Sunday, September 21, 2014

What about friendship?

The other day, I stepped out of a store only to find several friends of mine having breakfast together at a restaurant's sidewalk table. For one split second, I was immobile - realizing I wasn't included, feeling left out, unsure what to say. Their eyes met mine and we all broke into big smiles, and we shared what we had been up to; they insisted I sit down and join them, and I explained where I needed to be next, said goodbye, and headed on my way.

I look forward to getting together with them soon.

Here I am, beyond mid-life, still sensitive about friendship. Have I been a good friend? Reached out regularly? Been attentive? Been a good listener? Have I been available? 

My preschoolers feel this "tension" about friendship on a daily, constant basis.
These three year olds - some newly three, some closer to four years of age - don't have years of experience to fall back on, as they play with one another.
In fact, for three year olds, this is often their very first experience of playing 'together' - truly, playing together - not simply alongside, as one did as a two year old.
They have a lot of learning to do about friendship.
What does it mean, 
you are building a block road when I want to use the same blocks to build a house? 
What does it mean, 
we are having a tea party and you leave me to play superhero with someone else?
What does it mean, 
when you need more clay and I am using it?
What does it mean, 
when I want to create the puzzle by myself but you keep placing pieces in it?
What does it mean, 
when I bring a special toy from home and you try to take it and play with it?

The children and I,
we are doing lots of talking together.

I am using our whole group discussions to consider -

what can we do when we are frustrated?
how can we be angry and safe at the same time?
how might we share toys?
how might we include another friend in the play?
what can we do to make a sad friend feel better?
what do we say if we want to play? 
how do we join in?
what might you say if… ?

I use read-alouds to share about emotions, friendships, social skills…hoping to build the children's  understanding of what it is to be in community with others.  I use puppets and role-play, too, to reinforce the "how" of getting along with others.

I am the 'guide on the side' during their play,
ever alert to the most difficult moments,
nudging children towards each other, towards various play possibilities,
helping them find words with one another,
challenging them to think about their interactions, especially the effect on others.

Even when I am vigilant,
we've had
hurtful, challenging behaviors.

Yes, we are in the thick of this learning right now, and it will go on all year - some moments quite happy, others quite sad.

I am answering families' questions,
quelling their fears,
trying my best to communicate that
these challenging behaviors are a sign that
the children are discovering the most important work of the preschool classroom.

This is our laboratory.

A friendship laboratory.

It is filled with promise.

It is so important to build relationships with others and to keep working at these, regularly. A friendship isn't a static thing - once achieved, you aren't 'done'…in fact, your efforts are just beginning. It is a dynamic process, with a great deal of give and take.

You reach out, a friend reaches out to you,
you make mistakes, you make amends,
you crave to be together, you spend time with others or alone,
you laugh, you listen, you care.

It is the work of threes.
It is the work of adults.

1 comment:

  1. Maureen, this brought up so many thoughts for me... as a teacher facilitating social development, as an adult with friendships to maintain and as a mother watching her children navigate friendships. It is beautifully written, and I now won't forget that my class is a "friendship laboratory".