Friday, June 30, 2017

A poem about being an education assistant

This is a place with hallways and desks, classrooms, chalkboards and pens. This is a place with "sit at your desk" and reading and writing and math. Addition, subtraction, multiplication, integers and graphs. Division.

His is a world with the number one, two, and one more. Anything larger than two and one more is an outstretched hand with fingers, or arms open wide for the most, the very biggest, the whole world.

This is a place where recess and lunch are annouced by bells that interrupt a train of thought: the puzzle, the game, the inside joke as we giggle. This is a world with "five minute warning", time to start, time to stop. Timers and schedules. "Don't run in the halls".

This is a place with 300+ students. They sit at their desks and run on the grounds. They line up, they gather, they play.

This is a place with unstructured play where the rules of the game can change unannounced. One child, two children, one more. The whole world. Each has their own plan with the blocks. Up the tower goes. There is joy in being together. And down the tower crashes. The joy can crash down too. This is a place where it's "hands to yourself", "five finger breathing", "let's check your visual schedule" and "listen for the timer!"

This is a place where we read books and do puzzles, color and cut. We swing and we slide and we dance. This is a place where we sing with our hands, gestures and signs, a voice without words. This is a place with big smiles and joy.

This is a place with friends. Friends to share a secret mission, running, holding hands and laughing all the way across the field to search and dig and play.

This is a place where friends want to understand. The best friends ask questions: tap this hand for chocolate, this hand for vanilla. The answer is always chocolate. This is a place where they ask anyways. This is a place where friends understand "one more" and affirm, "yes, one more minute."

This is a place with balance beams, pocket swings, fine motor tasks and "let's ride the bike." This is a place where we rally together. This is a place where we laugh all day long. And this is a place we belong.

Monday, June 5, 2017

An open letter to the little boy

Dear Little Boy ,

You are with your parents in a coffee shop on a beautiful sunny day and you spill your drink. It splashes onto the table and onto your body, then slowly dribbles down onto the floor. I don't know how old you are, but you are small enough that your feet dangle freely from your chair. Your parents are angry. 

"I told you to sit still! I told you! You should have sat still!"
"I can't believe this. It's all over you. This is why we told you to sit still."
"Well? Are you going to clean him up, or what?"
"Look at this. It's all over your arms. Come here. I told you to sit still." 

I watched as you tried to defend yourself. 
"I was just..."
"I didn't mean to..." 
"I didn't..."

Each time you try to defend yourself, your parents silence you. I watch as you stop pleading your defense, and we both watch helplessly as your parents angrily clean up your spilled drink. There voices are loud. It is clear to everyone in the room that you had been careless and your parents are angry, ashamed, embarrassed for this mistake. They clean you and the floor with forceful wipes of the cloth, berating you as they do.

I want to make eye contact with you, to tell you with my eyes that it is okay. Everyone makes mistakes. But you are looking at your shoes, certain that the whole world feels the way your parents do. 

I want to tell your parents that it's okay too. That everyone makes mistakes. That little boys (and girls) can't always sit still. I want to tell them that adults make mistakes too. 

I want to tell them what their child is learning while staring at his shoes. 
  • He is learning that mistakes are tragedies to be avoided at all cost. 
  • He is learning to feel shamed. 
  • He is learning that he is bad. 
  • He is learning that he is alone. 

Accidents happen. Everyone makes mistakes. 

In a world where I am a braver and better person, I would have liked to come up to you, little guy. And tell you you don't need to stare at your shoes. I would smile at you. 

"Opps. Looks like an accident happened. Do you want to help me clean it up?" 

I'd hand you a cloth and I would help you wipe up the drink. I'd ask you about your day. And then I'd remind you, and your parents that everyone makes mistakes. Even adults. The world needs more compassion. It didn't have to be like this. 

You see little guy, I believe that the grown ups around you are here to teach you, and that you learn best when you are given the opportunity to learn from your mistakes and to solve problems. Your parents could have handed you the cloth the way I wanted to. They could have talked about how Mom asked you to sit still because she was really afraid of your drink spilling. You might then have agreed with her, and understood the consequences better next time. 

But you didn't learn that today. You learned that you are bad and that the whole world is against you. But I need to tell you that it's not, little buddy.  

I'm sorry I wasn't brave enough to stand up for you in Starbucks. But if I'm lucky, someone will read this and it will help them learn how to help the next time.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The search for perfection

I'm contemplating the meaning of being perfect. I see people, everywhere, but moms especially, struggling to be perfect. I struggle with it myself. I would like to be able to work full time, commute to and from work, attend all the clubs and activities on my son’s behalf, keep my house spotless, maintain a fulfilling social life, cook elaborate and nutritious meals every day, be a good daughter, sister and friend, make time to work out three times a week and spend quality time with my son. But doing all those things in the span of a week is impossible. So some things get cut from the list.

There is no perfection. It is simply impossible to be the perfect mom or a perfect person. Its contradictory. Is the perfect mom a stay at home mom, or a working mom? Does she keep a spotless house, cook perfect meals, keep the laundry on time, or let some of these things slide so she has time and energy to play a game of checkers with the kids? Or drink a cup of tea? We as parents and people cannot be everything all the time.

There is no such thing as the perfect mom, and there is no such thing as a perfect person.

If you fight to be perfect, you will always be unsatisfied. You will always come up short, because perfect is an arbitrary ideal that contradicts itself. We cannot be stay at home working mothers who keep a perfect house, provide perfect meals, vacuum daily, and still have life left to be with the children. There is no perfection in trying to be everything. Perfection is not the key to true happiness. The real perfection is in being happy.

What I mean is: perfection is the wrong goal. It won't get you anywhere or make you happy. The real goal should be happiness. Happiness in whatever context works for you. If being a working parent makes you happy, then work. If being a stay at home parent makes you happy, then that's what you should be (if you can). If being single is what makes you happy, then be single. If travelling is what makes you happy, then travel. If you feel happy when the house is perfect, than keep it perfect. If you'd rather watch "the little mermaid" with your kids instead of do the dishes, watch the little mermaid and let go of the dishes for a while. If you like tea, drink it. Just drink it, and do nothing else. Breathe regularly. Move your body because it feels good to do it. Just be happy. Be happy by recognizing that there is no such thing as perfection. Your house does not need to be spotless.

Most likely, ten years from now you’re not going to remember a single specific detail about today. You might remember something significant that happens to you, but I’d bet dollars that you won’t remember if the laundry sat in the basket or not. So be happy. Be happy in whatever moment you are in. Time goes by regardless of how we feel, so choose happiness.

Happiness should be your goal. Happiness is what matters. Perfection is a myth.