Helping a New Child, Then Stepping Back

I’d like to share with you something I learned last Fall. It was mid-September, and there was a new little boy in the room, one of many. This boy however, rather than bond with all the teachers equally, bonded exclusively with me. I must admit, it made me feel special. I alone had the power to comfort this little one. I was happy to give him a comforting smile when he looked for me. I was delighted to pick him up when he reached for me. Our dynamic continued in this way for a week or two.

I gave him the security and comfort he needed and this little boy adjusted well to life at The Rose Garden. However, he soon seemed to be stifled by his need for me. He wasn’t able to get engaged in play because he was so busy seeking my attention.

My moment of enlightenment came when one of the other teachers told me that even though he cried at first when I left the room, he soon was able to engross himself in play, make connections with other teachers, and interact with his peers. When I left, he mourned a moment, and then, free of my apparently gravitational presence, was able to let go.

So, I stepped back. I stepped back and beamed confidence at him. Almost instantly, as if to say, “Finally!” this little boy relaxed and let himself fully integrate into the classroom. My trust and love had done their work, and now I was able to see the benefits. A healthy, curious, open-eyed child blossomed in front of me.

This experience taught me that with children, as with life, sometimes less is more. Sometimes distance is freedom, and always, trust is love. As we resign ourselves to the cooler weather of Autumn, and we get cozy in small indoor spaces, we must remind ourselves to give ourselves and each other the freedom to blossom.

– Xan Moomaw

Xan Moomaw

Xan Moomaw teaches at The Rose Garden Early Childhood Center in Buffalo, NY.  She wrote this article when she worked as an assistant, and she is now a Lead Teacher there.