It was a heated discussion for such a chilly January morning at the Whallonsburg Grange –
Parent: Pick up your trash and throw it away.
Child: I can’t pick it up. The air is too hot.
(Their snack wrapper had fallen under a very large heater vent.)
Parent: Pick it up, or we’re going home!
Child: I can’t pick it up. IT’S. TOO. HOT.
– a variation on a conversation I had heard dozens of times before as a teacher, and would frequently find myself trapped in when my then-baby turned into a strong, opinionated toddler a few years later: The adult wanting desperately to be obeyed. The child wanting desperately to be heard.
And then, the quiet, calming voice of peace –
“Do you think we could find another way? A way to get the wrapper without walking in
front of the vent?”
It wasn’t the first time I had encountered Gregg Van Deusen, Lakeside School’s lead kindergarten teacher, and the generous host of the free Saturday morning Winter Play Days at the Grange. But as I watched that child stop to think, then skillfully belly-crawl their way under the heater vent to secure their snack wrapper, and triumphantly deliver it to the trash bin, his words resonated deep within me.
Do you think we could find another way? Another way to listen, instead of just reacting. Another way to work with our children, instead of for or (often times, it seems) against them. Another way to help our children view the world – not just as an “either/or” but as an endless sea of possibilities and solutions. Another way to connect. Another way to grow. Another way to exist.
For me, the depth and simplicity of Gregg’s question that morning sums up what Lakeside School is all about: Its careful attentiveness to the child’s need. Its calming demeanor. Its provocative inquisitiveness. These are traits that I have found in abundance in all of the teachers here, and they never fail to elicit the same sort of remarkable responses from the children. “Lakeside kids do tough things.” That’s what the kids say. But they also listen. They also observe. They also connect. And all because their teachers are committed to “finding another way.”
I always look back on that January morning as the pivotal moment when I transformed from a parent who attended a “mommy & me” group at Lakeside into a Lakeside parent. That’s not to say that I am magically a perfect parent now, and never get into power struggles with my now-three year old (ha!). Simply that I am committed to joining in the journey of finding “another way.”