Wednesday was early dismissal. A day where my kiddos get out of school before me and a day I am expected to engage in very important work without children around. Luckily I have good friends who take my kids for me and have "playdates" (read: free childcare) so I can work. So this story takes place without me around. Every detail was recounted by Madeleine herself and corroborated by Max.
Along with a few friends Max and Madeleine went to Little Howe Playground. There were a bunch of other kids out on a half day, the park was busy. A few of the kids decided that climbing on top of the roof of the bathroom building would be a good idea (dumb kid decision #1). Two or more kiddos hoisted themselves up to the roof.
*Before I continue you should know that Madeleine has had an infection on her little leggie (distal limb) and hasn't been able to wear her prosthesis the last few days. She has been ambulatory but only with arm crutches.
Madeleine wanted to feel like she belonged. She wanted to feel like even though she doesn't have two feet and even though she can't wear her prosthesis she can still climb with the best of them. The little monkey climbed up to the roof with the other kiddos (dumb kid decision #2). At this point a few parents at the park noticed and asked the kids to get down. I guess all two-feeted kids jumped down or climbed and all was well but my kiddo got stuck. She became afraid of jumping because she was afraid she would hurt her leggie. She lost her confidence. And because she was scared but wanted to save face she became sassy (dumb kid decision #3).
She reported that an unknown mom told her that she needed to get off the roof or she would call 911. Because Madeleine was scared to jump and didn't want to admit that to the other brave kiddos, who were now on the ground, she became defiant and disobedient. She said horrible things like, "you are not the boss of me" and "I'm good up here" and "you can't make me". She said possibly the worst thing she could have said.... she said, "why should I?" And the unknown mom said, "because you are little and you have only one leg." As Madeleine recalled the conversation to me she cried. Her brother added that he knew that Madeleine was starting to cry while she was up on the roof. She didn't want to let her friends see her cry though. I was told that the unknown mom actually held up her phone and dialed 91 and told Madeleine that she would put in the extra one to call the police if she didn't get down. At this time Mad was scared. Super scared. And she was suck. She said, "I wanted the kids to think I was like them but then I couldn't get down like they all did".
And when my girl was in her kid darkest hour something amazing happened. A man, an unknown dad, who may have seen the fear in her face and the bravery in her heart saved her. He allowed her to save face and was kind. He came up to her and said, "jump, I will catch you." He didn't scold her for being sassy and didn't make her feel like a weak, little kid. He made her feel safe and allowed her to be brave.
For this man I am grateful. He looked out for my little girl and made her feel safe and accepted. Madeleine will remember him. She will remember his kindness and his "non-threateningness". She will remember that he didn't yell at her or scold her or make her feel weak and small.
When I first heard the story I was angry, I was going to take away screen time and ground her and punish her for being sassy and making dumb kid decisions. I even thought about how Unknown Mom would see us out and see Madeleine and know that she was the sassy kid with one leg and then she would think less of me as a teacher because I had the sassy kid. And then Madeleine told me this story and she cried and she said, "I just want to be like the other kids". And my mommy heart broke for a minute because isn't that what we all want? Didn't we all make dumb kid decisions because we wanted to look cool, strong, brave, pretty, smart and more?
Sometimes my students are sassy. They say things like, "I don't care" and "I don't want to learn that anyway" and "I don't need to know that". They sound sassy and defiant. They rub us the wrong way and take up time and irritate other students and feel exhausting. And I think that maybe they are on that roof and trying to look like their peers. They are just trying to save face. Maybe they do care and they want to learn and they are scared of jumping. And because they are so scared of failure and looking like a fool and breaking their little leggie they get sassy.
Sometimes what they say is not what they are communicating. We, as the adults in their lives, need to read between the lines and allow them to save face and allow them to be safe and heard.
Thank you Unknown Dad. I hope that I can return the favor to your little one some day.