Every morning, I wake up, make breakfast and read the latest headlines. Recently, there has been a lot of talk about children and what they will take away from this pandemic. Sadly, many children are handling the “new normal” in unusual ways.
My own pediatrician has said that, in her practice, she has noticed children are acting out in differently. Older children have been caught drawing on the walls. Teenagers have been admitted to the hospital for unusually intense bouts with depression. The headlines have recorded similar experiences of older children across the country. In response, doctors are recommending that children write their experiences and feelings every night before bed. They also can read other children’s experiences in books like Anne Frank’s, “Diary of a Young Girl.” My pediatrician had a whole print out on the benefits of riding a bike on trails for a minimum of an hour. It got me thinking. What about younger children?
Most young children are unable or just learning to read. The same goes with writing. Some of the topics and experiences of Anne Frank as well as other famous, coming-of-age-in times-of- crisis type books are not suitable for children under six. Writing is still more work than expression. While he plays outside for hours each day, there has to be more for a kid his age to find their own narrative. I have watched my five and a half year old grandson and wondered how I might help him understand a world I’m struggling myself to comprehend. The “story” of my hometown, state, country and planet change on a daily basis. How can I help him make sense of it all?
This morning, he and I cleaned up the table from breakfast together, we talked. He misses school now. He always complained about it before. He misses his friends. He misses playgrounds and playing at the park. He still plans to tell a girl in his Junior Kindergarten class that he wants to marry her. He wants to have a playdate and take her fishing. As I started to load the dishwasher, I held back objecting to him taking his tablet off of the charger. He was headed outside with it in hand. That was new.
For an hour, I quietly watched him make one tiny movie after another. Sometimes the lead character was a Lego character, running from some invisible foe. Sometimes, the video was just him making monster noises as the screen bounced wildly. That kind of video intrigued me most.
“That must be a pretty scary monster,” I commented. “I wonder what it looks like.”
Without looking up from his WIP he replied, “Things are always scarier when you can’t see them but you know they’re there.”
And there it was. All of the gentle talking was sinking in and he’d found his own way to express his response to the unpredictable world.
“You’re right,” I said. He couldn’t write or journal or read the experiences of his peers in trouble. He couldn’t, however, convey what I’d been feeling for months. There was something scary out there. I couldn’t see it. But I knew it was there. We all do. Maybe we all could use a day of making monster videos.