Last week I watched an 8-year-old boy help his mother while she was using the accucut machine at The Parenting Place, cutting out many letters we need for posters for the Children’s Festival.
He was busy keeping track of the letters to be cut, arranging the ones already done, crossing them off on the sheet as they were completed. There was a definite air of industry about this young boy. He didn’t think for a second to run off and tease his younger brother and sister in the playroom. He had a job to do there and he was downright serious about it.
After all – who doesn’t want and need to be taken seriously? It’s like the little girl who goes to the restaurant with her mom and dad and the waiter comes to the table giving each of them a menu – even her. The little girl is shocked. “He thinks I’m real!” she told her parents.
When we provide experiences for our children that encourage them to feel “real”, we lift their confidence and increase their level of competence.
On Thursday, ten children, mainly 5 to 9-year-olds came to The Parenting Place to paint posters of the books we’ll be featuring at our August 25th Children’s Festival. I had the room arranged, two children at a table. The paints and assortment of brushes and pencils were on a separate table. The workers independently chose their book, their materials and their place and just like that, they began.
I was amazed at the fervor in which they worked – the sense of concentration was palpable in the room. These children were seriously invested in the assignment they had before them. No one tried to be the first one done or pestered their neighbor. I believe, for most, it was an unusual moment – one in which they felt and appreciated the amount of freedom, trust and responsibility for the task they had before them. They understood that they were involved in contributing something significant to The Children’s Festival and responded accordingly.
Later on Friday at the Cameron Park Farmers’ Market where The Parenting Place had a table, I was totally moved watching a mixed group of adults and children learn a circle dance together – by doing. One of the children that I knew was a young 3-year-old who was out there with his dad. He danced the entire piece, with a look of such pride, joy and accomplishment on his face the whole time.
It was beautiful to see children participating and learning, side-by-side, along with adults.
And tonight, watching the late news, I saw where the members of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin held their first services since the horrific happening of one week ago. Members said their biggest concern was dealing with the fears of the children. But, a spokeswoman said, they would ask the children “what they can do to help us and what they can do today and tomorrow“.
Ask them – yes, and listen. Let them help, with real work, youthful solutions and important contributions. That may well be the answer.