Empathy on the playground
This week at camp a counselor pulled me aside. I want to tell you about what your daughter did today, she said. Ok, I said, and I took a deep breath. I braced myself, waiting for the bad news. I know how these conversations usually go. I am no stranger to the bad news calls from the teacher or principal and when a teacher or counselor starts to walk towards me at pick up time, I usually cringe and pray that she is heading to some other parent.
Let us just say that generally teacher types do not approach me with good news.
So I was steeling myself to hear about how my quirky, complicated and dyslexic child was inflexible or easily frustrated or how she overreacted in a social situation. Or maybe about how her hair is too knotty (she will not always brush it) or maybe she tried to read something and got frustrated. The list of potential problem is actually quite long as is her IEP.
But that is not what happened.
It turns out that my daughter helped out her friend who was afraid of going down the big slide on the playground.
Apparently my daughter approached her friend after she had difficulty in the larger group and she talked with her privately.
Apparently she encouraged her friend to go on a smaller slide along with her. Apparently she talked with her friend about using her imagination to see herself on the big slide.
Apparently she got this reluctant friend to accompany her on the big slide over and over until her friend felt brave enough to go all by herself.
Apparently she spent all of her free time on the playground with this particular friend.
Apparently she showed patience, empathy and understanding.
Apparently my quirky and complicated daughter is learning patience, empathy and understanding. How about that?
I told my daughter how proud I was. And more importantly I could see that she was proud of herself.
In my world this is a big deal.
Learning how to deal with fear is one of the most important things we can learn. Helping others deal with fear is basically what my profession is all about.
I hope my daughter will look back on this day and remember it when she is upset or afraid. I hope my daughter will know that she has it in her to be kind, generous and empathetic. I hope she will remember how proud I was of her.
I decided to share this with all of you today because I want to remember this day. I want to talk about the good stuff as much as I talk about the tough stuff.
And this is the good stuff.
I (like most of us) tend to focus on all of the struggles and all of the ways my child does not fit in.
There are many weeks when I start to feel afraid about what the future might hold for this little girl.
There are many weeks when I get stressed out about her behavior and I get frustrated and worried.
There are many weeks when I wish she would just brush her hair. Because I am human and sometimes I just want her to fit in and it stresses me out when she does not.
But today I am savoring this particular triumph and sharing it with all of you. Today we are celebrating empathy, compassion and helping your friend go down the big slide.