“Cedar, let’s make an igloo!”
“Okay. How will we do that?” (With blankets over the couch and pillows as the block ice walls, we made an igloo with a door that could be flipped open. We then nestled ourselves inside with a few books and a little drum. Rose then knocked her hand on the pillow wall.)
“I hear something. (knocks again). I hear something. Do you? What is it?”
“I don’t know. What do you think?”
“Wolves. What do you think we should do?”
“Quick. Play the drum. That will keep them away.” She plays the drum, chanting, “No, no you can’t come in.”
“How is it working?”
“The wolf went away.” (knock knock) “It came back.”
Again, drumming, “No, no, you can’t come in!” (We repeat this process five or six times,then…..)
“Rose, how do you know if it is a friendly wolf or a mean wolf?” (pause)
“I know by how it knocks. If it knocks two times, it’s a mean wolf and if it knocks three times, it’s a friendly wolf.”
(Knock knock) “So this one’s a mean one.”
“Yes. No, no you can’t come in!”
(knock, knock, knock) “It’s a friendly wolf! Open the door and let him in!” (In a series of door knockings, we let in four friendly wolves and keep away three more mean wolves.)
“Now, let’s give the wolves some hot dogs. Would you put a hot dog on this stick? And we’ll stick it outside for them.” (I carefully put an imaginary hot dog onto the drum stick and Rose sticks it through a crack in the blankets separate from the door.)
“Do they like the hot dogs?”
“Oh yes, they do. When they eat the hot dogs, the mean wolves become friendly.” We thus befriend six more wolves with our hot dogs on a stick and bring them into the igloo.
“Too many wolves in here now. Let’s send them outside. I’m hot now.” (Down comes the igloo and suddenly the game is over.)
What’s my sense of what issues Rose is exploring? She’s involved in play with many different children. She’s learning that she can make her own choices about who she wants to play with. She’s learning how to discern who is friendly and who is mean by their actions or attitudes. She’s learning that she can have a strong effect….she can actively include and exclude with her voice and her determination. At the most sophisticated level, she seems to be exploring here how to influence mean people to be friendly by offering them a gift of something they like. She’s developing healthy boundaries that can welcome others and also serve as protection when needed.
Preschool is an impressive learning environment. This is a lot for a four-year-old to be trying to understand and cope with. This is an early stage of life-long learning about how to use our power, our ability to have an effect or to have influence, in more and more refined, sensitive, effective and skillful ways. When I shared this story with the women in my Peace Circle, one of them said, “That’s what I need now: a drum and a chant ‘no, no, you can’t come in.’ It’s simple and brilliant. I’m so sloppy with my yes’s and no’s.”
Intention and impact, discernment, good boundaries, power with heart. Rose is making a good beginning. These are such complex and important personal and social issues in the realms of right use of power. I am seeking ways to bring these issues more consciously into the classroom. Becoming more informed about right use of power, as something that needs to be learned, would go a long way toward helping children and then adults lead with their power connected with their heart and focused toward the common good.