Wednesday, 30 January 2013

from me to we

Its been one of those days that has got me thinking ...

How is a "we" feeling created. When does it stop being me me me and "MINE" to a more cooperative play and the natural ability to share? Is it something that comes naturally or is it something that has to be learned?

a "we" painting

I have been reading several articles and blogs about backing off from getting young children to share and sometimes I wonder if this is a very "singleton" way of looking at life? My twins were my first borns - and so my experiences with children have always been ones of sharing and of the joy they had sharing experiences and play and THINGS - in fact I have worked on supporting the girls to find the me in the we.

Balance in EVERYTHING in life is important.

I remember when I was expecting Michael several other mothers were expecting their second child. We sat and chatted with our large bellies, and the larger they got the more anxiety there was amongst the other mothers. How were they going to cope? How were they going to be able to share all their love and devotion between two children - as if suddenly they would be halving their love for their preschooler. I looked at them with wide-eyes - wondering if they thought I only gave half my love to each of the girls and not all my love to both? I was not worried at all about having enough love - but maybe that was because I was already used to "sharing" it - not as halves but as complete wholes.

Maybe we should reconsider sharing with young children not as something that happens when a child gives away one of his toys to another child but as a child gaining a play friend, of developing their empathy and understanding of others. I am not talking about when a child has to disturb a game they are intensely playing, but of the inability to share - for example, I witnessed a child unable to play with the collection of animals because the child was too intent on preventing anyone else playing with them - the child literally curled around and over the toy animals and growled at any child who dared to approach. When I pointed out that the child was not playing with the animals as planned I asked if it might not be a better idea to share some of the animals so that play could be resumed. The idea was approved and animals were offered to others and a richer game then ensued. This is not forcing a child to share, this is allowing a child to understand that play is possible/better/more fun if shared... (although alone play should not be devalued either).

a "we" experience - sharing insect finds...
Then there is the tricky issue of not wanting to hold hands with another child. Of course teachers are sensitive enough NOT to partner up children who do not like each other (other techniques need to be used first to support the building of that potential friendship - and to some extent accept that it is impossible to like everyone, but we do need to treat all with respect). Sometimes, though, a child suddenly refuses to hold hands - and this can happen at any stage of an excursion - and can feel immensely frustrating. The whole group stands there, unable to proceed, because one child has made the decision not to hold hands with their walking-buddy (gå-kompis) and the only reason often is "don't want to". The child whose hand is left vacant stands there sometimes not fully aware of what is going on, and sometimes acutely aware that they have been "rejected". I find it hard to get the balance right in these situations for the "me" and the "we". I understand that something has occurred (it could be a thought about home, or something that happened the week before, or due to something that has just happened between the pair of them that neither can explain) BUT this is simply not the time for a "me" moment - there are situations where the "we" has to come before the "me". If all of the children were to have "me" moments on an excursion then the chances are we might not get very far - or in fact anywhere. Sometimes a group has to simply work out how to walk together as a group - looking out for each other, being aware of each other - and aware of where they are walking. (the hand refusing mid walk has to be resolved on an individual basis - sorry no great cure all advice - the latest one that worked was - "You can choose between holding X Y or Z hands " - shakes head vigorously - "OK, I will count to three and if you have not chosen then I will choose for you" - I ended up choosing - the hand was held and all was well. Although usually they make the last minute choice themselves...)

It would be fantastic if all children in preschool groups/classes could walk to and from the park as they wanted - stop when they wanted, run when they wanted, check out small details at will and explore - unfortunately this is not always possible. There is road safety so consider, there is ensuring sufficient adult supervision (if there are 3 children running ahead, three children stopped checking out a worm  and four others somewhere in the middle in different phases - where are the 2 teachers supposed to be? At the front to ensure the children running end up in the right place (and not under a car), at the back to make sure the last children remember where they are supposed to be going? What about the children in the middle - what happens if there are corners and we lose sight of them?) Feel my hair getting more grey by the second!!!!

We can give our own children (as a family) more freedom to explore - I remember the walk to the small supermarket, 3 blocks away, took us almost 2 hours when the girls were toddlers - it was like a trip to a museum - on the way everything had to be explored, then we had to make discoveries in the store and choose our meals - and then everything had to be rediscovered on the way back (I learned to take a cool bag and ice-packs with me to keep things chilled, and frozen items were bought on a BIG food shop trip when we used the car). They were amazing days learning to marvel at the little things in life...

I think there is still opportunities to stop and allow the children to discover things in their own time at preschool - to pamper the "me" in the "we" - at the same time shared learning is often richer and possible only as a "we".

a "we" activity it will only work with co-operation - (Michael tried on his own)
This is the first preschool I have worked at that is located in a pedestrianised area - and so for the first time I have been able to participate in activities that have allowed the children a greater freedom to discover things for themselves outside of the preschool premises. Its been wonderfully liberating, especially after so many years where the preschool has been in the middle of the city and straight out onto trafficked areas - the focus has ALWAYS been on traffic safety. Having a CHOICE of how the children walk on excursions has allowed me to think more about why we hold hands - and I have felt that the "we" feeling is an important factor of staying together as a group. Today the group tested for the first time holding hands - it was not easy for them - they were used to going at their own individual rate - so walking behind someone or in front of someone or even next to someone was quite tricky - in fact it felt like a math lesson with the amount of prepositions that popped out of my mouth.

This was nothing that came natural. I had moments when I did not know whether to laugh or cry - nine wonderful human beings aged 2-3 (well one will be 4 tomorrow) with their amazing toddler/young children temperaments  trying to make sense of everything. Really I should applaud them - they were amazing - so many new things learned in 30 minutes - holding hands, being responsible for another, watching out for friends in front, dealing with the melting snow (revealing an awful lots of dog.... and how to walk with a friend and dodge all that mess - do you walk sideways, backwards? Amazing how tricky it became to walk forwards and watching where you put your feet!!!)...

This was their first try to walk as "we" - and sure there is a whole LOAD of room for improvement - on reflection I think they did really well. Being 2-4 years old is not always the easiest of ages either - a discovery of independence and the desire to be independent but still that longing for dependence. A time of discovering that parents are separate entities to yourself and of mortality! Scary stuff.  On reflection it could be said that the journey from "me to we" is also creating a sense of security - we are not alone in our growing independence - and THAT feeling can give the strength to seek and be independent, imaginative and competent.

With a safety net below - daring to take risks is made easier.

So really the journey is from "me" to "we" to "me in we".

"we" building - melding ideas and skills together

That by learning to become a social being enables us to develop our own personal skills.

1 comment:

  1. It is always interesting to come back and re-read posts.... to see how we have developed...

    Just over a year later the same children are able to walk together from one place to another as a "we" - sure there are days when the whole procedure is challenged for one reason or another... but I see that as the natural rhythm of things (even though it can be frustrating at times)