…is this thing on?
Many times as a parent and teacher of young children I find myself in the throes of a recurring Ally Mcbeal moment. The scene…an empty stage, spotlight aimed at a single microphone, audience is hushed and still in anticipation…across the stage struts a small child who grips the microphone with both hands and boldly clears their throat, confidently taps the microphone a time or two and asks”is THIS thing ON?”
Next moment… Wham, I’m back in reality which most often than not finds me with one of my own children or a preschooler standing with arms folded or hands on hips in front of me… The expression on their face demanding an answer to the question… “Is THIS thing ON?????”
I am pleased to report that I have grown to be very comfortable and adept at welcoming the challenge…I have learned to remain calm ( for the most part) and meet the child where they are at. I can recite the expectation, offer a choice, throw in some humor and roll with it.
Point in case, in the recent past, a beloved preschooler of mine stepped up to the mic… With verve and audacity he grabbed that mic with both hands and shouted…”IS THIS THING ON?” When I came to from my Ally McBeal moment I sat him down, sat next to him and the dance began. I laid out the expectation of reasonable behavior and waited… I acknowledged his body language and verbalized what I heard his heart saying…and I waited…I validated his feelings…all feelings ok…taking those feelings out on others by invading personal space not ok…and I waited. I looked around the room as he sat next to me… Even took a phone call on speaker… As he sat next to me… I spoke about how awful he must be feeling on the inside to be so visibly upset on the outside… I encouraged calm breathing and the return to peace in his heart and body…and I waited. Several more times through the process, he stepped back up to the mic… Each consecutive time his voice a bit quieter…his stance less confrontational… The answer was sinking in, the message getting through… Yes the mic is on… Yes I am being heard… I am supported and loved… My needs will get met… My feelings are ok but not all my responses to those feelings are beneficial. Here’s where my honed talent comes in: humor!
After about 30 min I offered the following…
“It looks like you would really like a hug from your Mom! Here’s my suggestion …would you like the short version or the long version?” I was not surprised by the answer… He wanted to hear both prior to choosing. Here is the short version , “hug?” And the longer version begins as I stand tall and refer to a non existent long scroll of a message . ” my dearest mother, I am wondering if I were to stand up and move towards you with my arms extended outward, if you would then also stand up and move toward me. Perhaps then if you were to also extend your arms toward me and we moved closer to one another, then maybe we could embrace in what is sometimes referred to as a hug? ” This elicited a fabulous giggle but did not keep my beloved preschooler from stepping up to the mic one more time and with a tiny whisper ” is this thing on?” As we moved towards gathering his things together he pondered long or short version as his mom and I stood close awaiting the end of the test. I jumped in before he voiced his request and I asked him for a hug… I then asked, ” long or short ? “. His reply, “short!” He looked toward his ever patient mama and said, “hug?”
It took us 40 min to get to that moment but through it all, we stood firm, we rode out the test not waivering in love or expectation. And that’s what it all comes down to …not getting stage fright when someone steps up to the mic and asks, “is THIS thing ON??”