The boy who was a girl

spiderman

“I saw a boy who is a girl,” the six-year-old noted. We were wrapping up a session and he was coloring a Spider-Man drawing he’d made.

“Oh?” I offered. I don’t always know where things are heading when children offer out-of-the-blue declarations. Instead of assuming, I try to stay out of the child’s way till they say more or clarify.

“Yeah,” the little guy added. “He is a boy on the outside but he is really a girl on the inside.”

“I see.”

He lifted long-eyelashes with an adorable ‘is-she-really-listening-or-just-pretending-to’ look. When our eyes met, he nodded in satisfaction and lowered his gaze back to his drawing. He regarded it quietly for a few seconds then rummaged through the colored pencil box. “Aha!” he announced, pulled out the silver pencil, and meticulously drew squiggly lines over his superhero’s bodysuit.

“Yeah,” the boy said, “just like Spider-Man.”

I made a noncommittal noise in my throat and he looked up at me again, eyes slightly narrowed in concentration. “Yes,” the little boy stressed, “because you see, sometimes he is a regular man on the outside but he is still really Spider-Man on the inside.”

 

 

 

 

When I Grow Up

“When I grow up,” she said, small face determined, adamant, “I will make sure no one is hungry and no one feels lonely for a hug.”

(S.J. age 5)

determination
Photo: Pinterest, Kay Anderson

 

 

For The Daily Post

Controversy: Friend or Foe?

heart-stone

In the current climate of contention, many seem to see controversy as indication of animosity or ‘wrongness’ rather than an entry point to discussion.

What is that turns a difference of opinion or even heated disputes into declarations of allegiance or betrayal?

How does dissent become a call for combative rhetoric, rather than an invitation for conversation and possibly a point of understanding where one might’ve been wrong, been wronged, been blind, been blinded, yet can still find growth?

Why do so many find arguments a threat and varied views a sign of weakness or enmity?

Where have we gone so wrong, so long, that we forgot what we should already know?

In the give and take of conversation, even very young children learn that not all share their point of view, and that they cannot always get their way (not should they). They hopefully learn how to persuade as well as how to accept that not all persuasion means they’ll get their heart’s desire … That they aren’t wrong to have wishes even if those did not manifest, and that to not get their way doesn’t make them weak or ‘losers’, nor does it make the other ‘stronger’ or a ‘winner.’

Living as part of a healthy society requires we accept differences and listen to more than just the echoes of our personal view chambers – be it in the small groupings of family, classroom, playground, and work environment; or in the bigger congregations of towns and cities, countries and religions and cultures and the whole blue marble we’re all traveling on.

How much do we lose if we refuse to engage with anyone who sees a different perspective; if we attack any who disagree with words that are meant to silence, put down, dismiss, disown, distract?

How much do we limit our humanity – and our children’s, for they are watching – if we divide the world into ‘us’ and ‘them’; into those in the ‘right’ and those in the ‘wrong’ (and any who do not share our views we place automatically into the latter …). If we split the world into those who are ‘with us’ and therefore somehow morally superior, and those who ‘must be against us’ if they challenge things to not be exactly as we see then?

Controversy is the soil of growth. It can be made good use of, or it can be muddied into insult-slinging till it buries up real issues under heaps of refusal and refuse. Dissent can offer new space and pathways, or it can become no-mans-lands where any who dare venture risk a wounding and the blame for encroaching their view point onto another’s walled-off boundary.

I listen to children negotiating play: who will be whom, what the rules would be, how best to proceed, who gets to ‘be whom’ for how long, how far to push the limits of roles and imagination and possibility … And I think to myself: It is from the mouths of babes we should re-learn how to engage. How to take turns listening. How to accept that we do not hold absolute truth about almost anything, and that our views do not give us the right to hurt, to harm, to wound, to bully.

Much power is already cemented into viewpoints. An ossification of attitudes as proof for battles ‘won’ or ‘lost’ in pseudo-righteousness tips the balance of discussion so it loses any common ground and becomes blind to shared humanity and understanding. It is past time we all re-learn, remember, and take on added practice … for how to keep open hearts to and amidst controversy.

negotiation--prepare2play

Photo by: prepare2play

 

For The Daily Post

Truth Be Told–From the Mouths of Babes

“What does it mean, to tell the truth?”

A child asked me that. As usual, they are my greatest teachers. “What do you think?” I returned the question, wondering at the child’s working hypothesis (and chickening out just a little bit–let the munchkin do the hard work …).

I got the look I deserved, and: “To not be a liar.”

“Hmm,” I non-committed. “What does it mean to lie?”

“To say you didn’t do it but you did?” he tried. “And to be mean.”

I raised an eyebrow. This kid was good at reading body language.

“Yeah, because someone else get in trouble.”

“Oh, I can see how that would not be very nice, to get someone else in trouble. Anything else lying means?”

A moment of scrunched forehead. “Is it still lying even if you pretend you didn’t do it but you don’t say?”

“What do you think?”

A sage nod. A sigh. “Yeah, it still mean. Someone still get in trouble, right? Because the teacher think its them.”

“So…” I prompted (he was doing so well on his own, I felt like my words would be interfering).

“So … telling the truth is being not mean?” he ventured. His little face was quite serious, thinking this through.

“Hmm.”

“But truth is hard,” he sighed, a six-year-old summing up centuries of philosophy. “It can get you in trouble. … you know, if you did bad things.”

He paused. “But … then you can say sorry, maybe. Maybe you won’t be in trouble. … if you’re lucky.”

“Yeah, being honest can help.”

Big brown eyes hung onto mine. “What do you think is worser, being mean or being in trouble?”

Tough one. I’m returning it to him. “What do you think?”

“Being mean.” He did not hesitate. “Being mean is worser.”

“How come?” I pushed. Curious. Enchanted by this child.

“Oh … because … being mean makes me more in trouble,” he stated. Pointed to his midriff. “With my heart.”

Old soul, big spirit, that.

gandhi