The Nestlings and I are in the cubby room. We have just come inside and are taking off our gear so that we can go downstairs for lunch. This is always a busy bustling time as we are trying to move quickly to make room for the next cohort who will need to take off their shoes/sweaters.
I take a breath and brace myself for the chorus of voices who are about to ask for my assistance. Instead I hear GR say,
“GR friends help.”
I stop. How interesting. GR has been feeling pretty sensitive this past week, and has been asking for a LOT of space from her friends. But now she is asking specifically for THEIR assistance.
No one seems to have heard GR. I repeat her statement.
“I heard GR say, ‘GR friends help.’ it sounds like she is wondering if anyone can help her take her shoes off.”
CW’s face snaps up, he locks eyes with me, then immediately locks eyes with GR. Challenge accepted!!!
CW approaches GR and starts to unfasten the straps of her shoes. I find myself wondering if she will revoke her consent now that someone is actually touching her body. She doesn’t. She is still and focused, observing CW as he works intently on the task at hand. CG is also observing. Her hands lie still, shoes forgotten, as she soaks in the scene before her. CW struggles with the first shoe and leaves it, moving to GRs other foot.
It takes CW two long minutes to work off the shoe. Collectively the children are incredibly patient. I am in awe of how quiet the cubby room is. Everyone is observing so acutely that you can literally feel it in the air… He moves back to the first shoe and tries again. He stabilizes GRs ankle while pulling on the tongue of her shoe trying to wrench it off.
I wonder how comfortable GR is, but trust that she will speak up if she needs CW to be more gentle.
The second shoe pops free, and I find myself smiling at their communal success.
CW grabs GRs shoes, puts them together in one hand, and begins to stand up. It is clear to me that he intends to complete this process for GR by putting her shoes on top of the shelves for her. I feel a sense of pride at how thoughtful, helpful, and thorough CW is being, and wonder if he feels the same pride in himself. Then suddenly, CG inserts her feet into CWs lap! She wants his help with her shoes too!
I feel a bit anxious, we have already been in the cubby room longer than usual. Now that CG is asking for CWs help, we will probably need another 5 minutes, which feels close to an hour in school time when there are other toddlers waiting for the space. However, at Elm House, letting the children lead is one of the most important things we do. I would rather the whole school eat lunch a little late than interrupt what is being learned in this moment about self care, consent, focusing, helping those in need, and finishing what we start.
While CW works, CG stays totally still. She is completely capable of removing her own shoes and enjoys doing it. I find myself wondering if she is after a sense of connection. She wants to be a part of the success that CW and GR just shared. Normally very independent, perhaps she asks for help in order to watch the scene replay itself with her as a key player. GR is now captive audience, switching roles seamlessly with CG.
CW has to put in a lot of effort in order to get off CGs shoes. I observe him really holding down her leg with his arm as he tries to slip the shoe past her heel. I fall back on my trust once more, knowing that if the pressure is too much for CG she will use her words and body to communicate that with CW. She says nothing. When the intentions behind a touch are clear, the children seem to be comfortable with more force than what they normally tolerate.
And just like that, the shoe slides free. LOOK AT CWs face!!!!! He is beaming with accomplishment. That moment is worth eating lunch late any day. I find myself constantly grateful for the little lessons the children give me. They remind me to slow down, to keep trying even when things are hard, and that sometimes the greatest gift we can give someone is simply to ask them for their help. <3