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How to teach without terrifying?

Submitted by on Wednesday, 24 February 2010 No Comment

When she rang the doorbell Monday after school, tears streamed down the second-grader’s face. I was shocked, because while I don’t know her well I do know that she’s a tough kid who doesn’t hesitate to go toe-to-toe with the boys. What had been bad enough to make her cry?

It turned out that an after-school mixup had triggered the tears. Her mom was at work, while she’d gotten off the bus stop at her house. Could I take her to her mom, she pleaded.

No problem, I said. And you did a brave and smart thing in finding an adult you knew who could help you, I told her.

I wondered if Big Guy would have the same presence of mind in a similar situation. I decided to find out.

“What would you do if you came home from school one day and I wasn’t here?” I asked.

“Where are you going?” he responded, eyes wide with alarm.

Already we had reached the tightrope walk phase of the discussion.

Big Guy is a highly independent little imp who wouldn’t accept help climbing into bed mere days after abdominal surgery. But he is only 6. He’llĀ  try to shoo me from the bus stop but make sure he gets a window seat after he boards so he can wave until the bus is out of sight. He runs off with his teammates the second we arrive for a soccer game, but he always glances to the sidelines to make sure I caught his latest great defensive play.

He still needs his mom, even when he won’t admit it. And now especially, with only one parent in the household, I didn’t want him to freak out. But I wanted him to know what to do should he ever wind up in the second-grader’s situation.

“I’m not going anywhere, babes,” I said. “But just in case I get sick some day – it probably won’t happen, but it could – I want to make sure you know what to do. Any ideas?”

“I’d walk to BFF’s house,” he smiled, settling into the “game.”

Not a bad answer, except BFF lives two miles away. I tried again.

“That’s a good idea, but that’s a pretty long walk. What else could you try?”

“I could try calling you. Mom, you really should get me an ‘emergency phone.’ ” Oh, nice try, little man, but I’m not getting a 6-year-old a cell. And where on Earth did he learn the concept of “emergency phone”?

“What if you walked next door and asked K to use her phone,” I said, referring to another mom whom he knows because she’s also a bus-stop regular. “Do you still remember my cell number? Do you know BFF’s number?”

He recited them both. Good job, I said.

“I still think I need an emergency phone, though.”

He always has to get in the last word.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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