he moved his body energetically, as if barely able to contain himself. He wasn't crying, but his face was red. I stayed close because he sometimes lashes out physically when he's in this state and I wanted to be there should violence emerge. Instead, he took it out on inanimate objects. He threw one of the cars he didn't want. He kicked at the new train table. He paced around and around. I said, "You're upset about not getting the train cars you want."

I knew we had an audience: the other children were listening, they could hardly help it, although to all appearances they were fully engaged in their train play. The boy roared again. I said, "You're frustrated that you have to wait for your turn." I picked up a couple of the regular cars from the ground and in the spirit of role modeling said, "I'm going to drive these cars while I wait."

"I don't want to drive those cars!" he shouted, obviously offended by my attempt, "I want train cars! The kind that connect together!" I nodded, "I understand, but other kids are already using all the train cars. You'll have to wait until someone is done." I said this sentence loudly and clearly, speaking as much to the group as to the boy. Less than a minute passed before another boy disconnected two cars from his four-car train and handed them over. He had listened, understood, and realized that it was in his power to make things better for someone else.

The boy eagerly snatched the proffered cars and without a word got busy driving them around the track. I turned to the boy who had given up part of his train, "That was a kind thing to do." Again, I said it as much to the whole group as to the individual. Shortly thereafter a girl offered one of her extra train cars as well. This time it wasn't me, but the boy who said, "That was a kind thing to do."

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