Friday, September 14, 2007

Forget what you learned in kindergarten!

I was watching a report on one of the morning shows about kids and their first day of kindergarten. It showed the separation of parent/child. Some kids handled it fine. There was one little boy, however, that was having a hard time. He was crying and sort of screaming. The teacher and the aid did a very good job of redirecting him throughout the day, giving him important jobs to do and he calmed down tremendously. But there was one thing that struck me.

At the end of the day, it looked like the boy got some sort of reward or little acknowledgement because of his change in behavior. The teacher (or maybe it was the aid) said to him, “This is because you did really good. You didn’t cry the rest of the day.”

I know they were just being kind, and it was good that he calmed himself down, but the language bothered me. Wouldn’t it have been better just to acknowledge that it is hard to separate from Mom and Dad and that crying is a natural way to express that sadness? Why did they have to associate crying with badness? Couldn’t they have simply rewarded him at the end of the day because he cooperated when they asked him to lead a line or some other task?

Too often, we, in the adult world, want to fix everything right away. We want to make everything all smiles and happiness, because that says to us that everything is okay. But, in truth, outer expressions of joy do not necessarily reflect one’s interior reality, which may be one of utter turmoil.

Read any study on depression and you’ll quickly discover that the happiest looking people can be masking feelings of isolation and despair.

I wonder if we might all be a little healthier if we let go of that first lesson of kindergarten, and, rather than pretending that sadness dries as quickly as tears, offer a healing comfort that allows tears and sadness to be shed, rather than stuffed.

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