Be careful with them – not only because you are dealing with them for an hour but ESPECIALLY because you are dealing with them for an hour. Be you a ballet instructor, a music teacher, a football coach, a babysitter- you have a little person in your care whose spirit and personality is as malleable as clay and impressions made now – both positive and negative – will leave an imprint that spans a lifetime.
My blog tonight was supposed to be about Captain Francis O’Neill but I will certainly continue with his post tomorrow. I saw something today that has touched me in a very profound way. Actually, it has left me feeling quite upset as it has made me question how often things like this happen to all of our children and just go un-noticed, lost in the pressing mayhem of the day. It was something that was said to a five year old little girl as she lined up for roll-call in an extra-curricular class this afternoon. I don’t believe the embarrassment to the little girl was intentional – no, not at all, in fact, the powers-that-be, didn’t even realise what they had done (so distracted were they in efficient roll-call).
The little girl in question is very shy and speaks with a lisp. Her mother is delighted that she does this particular class as it is a means for the little girl to build some self-confidence and gain a sense of self-worth. The little girl loves the class so much she spends all week secretly rehearsing and looking forward to the next session – so much so – that today, she surprised her mother by saying that she would go in all alone. From the door to where the instructor stands waiting for roll-call is about 5 meters away, but when you are small and timid, that is a monumental leap of faith in itself.
She crossed the wooden floor in the crowded room and was not assertive enough so got jostled by others a bit as they chipped in front of her – confidently announcing their names to the instructor. She hung back until there was a lull in the rush of arrivals and then stepped forward to the instructor.
She was asked what her name was and I saw her blush, muster all her courage, look up at the instructor and bravely give her name. Watching from the sideline, I almost applauded her, thinking “you go girl”
But, the instructor didn’t hear her and asked louder (in order to be heard above the noise in the room) “WHAT?” The little girl practically withered and burned crimson and said her name again – quieter this time, painfully self-conscious. I watched her nervous little fingers twirling a loose strand of hair as she stared hard at the ground. I could see her inner turmoil grinding like sand in gears. I wanted to rush in and say her name for her in a loud booming voice – speak for her – and throw a demeaning look at the instructor for good measure! I sent up a secret prayer that the instructor would bend a knee, offer 3 seconds of time, come down to the 5 year old level, and ask her name, quietly, person to person.
By now the little girl was trying to bore a hole in the wooden floor with her toe and I saw a hot tear splash onto her croc. A boisterous queue of children was forming behind her, highlighting her vulnerabilities which to me, were almost palpable. My heart jolted when I heard the instructor say in a louder voice with a sense of urgency (I hope not irritation and I hope not patronising) “WHAT IS IT? What is your name?”
As the second tear fell, so did the framework of my composure. I started pushing my forward through the thong of parents. I arrived near the child just in time to hear her reply and I think it will haunt me forever – she answered……….
CAN YOU IMAGINE? A five year old reduced to the lie of she “forgets” her name? To avoid conflict? Ridicule? Oh please, where is some compassion ? – surely?– a bit of integrity goes a long way!
I know that extra-curricular activities are not compulsory and that any parent is free to pull their child out at any given time. However, when a parent is paying good money for an instructor to impart a particular skill to a child they are also entrusting that person with their child for the duration of that time. In most cases it is an hour. I wish that people would stop tallying the insurance costs, the rental costs, the profit margins, and attendance numbers and simply realise for that one hour – to one small person – they can be the most inspiring gift of a lifetime or they can be the undoing of a little soul.
“I forget” the little girl said but I can assure you, today has been a lesson to me that I will never, ever forget – on so many different levels.