Attraversiamo

“Release your grip on things if you would not be in their grip.” -Mikhail Naimy

My friend, it has taken me a while to reply to your first post, but as I expressed to you, my response is most timely in that I actually have something worthwhile to say.

As you have mentioned, I have forged this path, one towards children. I cannot adequately express my gratitude in words for the lessons I have learned through being a teacher’s assistant and aide both in Chicago and here in Mexico, but I can shed light, little by little, on some of life’s forgotten teachings. By forgotten, of course, I mean that we simply filed these lessons in the back of our mental archives under the label “Mastered Concepts,” only to collect dust and seldom be revisited, revised, or reevaluated.

And so, on the topic of healing.

It’s funny. I worked at a private daycare in Chicago with children ages two and three. If you know anything or nothing about this age group, let it be sufficient to know that at this time, children are quite able-bodied. They love demonstrating all of the physical abilities they have mastered or are currently attempting! They run, walk, jump, climb, play, fight, clap, etc., etc. With bumps and bruises occurring every day — sometimes even bloodshed — and parents demanding to know every detail of their child’s waking life as if their child were the only child in the school… Well, you can imagine, this necessitates a very aware teacher. Perhaps a helicopter-teacher even. She, and I say she because 95% of all daycare workers are women (http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat11.htm), must be keen on remembering every single incident, every fall, every scrape, every altercation with another child, and she must respond accordingly.

But how? It has been my personal experience that the social norm, at least in the center where I worked, is to provide at least a bit of coddling, but not too much. No. Too much coddling would beg the negative attention and judgement of other teachers. And not enough? She would be deemed cold and neglectful. So, just the right amount of coddling might look something like this: “What happened Damian? Did you fall down the slide and hurt your knee? Okay, let’s look at your knee. Oh look! There’s no blood. Do you want a hug? Let’s go get some water and then you can keep playing.” Meanwhile, more often than not, Damian is just crying and crying, soaking up all the attention he is getting and seemingly feeling sadder as his negative state is being fed into.

Here in Mexico, I have worked with many age groups, from infants to three- and four-year-olds. I see the same behaviors from children in the two- and three-year-old classroom here. With their excited energy and love of movement, children get hurt just as much as any of their peers. The difference? Most of the teachers give the child space and time to feel his or her pain before intervening. I am not sure if this is intentional or due to the fact that they seem to give undivided attention to one child at a time. So if Damian gets hurt while the teacher is helping Mia put her shoe on, well, Damian has to wait. But in those waiting moments, something very beautiful happens. Damian either quickly stops crying on his own and, showing great resilience, goes back to running around and letting out energy, or he carries on for a bit longer, calling for the attention of the teacher or myself.

Of course, between the US and Mexico, there are cultural, environmental, and biological differences, that may contribute to the different stress and pain responses in children as well as different teaching philosophies. However, let this only serve as a metaphor. It is inevitable that we will get hurt in life. Of course we will. It’s one of the truths that make us human, we feel. We feel. We fall. But, in time, everything will eventually fade away. Nothing lasts in this life. Even if sometimes we cry out a little bit longer than the next friend and need some help up, well, the pain will not last forever. So trying to hold onto anything with such a tight grip — people, emotions, material items, etc. — is to live with great suffering. Let this be one of many lessons I share with you.