Tuesday, April 26, 2005

kids at sea

A friend sent me a compilation of comments from 5 to 8-year olds who were asked to write a short report and draw pictures for a project called "Kids at Sea." Here are some of their thoughts:

When ships had sails, they used to use the trade winds to cross the ocean.
Sometimes, when the wind didn't blow, the sailors would whistle to make the
wind come. My brother said they would be better off eating beans.
- William, age 7

This is a picture of an octopus. It has eight testicles. - Kelly, age 6

I think sharks are ugly and mean, and have big teeth, just like Emily
Richardson. She's not my friend no more.
- Kylie, age 6

I like mermaids. They are beautiful, and I like their shiny tails. How do mermaids get pregnant? - Helen, age 7

I laughed at those. Some of them brought back memories. That last one, for some reason, made me think of my college friend Shari. She has three children now, but when her oldest was about four, Christopher had many questions about "that." Shari and her husband, Bill, decided they wouldn't pretty it up with stories about cabbages or storks. Instead, they'd be very clinical and matter-of-fact. One day, while riding the bus, Christopher started asking a new slew of questions. You know how loud buses are. Christopher was compensating for the noise, when all of a sudden, the bus driver shifted gears--and in that lull, that split second of absolute silence, Shari and all the other passengers heard Christopher yell, "But how does the sperm get to the egg?"

The comment about Emily and her big shark teeth made me think of my daughter and her friend who spent one summer day fighting. The friend (who we'll call Julie) is a manipulative child. This day was no exception.

"If you don't do what I want to do today, then I'm not going to be your friend anymore," Julie announced to Tera.

For a time, Tera went along with that arrangement. They played with Barbies out in the sandbox, because that's what Julie wanted to do. They jumped on the trampoline, because that's what Julie wanted to do. But when Julie suggested they go in the house and watch a movie, Tera dug in her heels. She didn't want to stay inside on a beautiful summer day.

She came in to get my opinion. "Mom, I don't want to come inside. But Julie said she won't be my friend anymore if I don't do what she says. And she says we need to come in and watch a movie."

I know very few things for certain, but I do know this: God gave me this particular child so I could teach her to not let the world run over her. Tera will do anything to please others. She'll ignore her own wants and needs, she'll pretend she's not hurt, she'll overlook jabs and outright offenses. And while I'm not trying to turn her into a prickly girl, and I absolutely love how forgiving and kind she is, I don't want people to take advantage of her. I want her to stand up for herself now and then.

"Tera," I said, "you can't let people manipulate you. Go outside and tell Julie that you'd like to stay outside. Ask her if she'd like to run through the sprinkler or feed the chickens."

"She'll go home, Mom. She already said so. And she won't be my friend."

"All right." I dug in my own heels. "Then this is what you say: 'Well, Julie, then I guess that's what we'll have to do. We just won't be able to be friends anymore.' "

Tera's eyes widened.

"It works every time," I promised.

She ran out and went straight to Julie. I watched through the window, and though I couldn't hear the exchange, my limited mouth-reading skills yielded enough that I caught the fact that Julie had, indeed, threatened to leave.

Tera said something more and I watched Julie stomp her foot. But then she crossed her arms, sighed, and gave a reluctant nod. Then Tera came barreling through the back door. "We're going to run through the sprinkler. I need some towels."

"So what happened?" I couldn't resist asking.

"Well," Tera began, "She said we couldn't be friends anymore if we didn't come in and watch a movie. So I said, 'Well, Julie, I s'pose we can't be friends anymore.' And then she didn't answer me 'cause I think she was thinking. Then I said, 'And my mom says that works every time.' And it did."

Kids. You have to laugh.

There was one last comment from the "Kids at Sea" collection that made me stop and think. One little girl said this:

I'm not going to write about the sea. My baby brother is always screaming and being sick, my Dad keeps shouting at my Mom, and my big sister has just got pregnant, so I can't think what to write. - Amy, age 8

Oh, Amy. I can relate. Sometimes life is so crazy that you think, How can I be expected to write? But you need to grab a pen anyway, Hon. Forget the sea. Write about the other things swirling about your brain. You need to find a quiet corner, sit down and let it all out. The act of writing releases thoughts that lurk in secret places, thoughts you just can't get to any other way. It helps you make sense of chaos. Sometimes, you don't really know how you feel about a thing until it spills out of your pen.

That goes for the rest of you, too. Had a crazy day? Feel overwhelmed? Emotions getting the better of you? I'm sure there's a pen lying around somewhere. See what happens when you pick it up.

8 Comment:

At 4/26/2005 1:22 PM, Blogger Monica had this to say ...

I loved it! You know what I got out of the exchange between Tera and Julie? That Tera's open honesty and childlike faith worked. Knowing she probably wasn't suppose to repeat that made it even more apparent to me. LOL.
Too cute!

At 4/26/2005 1:50 PM, Anonymous Ian Florek had this to say ...

Thanks Shannon. I need to write in the hopes of getting what's in me out...since Irene won't listen to my complaints and banter anymore *grin*

I will look to see what blogging is about and maybe set myself up.

At 4/26/2005 2:02 PM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

Good observation, Monica. And no, she definitely wasn't supposed to repeat that last part! :) I cringed when she told me, but I still had to laugh.

By the way ... I LOVE the new look of your blog. Very nice. You must be pleased. :)

Ian--I am begging you, for the sake of your wife, start writing. Ha! No, I really do think it's a great idea. You're a deep thinker, so it will be interesting to see what you come up with (if you're willing to share, that is. :)

At 4/26/2005 2:25 PM, Blogger Jilly had this to say ...

This is a picture of an octopus. It has eight testicles.

Oh that is so funny! Thanks for the laugh.

At 4/26/2005 9:06 PM, Blogger an orange had this to say ...

I remember being little and wondering exactly the same thing that Christopher yelled out.

What a nice post.

At 4/26/2005 11:20 PM, Blogger Shirazi had this to say ...

Your wisphere here are so loud. Came here via Blog of the Day and instantly liked it. Will be here more.

At 4/27/2005 10:15 AM, Blogger ddddddddddddddddddddd had this to say ...

That is exactly what I did. I went back to writing about my first love. It is amazing how connected you can become when you do that. Thanks for the reminder. Hugs.

At 4/27/2005 4:45 PM, Anonymous susan had this to say ...

Great blog. You made me laugh, kids are so funny! But I got a tear in my eye for Amy. I hope her home life gets better. Shell be in my prayers.


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