Thursday, October 29, 2009

Developing Community at 5 or earlier

Photos of assembling the Care Giver Kits:

Project completed, time to rest!

Community, what is that all about. Is it the excited voice I hear every time Margo mentions her neighbors across the street? She loves her neighbors across the street. They play with her, draw pictures with her, are 17 and 19 years old and they help Margo learn about neighbors and community. A few years ago one of our other neighbors was struggling with cancer, so Margo and I would pick her up from the chemo sessions. Sometimes we would come early and just hang out with her while she finished the treatment. Other times Margo would come with me to deliver dinners to our friends who were sick. One such time she wanted to purchase Debbie, a pot of flowers. I was at the store to purchase some french bread to go with the spaghetti dinner, but oh no, Margo insisted on the potted flowers. So with that insistence, she needed to deliver the flowers, while I carried the food. She was a bit shy, but realized the job must be done. She so wanted to make my friend feel better. So Margo carried the flowers to my friend's door, and brought them into the kitchen. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately for Margo, Debbie was still sleeping, so she did not need to say anything. Margo was about 4 years old then. I have always wondered is she learning about caring for others from these kinds of situations?

Last year, in pre-school, one of her friend's older sister had gotten very, very ill, with a strange sickness. I told Margo a little about it, and we prayed together. The next thing I know she is insisting I call Tammy (her friends mom)and offer to bring them dinner to help her friend's sister get better. So yes I called, no dinner was required, but Margo was happy, we made the offer to help. Community, I think she is getting it. I think I am getting it too. It does not need to be complicated.

Last week, on a Sunday no less, our church shut down to be part of the community Aids walk. There was a group of us, who stayed back to meet and assemble 'Caregiver Kits', for a caregivers in Africa. All the materials were provided by World Vision, we were providing the labor. So yes, I have big dreams for my little daughter and figured she could start to learn about the community that extends beyond our borders. I brought her along. In fact I was there to only assist her in her labor of love.

Everything was laid out with signs in front of each supply. We grabbed the empty orange kit box, and started down the assembly line. Little Margo sounded out the words on each sign and the number of each item and packed it in the box. She was a little slow, but definitely methodical and serious about the task at hand. No I did not explain to her the details of Aids, but I did explain to her that we were making kits to help the caregivers. Those are people, like Grandmanma Margo, who takes care of someone who is sick and needs a lot of help. Just like Grandmanma Margo takes care of Grandpapa. She seemed satisfied with that explanation, and at one point suggested we send Grandmanma one of the kits too.

Other adults would come by and quietly wait while Margo worked. They did not worry that she was a little slow, and they smiled watching her work hard. She was part of the community at our church, serving a village in Africa. Other children also came and joined in the labor of love. I think that is what is amazing about community, it is ageless. There are no lines between the generations. Each life touches another, to make the other's situation better. So yes she really is learning and experiencing community. Welcome to our world my sweet little Margo. You will go far with your enlarging heart for others.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Boy Friends at 5?

Once more in the car at the end of a little drive the question comes forth, or rather a statement. "Mom, I need to find a boyfriend." A little background, in fact here is a lot of background. I thought we were going to avoid this phase for a while. It turns out the boys are chasing the girls, as it should be at age 5 and 6 years old. They are mostly looking for gals to play with, I think. Anyway, some have brought the idea of having a girl friend. One little one kept trying to kiss my daughters friend, that she ran as fast as she could away. In fact, she was so trying to avoid being kissed; she was sucking in her lips trying to keep them away from the little boy. Eventually she had quite the rash around her little mouth. The teacher did contact the boy's mom about the situation. I had quite the interesting conversation with mom. She asked her son why he was trying to kiss this little girl. The answer, “I want her to play with me” he said. So the mom had the wisdom to give him a few helpful hints about asking for a girl to play with him. Hint number one: Use your words, meaning, “do you want to play together”. Hint number two: don’t play tag if they do not want to play tag, or better yet, just keep your lips to yourself and no kissing at school. The two role played and practiced a bit at home. I believe the issue has passed and is no longer a problem.

Other groups of girls chase one little boy, to 'keep him away'. It is a small tribe against the one. Margo has let me know this boy is her friend, and she likes to play with him. She does chase him to thinking that is what he wants. I have since been told by one of the group she does not like this little boy. Margo pipes up the same, so I ask her about her comment of enjoying to play with him. Then she says I can play with him at home…and then I say, you can be friends with him, even if the others are not. And yes I said this front of the other little girl. Margo decided for now, that it is fine to be friends with others that perhaps some of her friends don’t enjoy or like. It turns out this little boy is chasing the girl V, who does not want to be chased. So she and her friends chase him to show them that they do not like him. This is all confused by my book. No wonder there is such poor communication between the sexes as adults; it all starts in the play ground of kindergarten. If V. would only use her words and say she does not like to be chased, then probably the “hate him” syndrome would not even exist.

And then I have heard the stories of 'Jane is Robert's girl friend'. But do they really know what this girlfriend boyfriend thing is really about? Do we laugh about it and say how cute, but at the same time bring adulthood into their childhood a little early? Let’s get back to my initial story. “So Margo, can you tell me what a boy friend really is?” “Well it is a boy you are friends with mom,” is her response to the question of the day. “Margo, you have lots of friends who are boys, what about Ben? He is your friend, you like to play together?” Quiet, that proverbial quiet is between us, where I know her brain is working a million miles a second. “Well mom, I need a really best boy friend,” is her final answer. Hmm is my final response, for now that is it.

Right now, I want to encourage her to be friends with those she enjoys. Not because a specific group says they are cool. I just learned about BFF’s and BFFF’s, Best Friends for life and Best Female Friends for Life. What a concept. Is it real, limiting or just there. Margo spoke up that she has many BFF’s, one is Lilly, another Aria, and even K. Her friend spoke up against K, but Margo did not back down. She likes K and that is what that is about. Her friend’s BFF is V and that is ok that it is not Margo. I like that, Margo is comfortable with her BFF’s. I am comfortable with her BFF’s especially when she added a few more that were much older. “I want you to meet my BFF’s who live across the street,” she said to her friend in the car. “They are way older than me, but like to play with me and show me movies, with my mom’s permission.” And I knew exactly who she was talking about, Stephanie and Nathalie, my dear friend’s daughters. They are a wonderful family and the daughters are a Jr in High school and a freshman in college. They are wonderful girls and I am totally excited they are Margo’s Best Friends for Life too.

All of this to say, the social structure of a Kindergartner is far more complicated than anything I ever remembered. I am so glad she drives in the car with me, because I think my subtle or not so subtle listening will help me understand her world a little bit better. And perhaps if I am lucky, I can steer her towards kinder choices when it comes to living and playing with friends.