I wanted to give each of your children an award today.
Last week there was an incident in which three kids were involved in throwing a sandwich and crackers into the neighbor’s yard. So I spent this morning in my version of reparative justice.
We started the morning in a circle. We spoke about respect. Actually, they spoke. I just had to listen and reflect. They came out with three layers of respect: toward self (keeping oneself safe), others, and community.
Then I had them do an exercise I invented last night, called “who pooped in the garden?” I pretended to be an outraged mama who has found poop in the garden. (I knew I’d be in their good graces if I could get poop in there somehow). We first went around the circle and each person had to come up with an outlandish excuse for why it wasn’t their fault. Then we went around a second time with a ridiculous, outlandish reason for why it was indeed their fault, and all their fault… thereby letting them experience in extreme our tendency to either avoid responsibility with defensiveness, or to be overly responsible. The third time we went around I asked them to choose either lack of responsibility for the action (by saying, “I didn’t do it, but I’m sorry it happened”) or responsibility (by saying, “I did it. I am sorry. How can I fix it?”).
That was just nothing short of amazing–HILARIOUS and creative, and by the third round completely centered. Most of the kids chose not to be responsible, but they knew either one was fair game, and that it was a learning activity. I was blown away.
Then I said that there was something that happened last week that we needed to repair and invited the involved kids to step into an inner circle. I didn’t even have to name them. They came into the center. I asked the kids in the outer circle to have their hands on their hearts as a symbol of our community commitment to love them through this. I asked each of the three to speak their truth. They did this, taking turns, in what seemed like milliseconds. They spoke clearly and concisely from a deep and knowing place. Again I was blown away. No blaming, no defense, no story, just clear ownership.
I am always experimenting with different types of process and just did not expect them to respond so amazingly. My friend Katrina once said that children are just brilliant if we allow them to be. I wish I had filmed the whole thing.
I spoke with them about the dynamics of repair in the body, in particular how fracture sites are stronger and thicker after repair, and that any repair we do has to leave the relationship in a better place than we found it.
We then all got up and went next door. The three kids apologized to the neighbor sincerely, naming their actions accurately and mindfully, stood still and strong while he expressed his anger, and then his appreciation for their clear and truthful apology. The whole group worked for an hour in their yard pulling weeds and raking leaves. I hand fed them mango every 15 minutes to remind them (without words) of the loving sweetness they were engaging in. (They realized I think what hard work it is to create order and beauty).
They ate and ate and drank and drank and played and played peacefully the rest of the day. I am just so proud of them. And so honored to witness such light.