When I was working in a pre-k class last week, I noticed a behavior pattern among the students. As soon as the cleanup bell rang, little Nathan caught my eyes and defiantly dumped all the dinosaurs out of their bin. Knowing it was wrong, he instinctively stuck his thumb in his mouth.
His eyes said he was sorry, and his thumb squelched the potential protest looming. His four-year-old brain was cued to know just when to pacify himself in lieu of screaming.
Hand over hand, we put the dinosaurs away together.
It happened again with a kindergartner. I could see in her gulf-coast blue eyes her struggle to decipher why she is suddenly ONLY spending Saturday and Sunday with her dad and the rest of the week with her mom.
When she approached me for a hug she pulled the end of her “Be a Unicorn” t-shirt out of her mouth to say hi. After the squeeze, she grabbed the comforting seam of her shirt and ran off to play.
Any other day she would have told me something about her and Emma having the EXACT SAME strawberry yogurt at lunch or how she collected the shiniest rocks EVER during recess…but it was a Monday and transition from dad to mom was exhausting on her little heart.
What struck me about these and other kids was their ability to know when to stop. When not to complain, or rant, or argue. I’m not saying they shouldn’t share their worries and wonders, but somehow these two knew it was not the right time.
Their little minds told them to listen instead of talk. Move on instead of stall.
I find in today’s world, we each have our own pacifiers. Maybe it’s not a thumb or shirt we’re using…it’s more likely to be a cell phone or earbuds drowning out the noise.
Unfortunately, when I listen to the news I notice most people forget or neglect their pacifiers and still spew out hurtful, divisive, and hate-filled words. When I drive down the road, bumper stickers scream at me and tell me who NOT to vote for, how they define the word “great” or how I should feel about guns and whales.
Freedom of Speech is priceless, but all of us, whether we’re president or in pre-k, need to know when to pop our thumbs in our mouths and search our hearts for kind, appropriate words to use.
Like my dad says, “even if you think it’s a LITTLE wrong, don’t say it…(and mom would chime in)…and DEFINITELY don’t write it down!”
Bottom line: Use your inside voice, think before you speak and be kind to others.