Tuesday, October 27, 2009

When the teacher becomes the pupil

I find people-watching fascinating. Fred says I'm just nosey, and maybe so; but I love to watch people in situations and see what makes them react. I swear it's better than most of the crap you see on TV.

The other day at one of the story times Elise and I frequent, I had the chance to observe a Mom that I couldn't tear my eyes away from. She was like a character from a movie or a book; one so over the top and full of hyperbole, you swear she couldn't be for real. She marched into the library with her approximately 2 year old child strapped into a stroller. Dressed more for a business meeting than a sit on the floor story time with your child, her mouth was set in a grim line as she picked up one the the story time programs and said to her child, "let's see what they do here."

I watched, totally caught up in the scene, as the librarian told her that her child could play until the other kids arrived and story time began. The lady looked uncertain and replied, "I don't know, she's a bit of a trouble-maker and gets into everything."

The librarian just laughed and said they were pretty much set up for the chaos that kids create. The lady looked worriedly at her daughter and started un-strapping her from the stroller. The kid (I'll call her G), ran over to a bookcase and grabbed a book off the shelf. The mother looked horrified and ran over to her, telling her no and that she needed to behave. G then started to walk over the parachutes that were set up on the floor and the Mom grabbed her, admonishing the child as she pulled her back towards the stroller.

Throughout the story time, the Mom sat with the child in her lap, arms holding her in an almost straight-jacket fashion. Every time the child would "act up", the mother would hiss a warning in her ear.

From what I could see, G was no different from any other child at that story time, full of energy and life; just wanting to experience the world around her. And my heart ached for her. I wondered if the Mom's controlling nature was going to quench this little girl's enthusiasm for life. Is this how the Mom grew up? Being told she was a trouble maker and was never allowed to be mischievous?

I then started asking myself how my nature affects Elise. I accept that I am a bit of a perfectionist. And a control freak. And I also have the tendency to be a wee bit anal retentive. But I try not to push my personality defects on Elise. I want her to be a clean slate, free to grow up to be the true person she is.

One thing I hate is a mess, I like to clean as I go, and I'm not big into getting dirty. But the other day Elise wanted to finger paint. And more specifically, she wanted me to join in. She started by smearing a line of paint down my arm and as I fought the urge to run and wash it off, I realized I needed to stop being so "grown-up" about things and muck in on her fun.

So we painted, Four or five glorious pictures of gooey paint. We had paint everywhere; the wall, the table, the chairs, ourselves. And I loved it.

What I loved most is that although I am the one who is supposed to be teaching Elise, she is a wonderful teacher in her own right. She has taught me to slow down, not to get caught up in the little things, and enjoy getting dirty once in awhile. Children view the world in a way that is so freeing, so wonderful; I think more adults need to sit down with their kids and learn a lesson or two of their own.

Here is a picture of the lesson I learned that day. Beautiful, isn't it?


phonelady said...

wow you are a great mom Joanne and I feel sorry for that other little girl . Her mother is trying to make her behave in her mind and instead the child sees that as being naughty . thanks for sharing and posting .

Meri said...

Hello sister I never knew I had...I am an avid people watcher! My sister in law and I go to movies early so we can sit around and watch people and listen in on their conversations. It really is just as entertaining as the movie..sometimes more so.

I also wanted to tell you that I did my first CVS coupon spree and I am very proud. I had a coupon for spend $20 get $10 off. Another coupon for spend $30 get $5 off. And ANOTHER $2 CVS bucks. SO, I bought $40 worth of halloween candy, and got it all for $23 bucks. NICE! Thanks for the heads up!

Val said...

Lovely painting! You should frame it and remember the perfect life lesson your fabulous Elise gave you that day :)

Wym said...

Are we related? I need a good dose of dirty fun too. way too anal retentive.