Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Even six year olds have bad days at the office

I was walking up from the station the other night when ahead of me I spied a mother in her early thirties and a girl of about six. The mother, I deduce, had just got off the train from town and was picking up the girl from a child minder and hearing about the day at school as they walked home.

The girl had blonde hair in a pony tail and was wearing a cardigan over a school summer dress. She walked with that sweet solemnity of kids that age. Mother was burdened with her own stuff plus the child's. Standard stuff. As I got closer I could hear the conversation:

Mother: So why did the teacher get cross?
Child: (inaudible)
Mother: And did Robert get into trouble too?
Child: (even less audible)
Mother: And what about Kirsty? Was she told off as well?
Child: (not even a bat could have heard what she said but she was clearly saying something and breathing quite hard)
Mother: So why didn't you explain? She would have understood.

By this time I had drawn level and was overtaking. I looked across at this little girl's face and saw a look I've seen occasionally in the past on the faces of my own children when they were little. It indicates that something had snapped that day in the child's fragile ecosystem, somebody had spoken sharply to someone who wasn't used to being spoken sharply to, it was all a terrible misunderstanding and all of a sudden black uncertainty had darkened the normally sunny, carefree disposition of a small child

I found that looking at that girl's expression upset me far more now than it ever used to do at the time. I wanted to put my arm round her and give her a squeeze. Knowing how the smallest things loom large for young kids it wouldn't have done any good at all. It would have made me feel better. Are these the first pangs of a potential grandfather?


  1. This resonates. Well said.

  2. Definitely yes. I've got a first grandson aged 17 months and I'm far more likely to get profoundly upset if his world isn't constantly sunny and bright than I ever was with my kids.

  3. This is what must be so awful about being a teacher: the genuine urge to comfort an obviously distressed child, suppressed by the notion of professional etiquette that says you're not allowed to touch them.

  4. @ Lucas: I'm beginning to wonder if the idea that teachers aren't allowed to comfort children is greatly exaggerated. I have two girls at primary school, and I have often seen teachers comfort kids who are upset, have fallen over etc. Either their school is acting well outside guidelines or, more likely, this is widespread. I would hope so anyway.

    That said, every single teacher in my kids' infants school is female. I hate to say it, but despite all logic telling me otherwise, I would feel differently if they were male. Sad, but there it is.

  5. I know that feeling David; I was thinking it was broodiness for another child but its proably the onset of grandparentitis. But my eldest child is currently 15 so have decided to get a dog for the time being.