I'm in a kindergarten class. We're at the end of a good day, everything having moved along well, and I'm feeling my kinder mojo might be coming back. Kindergarten is so hard for me, just hitting all the marks of work and time and the right amount of explaining and encouraging. We were doing math centers, everybody working on task. I have a group I'm helping, another group doing a worksheet and the lucky red group playing a math game on the carpet.
Suddenly, next to me is a boy crying, his mouth opening and closing like a fish, but no words or sobs coming out. Hardly a breathe going in. "What is it?" I asked, alarmed but trying not to panic. His mouth opens and closes a few more times and the tears keep rolling but still no words. "Are you hurt?" I ask and he just continues his silent sobbing. Clearly he's in terrible pain and the worst thoughts run through my head. Are his eyes okay? Do I see any bumps? Is it internal? The lucky red group on the carpet where he was playing are oblivious. If he was serious injured they are not alarmed. I get back down to his level and finally he speaks, eeking out the words between tears. "They aren't going in order," he sobs. Ahh, right. No broken bones, no punctured skin. They just weren't going in order.
I tell this story at dinner that night, dramatizing my fear and my reaction. "Mom," says Maia. "Don't ever panic. You'll scare all the other kids."
"Really?" I'm interested in what she thinks ought to happen. "What should I have done."
"Get down at his level and look him in the eye. Then say 'Are you okay, honey?'" Her voice is high and teacher-like. Why does my ten year old have better instincts than I do?