by Petra Eperjesi, Manager of National Programs
“Can you get through this whole day without rushing them?”
I asked myself this question at the beginning of a day with one of our school-age programs.
The quick answer is no, I couldn’t. Within about thirty minutes I had to hurry D. along to catch up with the rest of the group so that I could communicate with my colleague leading our hike that another educator had had to run back with another student to change after falling in a mud puddle and soaking through her snowpants…(phew!)But what if we could, as educators, parents, adults, move through a whole day without asking the children around us to “hurry up”, “come on”, “finish your oatmeal”, “put your boots on”, etc., etc., etc.? A whole day? I probably couldn’t do it! (I mean, I need to get to work in the first place!) But what if we could rush them a little bit less? What would we see, if we moved at a child’s pace? What would we hear? How would it feel?
At the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada we often talk about carving out space and time for children to build meaningful relationships with the natural world, to truly create their own play culture, to lead their own learning, to solve their own problems…When I say this, I often create a circle with my arms, and edge them outwards, inch by inch. I picture myself holding the constraints and pressures of swimming lessons, homework, school buzzers, dance practice, flash cards (etc., etc., etc.) at bay. I picture my arms pushing back, holding space, against the way that fears for our children’s safety and achievement encroach on their freedom.
I’m becoming increasingly aware that holding my tongue is another equally important way I can protect that space and time for the children around me.
This week, I intentionally stayed at the back of the pack for our hikes. And when holding myself back from hurrying our last few friends along, I observed two unicorns! One of these unicorns was a scaredy-’corn. Big hill? Scared. Small hill? Scared. Icy puddle? Scared. Wobbly log bridge? Scared. The other unicorn, her friend, never grew frustrated, never dismissed her friend’s fears. Instead, she helped her over every obstacle. I saw patience, heard kindness and generosity, and I felt grateful.