Tuesday, March 02, 2021

The Strongest Kids in the World

We were talking about how strong we are, children taking turns sharing feats of strength they had or could perform. It had started with a boy boasting that he was the strongest kid in the world. Others had challenged his assertion, offering as proof stories of other kids they knew who were very strong, the superior strength of big kids, the unbelievable strength of parents, and the superpower strength of fictional characters.

It was a fun conversation, full of exaggeration, hyperbole, and a lot of self-aggrandizement. As we rambled, we created a kind of collective spoken word poem about strength as defined by the ability to lift heavy things off the ground. Most of the kids knew it was a game, but a few stuck with the reality before them, chiming in with "No, you can't!" and "Nobody can lift the whole school!" They were in the minority, but their doubts required defending and eventually we were taking turns lifting chairs and the corners of tables and pretty much anything else wasn't nailed down to demonstrate our actual strength in that real world.

"I can lift the whole loft!" One girl declared, standing with a hand on one of the legs of the two-level structure that occupies a corner of the room. The other children told her, "No you can't." And she couldn't. "Help me!" she called, and several of her friends joined her. It still didn't budge.

"We need more help!"

The children rushed to fill in every available space, all of them, taking hold where they could. It was a disorganized effort that likewise failed. Then the chant of "heave, ho, heave ho . . ." began and suddenly, almost magically, the loft rose in the air. I'd not expected them to be able to do it and rushed to brace the large piece of furniture lest it topple over. Worried now about how they were going to put it down without landing it on toes and fingers, I took much of the weight myself and said, "You did it! Now let's set it back down, gently. I don't want anyone to get squished!" And that's just what we did, as one.

"Wow, we're really strong!"

"I'm going to tell my mom!"

The children milled about, proud, congratulating one another, celebrating. 

"I didn't think we could do it!"

"Me either!"

"I thought I was going to drop it!"

"Me too!"

I was as buoyant as they were. I felt the urge to make a lesson of it, to point out that alone we were weak, but together we are strong. I wanted to drive the point home, to make sure they got it, to draw a clear line between this moment and their futures as people who, when they work with others, can do anything. But, thankfully, the perfection of the moment muted me. It was their moment, one I could only spoil, so instead I stood aside, leaving them to this experience they had created by themselves, for themselves, together.

Someone called out, "We're the strongest kids in the world!" And they cheered.


"Teacher Tom's Second Book has once again captured his profound understanding of children. His stories and insights are not only thought provoking, they are full of compassion, respect and hope. This is a must read for everyone who lives with, or works with our precious young children." ~Maggie Dent, parenting educator and author. To order your own copy of Teacher Tom's Second Book or Teacher Tom's First Book, click here.

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