"Nobody should have to look at that"

"Nobody should have to look at that," one of our little ones huffed as she stomped down the path at dismissal. She pointed with her chin, while averting her eyes, towards the carefree child who was in front of her with backpack unzipped and gaping, contents hanging out like so much flotsam and jetsam. The backpack, its contents, and its owner bounced happily along the path and our seething, unsettled observer was not happy about that backpack situation. Not at all. How could anyone be so happy with all that stuff just loose like that? And how could anyone be happy when she felt so completely and utterly angry. And most importantly, NOBODY SHOULD HAVE TO LOOK AT THAT!

Well, at least the nobodies who didn't want to leave school at that moment. The backpack was a symbol for all that was left undone and that it was attached to someone without a care in the world, unaware of all that was unfinished and spilling out, disorganized, was just too much to bear.

Each day, each transition, each little bit of "stop this" and "start that", was hard for this little one. We used the go-to items in our bag of tricks to help her, because let's face it, transitions turn up all the time at school. We gave her advance notice of a coming transition, we talked to her about what she would do next, we made labels for the ornate constructions she created and made a space for them so she wouldn't have to put them away. It was easier for her to stop when she knew that she could return to the construction she was working on the next day, yet time seemed so dear to her. "I didn't have time!" she would cry.

When she made that observation about the open backpack that day, something clicked. Yes, the things IN the bag of tricks would help, sure, but it was the bag itself that she was asking for. She needed things contained and organized. This is why giving her a shelf that was hers alone was so helpful. Time itself needed to be tidied up, as well, no loose minutes here and there, which is why the advance notice and "what will you do next" question helped. Even making sure that she had access to materials like these pictured below, to continue with her need to order and connect helped.


Mostly though, I come back to this idea again and again. I cannot tell her, "oh don't worry, it will be all right" because it certainly is not, at that moment, even remotely all right. I just need to hand her a bag, so that she can put all her own tricks into it, first trying out the ones we have with the understanding that it is okay for her to discard those as needed in order to find her own. In the end, she will have the best bag ever and it will have a clasp that will lock down tight and true, no loose threads, nothing spilling out. And that, dear friends, we should all be able to look at.