You Just Don’t Understand Me

19 12 2008

As the snow blows sideways in this wonderful storm, I want to relate to you a really meaningful interaction I had with a three-year old this morning.

There’s this little boy who we’ll call ‘Jack’ for the purposes of this story. Jack is three years old, intelligent, articulate, and imaginative. He was in our parent-child program for a few sessions, but now he’s old enough to take classes by himself, with a group of other children his age. This is his first real class.

He is also L-O-S-T lost in his own world. Lost like wandering off during activities, collecting bean bags and rubber stars and stashing them under various mats in his own little game, that sort of lost. Lost like swishing his saliva around in his mouth to the point where it bubbles out and you have to say, “Jack, why don’t you go get a tissue from your mother,” because there’s really no polite way to breach the subject in the middle of class. (Don’t say, ‘eew,’ because I know you all did that when you were three or four, or twelve or twenty, in the shower by yourself.)

Now, I have no problem with this in general, because I think kids should have as much free play in their lives as they want — especially three-year olds. No sense in sticking them in structure if they don’t want it, except when their parents are paying two hundred mumble dollars for you to teach their wee one to roll over and stand on one foot.

But it really actually is a problem when you have seven three and four-year olds in a gymnasium and one of them wanders off, because then the other six get it in their heads that they can just go play too, and suddenly you’re herding… well, cats would be too easy. And safety wise, you don’t want oblivious kids wandering unsupervised around the equipment because “they could get hurt.” And it’s my liable ass that has to make sure they only get the good type of excitement.

Anyway, at the end of class, my co-teacher ‘Lisa’ and I take the kids over to a carpeted wooden pirate ship that was built specially for the gym. It’s probably the most rocking-awesomest thing in the world, with a steering wheel, slide, rope ladder, plastic rock wall and an honest to gosh plank that kids can jump off into the pit. Now, usually kids like to haul on the steering wheel a bit and then go down the slide, or they like to climb up to the plank and jump off, over and over. There are a special few who find the crawl space under the rope ladder and rock wall, and my little friend Jack is one of them.

Generally, I let them stay under there for a few minutes. At least I know where they are and that they can’t get hurt and won’t hurt anyone else. But eventually (being less than five minutes), it’s time to go. Now I have to get this kid to let go of his imagination for long enough to get him back to mom.

“Jack,” I say a few times to get his attention. He crawls out from behind the rock wall and looks at me through the rope ladder. While I address him, he starts fiddling with the ropes. “Time to come out,” I say.

“But I need to fix my windows,” he says. He picks at the ropes a bit more, but keeps an eye on me too.

“You need to come out now and either take your last jump into the pit or go line up with Lisa.”

He turns and looks at me straight on, with this intense gaze that only a smart, preoccupied kid can have. Then he scrunches his eyebrows together and in his adorable three-year old voice says, “Jacob, you don’t understand me.”

I love kids. He totally won my heart today.




One response

20 12 2008

ha! This is delightful. I love the way you write. Thank you!

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