Yesterday we returned to the center, and it felt so good to be back. As kids came through the gate and saw me, they ran to me to give me a big hug, and then ran off to find Isaac and welcome him as well. It felt so good to be loved, and as good as I felt being greeted by our 60 kids, I think they felt just as good as I greeted each child by name and gave them hugs. They told me who was good and who was naughty while I was gone, they asked what it was like to cross the Red Sea (ha!) and they were a little worried that Makeyla wasn’t remembering them! They wanted to see all of her new tricks, which include blowing kisses and taking a couple steps independently.
All of the kids were also excited that we were back, because we had promised them a pizza party on our return. We gave them lots of incentives to have great behavior while we were gone, because our team of 4 shrunk to 3 (our director doesn’t normally work with the kids, but stepped back into help our while we were gone)- which meant a lot of work for those we left behind running the center! The kids were told that they were allowed 4 strikes, and that if they had 4 or less strikes in the month that we were gone, they would be invited to a pizza party. At the end of the day we sat in a large group to discuss when the pizza party would be. I already had in mind that I wanted it on Thursday, and was trying to convince the kids that Thursday would be best day to have the party.
I explained, “We could have the party tomorrow, but that means that the kids who go to the school that’s far away would miss it. So do we want to wait until Thursday and let everyone enjoy the party, or do we think that they shouldn’t get pizza because they come later on Wednesdays?” I know. I asked the question in a manipulative way to give myself more time to plan the party. And I thought everything was going according to plan until Peter, one of our older kids raised his hands and said, “Why can’t we just have the party tomorrow after 3pm?” I was ready to dismiss his answer quickly, when one of the teachings from the Celebrating Children Workshop popped into my mind.
For children to learn the unique identity God intends for them, their thoughts, ideas, fears, and stories must be acknowledged and responded to.
Although I didn’t like Peter’s idea, I needed to acknowledge it, and let him know that his thoughts are valued. I paused, and asked him to explain why his idea would work. And actually, it was a well thought out idea. It was an idea that would include everyone, even those arriving late. But I still had my own agenda- I needed time to prepare. We arrived from Switzerland late Monday night, and with unpacking suitcases, and settling in, there was too much going on to have a pizza party. So we took a vote, with all of the kids and the adults. And Thursday afternoon won. Thank goodness.
But it felt good to listen to Peter’s idea. It felt good to allow him to participate in a decision that was about him and his peers. I realized, I can do this. I can actually give the kids a much bigger voice in what happens at the center (remember there are 60 kids, and 60 voices/ideas/stories can be a lot). It just means that I have to slow down.
It feels a bit overwhelming learn how to best take care of kids and then try to implement all of the new ideas and ways of doing things at our center. Listening to kids, child participation, nutrition, trauma, discipline, showing every child value and dignity, strategic planning….. I could go on and on. But after yesterday’s experience with listening to Peter, I see that it is just taking one day at a time, taking small steps, slowing down, and asking the Lord to show me how to be the best possible caregiver these kids need.