You go places with kids that you never expected to go. Today it was discussing the feelings of all the inanimate objects at the lunch table.
Everything we present to kids in a formal setting is happy. Happy TV shows, happy posters, happy songs, happy movies, happy books… When you can find the rare story or show that deals with kids on another level – without lecturing – it’s a beautiful thing. Like Dr. Seuss’s “My Many Colored Days” (written when he was a child, natch) or Arthur. I love that neurotic little aardvark.
Not only do kids not talk about emotions like adults do, they pretty much can’t. Their brains don’t have the capacity for self-examination (doesn’t that explain so, so much?). We have to be aware that they’re feeling a lot more than just “Fine!”
Well, of course, that may be stating the obvious.
And we must be very, very sneaky in getting the truth out of them. My boys are always one step ahead of me, so any advice on 10- and 8-year-old boys would be just great.
A couple of my kids are going through a rough patch so at lunch I made a point of talking about how we were feeling. Miss R said, “I’m feeling tired, but giggly.” We laughed about that and noticed that every face on the Sesame Street ABC poster on the wall was smiling. Except for the two where Elmo was stuffing his face. I said, “Hey, where’s Oscar? We need some grouchiness here.”
Even Oscar was smiling, but he was holding a T for Tomato, so I said, “Maybe he’s only happy because he’s going to throw that tomato at us!”
That’s when they started asking me about how everything was feeling. All of a sudden I realized I had them. I just let loose, telling them about the Jelly’s friend who kept taking all her toys, and it just made her so sad that she couldn’t make herself feel better.
I don’t know if they get it, or they just like to make me look like a lunatic.
Either way, I was happy to notice that Miss D reached over and hugged Miss C, who’d been melting down all morning and making us plug our ears from the crying. Small miracles.
If you want to intentionally make this happen, try a puppet. Kids will spill their guts to a puppet, I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s because they really want to tell you what’s going on, and it’s just easier when they can tell it to a weird fuzzy talking thing on the end of your arm.