I have written before about my sweet sensitive J who, if I do say so myself, is wise beyond his years. He struggles with the way a few children in his class act and, in turn, how they are “managed” by the teacher. Recently I picked him up at school and he was a little quieter than usual. He had responded “fine” when asked how school was so I didn’t push him, I just waited and as usual as soon as we were in the van driving to our appointment he starts his confession. He told me how he has begun to feel angry toward a particular boy in his class who is in his group. In the group they have an opportunity to earn popsicle sticks. The team with the most sticks at the end of the week gets a prize (my back was up about that one – but I have some pretty strong feelings about rewards for some being a slap in the face to others – but this wasn’t about me so I tried to remain neutral).
“oh really?” I said “I didn’t know your teacher did that”
“yeah” says J, followed by a big sigh “and with John on my team we will never win.”
(not his real name of course)
“Why do you say that?” I ask as I fleetingly look at him in the rearview mirror and I can see my little boys lip quivering and eyes moist as he tries hard to manage his tears and his disapointment.
“well, remember how we talked before about John and how he’s kind of like C and how maybe his brain works a little different and he ends up doing stuff and getting into trouble?” He pauses, waiting for me to confirm that I remember this so I nod and say “oh yeah, I remember”
“well, so he does stuff and the teacher takes away our popsicle sticks and then I start to feel angry at John”. At that moment I’m torn in several directions – I’m frustrated that such a “reward” system has been set up – it seems so punitive and setting this child up for failure – which pulls his team with him – which then leads to hard feelings amoung a group of otherwise very caring and kind kids. It flies in the face of inclusion. And I am sad for my boy who seems so torn about wanting to win but feeling bad for the child he is pitted against. I’m just about to launch into a reminder about how John must feel about the situation and blah blah blah and before I can say anything . . .
“Mom” a little voice piped from the back of the van “then I realize (yes people my 5 year old says words like “realize”) that it’s not his fault and so I can’t be mad at him.” This is followed by a big sigh and a sniffle and then a quiet, contemplative, almost wistful tone overcomes him
“mom, i have a dream. My dream would be that everyone in my class . . . well, that we could all work together, like a team, to be the best. That way on Fridays we could all get the prize and NO one would get left out”.
Seriously people does it get any better than this little person? And you know what I did? I pulled the van over, opened the back door and gave the boy with the shocked and uncertain look on his face the biggest hug ever. I held his precious little face in my hands and looked in his sad but hopeful little eyes and I told him “THAT is the BEST dream ever!”