“High five for listening!”
Perplexed kiddo slaps me some skin and glares at me. He has no idea why we’re high fiving, nor why I mention listening, when that is exactly what he was not doing. You know that kid. The one who doesn’t listen, takes things from others at whim, leaves them crying. I keep talking, but I don’t think he gets my words. Somehow, though, I think he gets the point.
That high five was a pact. Not between a child and the random adult he just met, but between him and his own potential. His glare carried the weight of shaky skepticism bound together with hope.
Could it be that nobody has ever actually called him by his potential? Celebrated his progress? Was his good behavior just a relief from his bad behavior?
You know that kid. The one who’s up to no good. Again.
Labeled, relegated, by the adults that could inspire him to come out of exactly – that – shell. The shell that they hardened.
Ever since that pact, I have not let him live it down. He never wanted it, but he signed it. Too bad he didn’t read the fine print. I’m on your back, kid. I will chase you and make you look at me. I will be the jerk who makes you confront your bad choices. Show me your eyes. Your relentless defiance won’t break my end of the deal. We high fived, buddy. And I am calling you “friend.”
I have had the privilege of working with many great teachers, each of them speaking to their kids in their own vocabulary of love. One of these amazing teachers is Tosca Killoran, whose vocab inspires kids to become global thinkers, which begins with their microcosm of self and friends.
Friends love you for who you are, not what you do. They stick around when you’re not exactly at your best, and they don’t call you by your mistakes. Friends inspire you to keep doing what you do best, and let you work on what you do worst. They high five you for what you are going to accomplish, because they see who you really are. Friends want you to shine.
Some believe parents and teachers can’t be a child’s friend. I highly disagree. I would go as far to say that it only works well if we are their friends. We were given the role of educator, not dictator. The whole point is to guide children in their journey of personal development. How can a person in our care develop their character fully if we do not see them as the complete person they are? Yeah, you can tell them what to do, what not to do, but if you say it like you own them, it won’t reach as far. It may not even stick, because who are you anyways?
I don’t have to listen to you. You’re not the boss of me!
Buddy runs up some stairs where he’s not allowed. I tell him to come down. Buddy ain’t listening, so I go up the stairs and crouch down in front of him. Poor guy has to deal with my face now. Sorry, not sorry. “Hey, I thought we were friends! What happened to our high five?”
“High five for listening!” My hand waits in the air, wondering if it should even bother being up there.
Don’t leave me hangin’, buddy…
My new friend is looking right into my eyes. Boring right through me. It’s as if for a silent slice of time, he too, is thinking “Don’t leave me hanging.”
I won’t, buddy. I promise I won’t.