Smack heard round the world – or maybe just the jungle gym

It was an average day on the playground.

Nine tiny humans, lined up and ready to go outside. I spent an ungodly amount of time zipping hot pink jackets, putting on gloves and general child wrangling. Once I let them all loose in the courtyard, the fun began.

There’s a set of twins in my class, and to put it mildly they’ve put me through the wringer. One is sweet and sensitive, while the other is hyper, has a short attention span and some violent tendencies. This combination has the potential to become explosive quickly, and it often leaves me stressed, frustrated and exhausted.

These two were a part of my group, which combines with another

Some of my girls in their best princess attire.

Some of my girls in their best princess attire.

class on the playground in the late afternoon. So I signed my kids in for the other teaching assistants, said goodbye for the day and started to leave on my merry way.

Yes, it was an average day on the playground — that is, until it wasn’t. It all happened so quickly I almost missed it. But for reasons that soon will become clear, I’m glad I didn’t.

One twin hit the other in the face. This isn’t atypical by any means. Usually we attempt to separate them so we can assess the problem and discipline further.  But this time, the hitter just wasn’t having it and darted across the grass like a Jack Russell chasing a shiny red frisbee.

Before I could even get a “come back!” out of my mouth, the errant child had been tackled to the ground by three other 4-year-olds.

“You were NOT listening to Miss Katie!” one shouted sternly.

“We GOT you!” another declared. They high-fived, gave speechless me a hug and went about their business as usual.

Once I got over the shock of it all, My mind was racing. “My kids just stood up for me. My kids are on my side. MY KIDS AREN’T TRYING TO KILL ME.”

Suddenly, it dawned on me. Although at times they exasperate me to no end, my kids have hearts of gold.

Disclaimer: OBVIOUSLY I teach my class that violence is not the answer, and I explained that while I appreciated their help, it’s not OK to tackle people. But on the inside I was screaming with joy.

We as adults are often quick to lose our patience with kids. We think logically (for the most part), and their growing brains don’t have the cognitive functioning to embody our ideology just yet. I’ll admit, there are times when I lose it. But this was one of those rare moments that helped me realize that with kids, some of the biggest annoyances also can manifest as their most powerful strengths.

Really, it’s true. The typical 4-year-old sees black and white, right and wrong, and nothing in between. While concrete thinking is typical of their age (and at times a major pain in the you-know-what), it can bring blind, unwavering loyalty toward the people they care about. While they didn’t display their loyalty in the most respectable  way, today they showed their loyalty to me. And I’m not one to discount such acts.

As silly and neurotic as it might be, my kids inspired me today. They helped me look past all the times I got annoyed when they took too long to get their snow boots on. I saw beyond the nap time debacles and messy snacks and just saw my kids.

My kids – the kids who made Christmas cards for elderly people in nursing homes because they didn’t want them to feel alone during the holidays. The kids who problem solve on their own when they all want to wear the Princess Elsa dress for the day. The kids who are fiercely independent, loyal, and with the right timing, sensitive and caring.

They’re my kids, and I’m so lucky to have the opportunity to help them learn.