Monday, April 25, 2011

Moving out of the Comfort Zone

As adults we can sense when our children are uncomfortable, this weekend everyone around us who knew Thing Two knew he was uncomfortabe. This weekend we partially unplugged, left the sports equipment at home and went to Fairfield, Idaho to hang out with great friends and participate in an Spring Celebration at The Mountain School in Bellvue, Idaho.

We are lucky to have some amazing friends in our lives from all over, raising thier kids and living lives in ways that are fun, interesting and outside of what we do day to day. These particular friends are people we love, respect and want to spend time with, but never seem to have that time. We were lucky enough to get a call from them about 2 months ago that the school thier oldest goes to was having a Easter celebration/fundraiser and would we be interseted? YES, YES, YES..A weekend with some of our favorite people, and some fun activities that would help a school, perfect. The school has a Waldorf curriculum that is very different to the way the Things are learning. At the Mountain School they have a small working farm where all the students have chores daily, additionally they assist with meals and don’t spend a lot of their day in front of their desks with pencil and paper like the Things do.  Imagination and play are encouraged and fairies and trolls exist in the river behind the school. 

Upon arrival at the Mountain School both Things looked curiously around, this did not look like thier school environment. Thing Two looked uncomfortable, there were far too many women dressed as faries and guys in capes that were not super hero or jedi capes. Thing One suddenly squeeled and took off to play with the baby goats and rabbits with our friends oldest. Thing Two tentativly followed, looking around and playing on the playground, it was the most like what he could recognize. This behavior patten is not unusual or out of the ordinary in new environments. Thing One could have moved in with our friends and started milking the cow the second we got there, she wasn't down with the dress they tried to dress her up in, but she would have had a bee bee gun hunting trolls down in the river in seconds.  Thing Two is a totally different kid, he likes to know what is coming and where he fits in the world.

Once we got our bearings and saw the general layout and activities available the boys headed out to pet the baby chicks and Thing One and I headed off to face painting. She jumped on the stool and asked for an animal, they politely explained this was special face painting with an air brush to make her look like a fairy. Though tentative Thing One is always up for at least trying, and so she did. When the boys finished with the chicks they stumbled into the tent where Thing One was getting made up, our friends oldest happily hopped on the stool to get painted next. Thing Two merely trudged into the tent and plopped onto a bench looking sullen. I asked what was wrong and got no response, a pleading silence, but nothing else. I prodded Thing Two and saw his eyes glassing over on the verge of tears as he was looking at the face painting. I realized he felt that the face painting and fairy/elf dress up that was being encouraged was not something he was up for. He seemed uncomfortable, afraid and uncertain; I immediately wondered if; “what would I say to a kid who looked like this” was running through his head. With some prodding and bribery, Thing Two and I cut a deal, try everything, don’t complain and just have fun and extra reward stars will be given; he took the bait. Thing Two was not gleeful to get his face painted, but did get into the disco shirt and scarf for pictures. He did felting, made a fairy forest, and watched a puppet show about a troll who found a baby in a tulip.

At the end of the day, he was happy, outside of his comfort zone and had looked at the world from a perspective he doesn’t see often. My son has been bullied and has been a bully, and I strive through these experiences to give him a chance to see things, not through his eyes but through the eyes of the others around him. Thing Two was curious, any school that lets you have a pocket knife can’t be that bad, but cautious, “Those dudes are in sparkly capes”. He is not a touchy feely child out in the world, neither Things are, but I want to make sure they appreciate all the people and differences around them.

As a parent I feel it is my job to make sure they see the world around them, experience it, and embrace it, from frogs in a river to dudes in sparkly capes. Maybe our next family reading should be the hobbit?

P.S. Thing One got her kick ass girl on too….

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