"I will name this 'Chima World'," she declared. "Really? Are you sure you want to name this painting that?" I asked. I think I followed it with a big old, -sigh-.
The reason for the sigh is that this title came a good month after we had begun a group discussion I called, "Pinning Your Hopes on Someone." It is probably the most complicated discussion we have had so far this year. In giving her painting this particular name, it reminded me that we had yet to resolve anything. "Chima World" was the name given to another child's painting only moments before and that child was the focus of all her hope-pinning attention. We were obviously not done yet. The Chima World title says, "No, not so fast." And that is right and good. Life is filled with the ever-present give and take, struggle and joy of Hope Pinning.
It seems like a long time ago since we first found out about this particular hope pinning situation. We should have seen it coming when our Hope Pinner began wearing the same black leggings and long-sleeved shirt for several days in a row. When asked about it, she said, "I am a Superhero Ninja." This was her first overture for play, "Look, I am a superhero ninja. I am part of your game. Obviously." Her clothes-choice sent the signal and she felt that this signal was loud and clear, but it didn't work as well as she thought it would. This is how we found out about her plan--she hit a wall--why hadn't anyone noticed her Ninja-ness? Why hadn't the focus of all her attention notice her Ninja-ness especially! She was distraught and frustrated. I suggested that she could consider adding words to her signal to let the person she wanted to play with know her intent. We had a meeting between the two of them so this communication could take place.
Things went apace for a bit, they played superhero-ninja alternating with cat family, but after a collection of days, if she wasn't standing next to this particular friend or sitting near him at snack or circle, she would break down. One day at circle, it came to a head. He didn't want to sit next to her and he said so. Oh the howl! That it happened at circle is a good thing because then we had the power of the whole group involved. Certainly, working together, we could come up with a solution!
We began by talking about how you could pin your hopes on someone or on something, but when it was a someone, the burden of carrying those hopes may be too great to bear. You were choosing, but the person receiving wasn't being given a choice. I asked if the hopes were heavy on his shoulders. He pressed on his shoulders with his hands and solemnly nodded yes. I suggested that it might be good to communicate your hope pinning in advance and check in with that person every so often just in case they needed a break. I also suggested that we add a cue, "I need a break today/this moment/right now, etc." They agreed and followed through with the asking and the telling, but I could tell that we didn't have resolution. Tough stuff, big ideas, and life lessons. Do they ever resolve that quickly?
So after a week of hitting walls, I tried to get all teacher-y-creative, which just means that the person who stands the most to learn will be me. I went to our expert one-person friend, who I have written about before, for advice. I talked to him about his friendship story, about how he started with one friend and then added another and another, but always chose to play with one friend at a time. I thought it was a bit like the hope-pinning situation. He agreed that it was, "a little bit." I said that I thought he could give our Ninja some ideas, "How did you learn how to play with a new friend when the one before wanted to play with someone else?" Oh I had high expectations that he would have just the right answer! And he did, though it was not the one I expected. "I learned to play by myself," he said. Oh, are you happy about that answer, too? I suddenly remembered the whole story, the bits I had forgotten. He had created his own play arc when he was between friends which he called "Exercise." Is that the best advice ever for our Ninja? Create your own play arc! Strike out on your own! Joy! I pulled her over to where our one-friend was drawing and had him repeat his story. "Well?" I asked excitedly, "What do you think? He learned to play alone!"
"I'll play Exercise with him then."
He looked at her and his shoulders slumped, already weighted down with burden of hopes transferred and pinned. Then suddenly, one of the other children sitting at the table, without looking up from his drawing, said "She can pin her hopes on me. I don't care." Wait, are you sure? "Of course," he said. I asked him to consider the parameters--all day, part of the day, just when? I didn't want to get into another situation where it was burdensome and there would be more wailing. "All the time. I don't care." Oh I really wanted to draw up a contract right there and then to seal the deal, but whose problem is it really? Not mine. They have to work things out and off they went to pin hopes all around town.
This kindness extended was gratefully picked up and held. It lasted that whole day and -poof- it was gone. Back to Chima World. What will this week bring?