I never really understood the whole “No use crying over spilled milk” thing until yesterday. It was the last day of school and the kiddos (3-6 years old) were eating their pizza at lunch. Our youngest girl some how knocked her cup of milk on the floor. Her eyes welled up with tears, she looked at the puddle of milk, then at me, then at the puddle and back at me. Her shoulders began to shake and the shrieks of devastation soon followed. In her eyes, it was the end of the world. That was only the beginning of the tears. During nap time, she woke up and started screaming for her mom. I went over to her began to pat on her on the back, and whisper “it’s okay…shhhhh….it’s okay.” She screamed louder. MOMMY. I WANT MY MOMMMM. I WANT MY MOMMY. MOMMMMM. Sobs. then she screamed even louder. I WANT MY MOMMMMM. MOMMY. I learned a tactic from another teacher when a similar situation was occurring, I tried mirroring the little girl, helping her know i heard her and understood. “I hear you. I hear that you want your mom.” But that did not work and it became clear she was not going to listen to my words.
The lead teacher and I exchanged glances and kind of shrugged shoulders. She tried a few things as well. Distraction, a glass of water, a book. Nothing worked. The girl had been sick the last few days and this was her first day back in awhile. My lead teacher said “today was a different schedule than usual, and probably hasn’t helped her anxiety from being away from mom.” . It was so easy to put this girl in a box and label it “loud child, defiant, just ignore.” When she said the word anxiety, I instantly thought of myself. When I’m anxious, hearing “calm down, you’re okay.” doesn’t help. Listening to music helps me. We had tried everything to help her, or so I thought, I went to her nap roll and started singing songs from Frozen quietly. Her loud sobs turned into quiet whimpers. Then when I ran out of lyrics from Frozen I started singing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little star. Her breathing returned to normal, she was quiet. she fell back asleep. I took a huge breath of relief.
It’s easy and tempting to group kids into a different category from myself. I am, after all, 17-20 years older than all of them. However, their younger age doesn’t make them any less human than me. As the little girl cried for her mom, I remembered the time I was in a hotel in the middle of England with no wifi, and no cell service homesick as ever and crying because i wanted to talk to my mom (as a 21 year old!) I put on my favorite music and told myself I’d be home soon enough. I’m learning that kids are people too: tiny, smelly, loud, fun, annoying, innocent, but people nonetheless.