Living Arts Weekly: Hoping

January 27, 2019

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.  – Desmond Tutu

Last Sunday’s Blood Moon, shared by our colleague Suzanne Down

Parenting, teaching, and caregiving are vocations that require the long view, with love at the core.

Once upon a time, my eldest son went to a new school for first grade. He had just switched from the large public school to a small private school, and for some reason I assumed that all the children there would get along beautifully. Imagine my surprise when my son came home every day complaining about a boy who was making his life miserable. “Mark pushes me,” “Mark yells too loud,” “Mark won’t let me use the slide,” and finally, “I’m afraid of Mark.”

Who was this Mark kid, bullying my beautiful boy?!  And why was this behavior tolerated by the teacher? I wondered.  I pictured a big brute of a kid, pushing kids down and stealing their lunch money. Finally after a couple of weeks of my son complaining, I approached his teacher after school. I told her my son was being terrorized by Mark. She smiled a slightly amused, benevolent smile as she pointed Mark out to me. My tall-for-his-age son towered over this boy who was the smallest kid in the class. The image that came to mind was of a Great Dane being afraid of a Chihuahua. She explained that Mark was very exuberant and nice little boy, and her observation was that he really liked my son a lot. She told me that Mark was still working on how to approach other kids to ask them to play, and that her best advice for my son was to tell Mark if he needed some space, and let her know if he needed help.

It was not the response I had been looking for, but seemed a very thoughtful observation, so I instructed my son to do just what she had said. Perhaps more importantly, I shifted my thinking about Mark – from a formidable bully to a nice little kid who was working on social etiquette. Soon, I began to hear glorious stories of my son’s adventures with Mark, and their friendship continued all the way through 8th grade.  Mark became one of my favorite kids to have around… thoughtful, articulate, and funny. It still makes me smile to think that I had thought of him as a bully.

The Social Arts are not necessarily a realm of black and white, that’s for sure.  Parents are increasingly concerned about bullies, and schools are implementing Zero Tolerance policies for bullying. This concern is, of course, a good thing. Too many of us have memories of being terrorized by other kids at school and no adult seemed to care or be able to stop it.

We take our intolerance for bullying of any kind seriously, our collective rage about injustice permeating social media debates. Each new spectacle served up to us by the media, with video clips carefully chosen to capture just the right moments to incite our anger, results in heated and sometimes vicious discourse as the incident is hashed out in the court of public opinion. It can make us blind to the fact that the “bully” is a person. And, in the case of a child or teenager, they are a person still on the long, slow learning curve of growing up.  We know that young children don’t come out of the womb magically knowing how to share, play, negotiate, and use their words to get what they want. The process of helping little ones learn these skills involves some coaching, some stepping back and letting children struggle a bit, and always observing to see what the challenges are and how best to help the children negotiate the sometimes rocky terrain of the social arts. As children go through the middle and teen years, the process is the same even though the challenges are new. A good many mistakes are made on any given day. As my friend, Maggie Herbst — a gifted teacher — recently said, “No child is bad. They often act without thinking but are still so full of beauty and light. Especially high-schoolers.”

Can we hold onto hope for our children? In fact, can we hold onto hope for each other and our politically/socially-weary, stressed out fellow adults?  Can we cut “the other” kid (or adult) some slack — not excusing poor behavior — but keeping an open mind and trusting that they will learn from their stumbles because they are still growing (aren’t we all still growing)? Even if that kid or adult shows up at a rally wearing an article of clothing or waving a banner that goes right up our back?  Can we express our opinion, our disappointment, even our anger in such a way that we do not encourage hateful banter?  This is not about being righteously on the correct side of an issue.  This is about the brotherhood/sisterhood of humanity that is being scarred and bruised every day by divisive viral images and videos of an individual or a group acting out of their lowest selves.  If we aren’t careful, the caricatures we create of one another will begin to define who we are.

Let’s continue to hope for our children – even the ones that seem the most un-loveable (which describes most of us at one moment or another.)  They are our future and we are their mentors.

Here’s to hope,

Mary O’Connell, Your Living Arts Weekly blog editor

Social Awareness

St. Brigid’s Day / Candlemas

Friday, February 1st is St. Brigid’s Day, and Saturday, February 2nd is Candlemas Day. The halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, these festivals are all about honoring the return of the light. In our new online course, Living Arts Through the Seasons, we will take a deeper look at these intertwined festivals, and suggest ways to celebrate them in your home or classroom. Our friends at the Waldorf Shop offer some history and ways to celebrate Candlemas here.

Practical Activity

Crepes for Candlemas

Crepes are a traditional food enjoyed on Candlemas. Here is a simple recipe for golden, delicious crepes.

Creative Exploration

Speaking of hope and light, meet Ellen Kraft, owner of Honeycomb Kids, a LifeWays Representative Program in Vermont. Her Pepita is a fun circle game for children, for those times when a lively beat is just what we need to shake the doldrums.

Nurturing Care

New Program Listing Rates!

Do you have a nurturing early childhood program? List your program on our website!  We’ve just changed our prices, to make it more affordable than ever for our LifeWays Training graduates to advertise their program on the LifeWays North America website. Recent grads can list their programs for FREE for one year! Not a graduate of the LifeWays training? We have rates for Aligned Programs as well.  Check it out!