Two days of mid 90-degree heat is rare in May up here in New England. I knew a thunderstorm would soon roll in. I sat on my porch, watching the sky, and was drawn to memories of thunderstorms and how they are a great source of strength. I wrote to families in my preschool about this years ago and want to share it again. It’s fundamental to what I do as a teacher, giving children ‘Roots and Wings’.
Some years ago I was on my porch with my adult daughter watching the big thunderstorm rumble into our yard. We were both enjoying the anticipation as well as the storm itself. I asked my daughter what memories popped into her head whenever she heard a big storm. She replied, “Camp, of course! We had nothing else; no TV, no computer, just the outdoors. Thunderstorms were great!” Funny thing. This was the same experience with me as a child at camp.
We talked about exciting and adventurous experiences in our childhood, and about childhood itself. We analyzed why children feel the way they do, and what is it that ‘makes a difference’ when they grow up. One thing kept ringing loud and clear. Children who are given experiences that challenge them, who are encouraged to take a chance and ‘do it’, and who have the firm love and support of their family, seem to grow up with a good, strong sense of self. Roots and wings.
I think of the swings on the playground and ‘yelling’ commands with excitement when a child first learns to pump a swing. “Kick them out. Tuck them in. Pull. Yes, you can do it!” As children grow older, I think of opening the front door and letting my child ride his bike, alone, to the playground. Then, going to sleepover camp for a month, at age eight. My children begged to go, loved every minute of it, and I am convinced it was part of their foundation. Roots and wings.
I was the opposite of a helicopter parent. Friends were a little shocked to see my child roller-blading to school. He couldn’t quite tie the laces tight enough, so his first grade teacher helped him. They wondered if there was a ‘problem’ when my children went off to camp, and to prep school. My daughter went to Italy, alone, after college graduation. We’re talking speaking no Italian, as well.
After all of these different experiences, friends would then say, “Your children are so lucky to have these opportunities”. That was quite a change. I would smile and just say, “Roots and wings”. They had the roots, with plenty of love and support. Sometimes I felt brave and alone giving them the wings. That was the hard part. I’m so glad I did.
In my classroom, I approach each learning experience and activity, planned or unplanned, as an exciting opportunity. We are a family. We help each other, support each other, and encourage each other. We provide roots for each other with daily routine, tenderness, and a positive, fun attitude. We give each other wings when we learn how to write our name, pump a swing, stand in front of a group to talk, or try something new. Roots and wings.
Remember, it’s all the little experiences, over and over again, that we build upon. It’s not the big things that make a difference. Dancing with painted feet, coming to school at night and singing in the dark, shopping in a real Indian market, painting to classical music, setting up nap mats for other children, finding a new place on our big map with the magnifying glass, reading all the name cards without help….it is the culmination of all these activities, and many others, that make the difference.
I hope that in years to come, you and your child sit through a thunderstorm together, walk through the woods together, or sing in the dark together, and find it is an experience that is exciting. We hope that the Aqua Room has helped to give your child the experiences to feel a happy and confident sense of self. Roots and wings.