Thursday, August 20, 2009
On Sunday, my usual five-child yoga class swelled to 14, with four girls leaving their mothers down the beach to come and join us. "The first time girls have joined the class! How exciting!," I thought, until one of the older ones started a fistfight because she hadn't gotten tagged yet in the yoga version of "duck, duck, goose." Although I asked her to sit out for the rest of class and didn't give her the wafers I hand out at the end, I made sure she knew that she could participate next time and am very glad she came.
I moved us from under the campsite tree to the beach, so that we'd have adequate space and campsite guests wouldn't feel we were infringing on their weekend privacy. Plus, I'm trying to draw clear boundaries between public and private space for us at Robertsport, otherwise our days there become child-crowded open-houses.
We drew a circle in the sand, did sun salutations to the Karma Kids sun dance (any excuse to mention my favorite yoga studio!), worked on our warrior poses, did eagles, trees, crabs, frogs and fell over many, many times. It was only when I moved on to group activities that the fighting erupted.
Now, it's not unusual for children to fight. And get them doing something participatory and their normal conflict resolution techniques will show themselves, be they empathetic questioning, fist-fighting or crying to get attention. So, when the older girl jumped up, fists in position, during duck, duck, goose, I told her to stop, sat her out and told the children that they are not allowed to hit in my class. A few minutes later, another boy thought he was getting patted on the head to hard and also stood up, swinging a few times for dramatic effect. Clearly, these children are used to acting out their feelings the quick and easy way.
Maybe they're just not quite ready for group games, either. Group games take teamwork, a sense of community and a knowledge that there will be fair play and everyone will get a turn. It's up to me to teach that, and stick to individual poses, stories and activities in the meantime. Maybe in a few weeks, we'll move on to partner work but I'm here for the long-term and we can take things slow.
After the second altercation, I sat everyone down and told them that we'd have class every Sunday afternoon and that all children were welcome. But, I said, trying not to scold, I would not tolerate hitting or name-calling - there was a considerable amount of that, too, with sweet-faced Elijah instigating most of it.
With all the newness and hostility, I don't think we're quite ready for the final relaxation -- usually everyone's favorite part. They kids are pretty wary of me and of each other, and lying down next to each other with their eyes closed doesn't seem like the safest activity for now.