A 5 year-old’s Guide: How to Deal with Anger

“Choose a job you like, and you won’t have to work a day in your life.”

– Confucius

There once was a 5 year-old kindergartener named Teddy.  Teddy loved to visit my first grade classroom and participate in all our activities.  Every morning before school, he would run up to me and ask the same question: “Allen, can I be with you in upper elementary today?”  And I would usually respond with the same answer: “It’s ok with me, but first check in with your kindergarten teachers and make sure it’s ok with them.” Then Teddy would whizz off to ask Randall, the head kinder teacher.  Randall would usually say, “yes.”

One morning, Teddy was engaged in a math activity with my first grade students.  I was teaching a small group lesson to 4 kids while the others were playing math games.  Teddy and his friend Rick, walked up to me.  “We need to tell you something in private,” Teddy whispered.  “Yeah, it’s really important,” Rick added, putting extra emphasis on the ‘really.’  The three of us stepped out of the classroom.  As soon as I knelt down to their eye level, Teddy said, “Can me and Rick have some time to play outside of the classroom?”

“Ok,” I said with a hint of caution.  I waited for their faces to light up with relief, and then I added, “But first you must stay involved in your math activity for 10 minutes.  Then you can choose to either build with wooden blocks or draw pictures in the Atalier (Fancy Italian word for art space).”    

“Ok,” Teddy said.  “But we also need to run around the school while we play.” The urgency in his voice was so convincing, I nearly gave in. 

“Oh?” I replied.  “And why do you need to run around the school?”

“Because we’re Adventure Cats!” Teddy said with excitement. 

How could anyone contend with such an argument? Adventure Cats obviously need space to run around and make noise.  I mean, that’s what Adventure Cats do, don’t they?  Well, I couldn’t have two 5 year-old kids running around the upper elementary space during our math time.  But instead of denying his request, I decided to challenge Teddy to a game of negotiations.  If he proved himself worthy, I would settle on a compromise.

After 5 minutes of heated dialogue with the two boys, I proposed the following conciliation: “You may play Stationary Adventure Cats.  That means that you can be Adventure Cats while concentrating your mind and body on a specific activity.  Running around is not a reasonable choice because it will distract the other children.” As expected, Teddy and Rick agreed to my terms right away.

“We choose to build with Kapla blocks!” said Teddy.  Then the boys dropped onto all fours and crawled off to the block-building center, meowing as they went. 

Five minutes later I came over to check on the two Adventure Cats.  I found Teddy sitting motionless on the floor while Rick stared in shock at the disorganized mess of Kapla blocks that surrounded the boys. Teddy’s legs were twirled up like a pretzel in a full lotus position.  His eyes were closed, and he held his palms together in prayer.  Sensing my presence, he opened his eyes.  “I’m meditating,” he said calmly.  Then he closed his eyes again.

“Why are you meditating?” I whispered.

Teddy re-opened his eyes and shifted his gaze at the disorganized pile of Kapla blocks. “I’m meditating because I am angry,” he said.  “Our Kapla tower fell down, and I got angry.  I don’t want to be angry because it hurts.  That’s why I’m meditating.”  His voice was tranquil; and his brave little heart, unshaken by the ill-fated circumstances, had found a path through meditation, to dig himself out of his own sorrow.  He closed his eyes once more and returned to his temple of peace. 

That is why I love my job!

 

I’m Just a Kid – One Child’s View of Truth

Friday afternoon rolled around.  School was out, and I went to the front gate for my weekly after-school duty.  As I assisted arriving parents to sign their kids out, I knew that at any moment, Yok, one of my fifth grade students, would be come over to hang out with me for a few minutes. I have to confess that Yok had spoiled me with her perfect attendance since the beginning of the school year.  I always looked forward to our after-school conversations.  Eventually Yok skipped over and sat on the bench beside me.  “Hello, Mr. Allen,” she said cheerfully.  This that our chit-chat meeting was now in session.  

On that particular afternoon Yok and I shared personal stories about the times we broke or dislocated our bones, and about other stupid things we did to get in trouble. After about ten minutes I decided to change the course of our discussion.  “Yok,” I said with a thoughtful tone. “Who do you want to be when you grow up?”

“That kind of talk is for grown ups, Mr. Allen.  And I’m just a kid.”  She paused to study my reaction.  “And besides,” she continued.  “The future is unbalanced.”  Her eyes trailed off into the distance, leaving her words as silent echoes in my mind.  I immediately recalled a scene from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince where the narrator explains: “Grownups never understand anything by themselves, and it is exhausting for children to have to provide explanations over and over again.”

 

But alas, I was a grown-up, 32-years in; and I felt a need for further explanation. “Unbalanced?” I asked. “What do you mean by unbalanced?”

“I mean the future is unbalanced,” Yok explained in a scholarly tone.  “By the time I’m your age I will have changed my mind 100 times. So what’s the point of thinking about it now?” 

 

“You’re so right!” I said.  “Thank you for teaching me this truth.”  She extended her hand in the air with her palm facing me.  Awe-inspired, filled with amazement at Yok’s wisdom, I extended my hand to meet hers in a quick high-5. 

 

The future is unbalanced: what a beautiful way to verbally illustrate the ways of the universe.  I believe Yok understands that she’d be better off absorbing her mind in things that happen at the present moment, instead of meddling in a future that hasn’t yet been born. And I think she is a happy child for it.

 

And her comment, I’m just a kid:  it reminds me that I too, am just a kid.  Kids are good at being kids because they are kids.  So as a grown-up I find them to be great teachers for me to learn how to live life more happily. Thank you, Yok, for reminding me to live in the present moment; thank you for reminding me to continue being a kid.