I’m digging into the archives for an oldie but goodie post. I’m dealing with too much emotional baggage right now (bullying, youth sports, end-of-an-endlessly-long-winter blues) to produce quality work. So this is a blast from fall, when we could 1. go outside and 2. play 3. wearing only hoodies. Three things I haven’t done since, well, back in the fall. Enjoy, and dream of sunny days.
I had one of those hairy-eyeball moments today. That means a bystander (read: non-child-care-professional) was giving me the hairy eyeball because of what was happening in my day care.
And I felt kinda bad about it, as I always do, and got that creeping feeling on the back of my neck: they-think-I’m-a-monster-and-they’re-going-to-call-social-services-and-report-me. But I was in the middle of a teaching moment and I had to stick to my guns. I was not going to cave – and screw up what I was teaching – to please the hairy-eyeball giver.
And I know that a child care professional would have understood exactly why I was doing what I was doing.
So I’ll explain, now that you’re wondering if I was beating children. We were playing out in the driveway and the bystander was some helpful person out walking her dog. She stopped and stared at me disapprovingly because I was letting a child cry. Just keep movin lady. And get your dog’s turd off my lawn. It’s more offensive to me than a screaming child.
My group has become very girl-heavy (four on most days, five on some) and they are all between ages two and three. Their primary method of communication is SCREAMING!!!!! At the top of their lungs!!!!!
Honestly. I wear earplugs much of the time. People laugh at me. It’s called survival.
My sweet Miss C was playing in the driveway and noticed that her twin, Miss D, had her hood up. Miss C wanted her hood up too, but was struggling with it. Instant scream mode.
I told her “Miss C, I will be happy to help you if you use your words. Just ask for ‘Help, please.'”
She chose to scream some more.
It’s not that I never respond to screaming. In fact just a few minutes before the hoodie episode, the toy car Miss C was riding in had swallowed her up and I came running for that one. Bona fide screaming, I’m all over it. Screaming for the sake of getting my attention, not so much.
For anyone who still thinks I’m a monster, you must understand that in child care there are many times during the day when it is quite difficult to get to someone who needs help. I could be in the middle of a poopy diaper, or under a baby who’s getting a bottle, or making snack or lunch in the kitchen. If I have to come running every time a child screams, I will be running all day. So I’m really just trying to teach them not to cry wolf.
Soon after the hoodie episode (she never stopped screaming to ask for help, so it was still down, and Miss Judgy Dog Poo finally left) we went into the yard for swinging. Miss C happily followed me, big smile on her face, because she hadn’t won the battle of wills.
It might sound weird, but Miss C was happy because I hadn’t caved to her tantrum. She trusted that I was in charge and was not going to be moved just because she decided it was time. Kids need adults to remain calm when they’re freaking out. What does it mean if suddenly everyone is freaking out? That’s a scary world. A little one needs to know OK, I’m totally losing it but look at Amy – she’s OK. Maybe I’m OK too. Maybe this will end and we’ll all be alright.
And maybe she just needed a good cry, and I was giving her the chance to let it all out. Little kids have a lot of stress. Really. They’re learning how to regulate their emotions. It’s like when they fall down. If you go rushing over in a panic they will cry. If you stand back and say nothing, or just casually comment, “Wow! Good fall! Are you OK?” they’ll usually get up and dust themselves off.
I’m not proud of this experience (“Look at me, I conquered the screaming child!”), it’s just part of the dance of trust and love. To an outsider it may seem wrong not to run to a child every time they cry, but it is in fact teaching the child that there are right ways and wrong ways of doing things. If I let her get away with doing it the wrong way, she’d know the next time she wanted me all she had to do was scream, and that she was in charge instead of the grownup, and my point was lost. AND that she can get what she wants in life by screaming. Ick.
(And I’m back to running every time they call. And then they find me in the hospital with a nervous breakdown.)
When we got in the yard it was hot in the sun. I saw one pink hoodie flung in the grass and one happy kid running toward the swingset.