I was sitting in my office with Jake helping him with his math when I heard crying coming down the hall. It was dismissal time for the Kindergarten students, and the hall was full of parents getting their little ones ready to transition back to home. We looked at each other, shrugged, and kept on working. I figured that there were lots of other adults in the building that could take care of this, and that if they needed me someone would come to get me.
Minutes later someone did come to get me. The Kindergarten teacher peered into my room and asked me to come and help. Jake and I looked at each other, I asked him if he could get himself back to his class, and rushed down the hall to see what was happening.
There is a certain fear that lives with me every day as a school counselor. When all else fails, and all has been attempted, there is this strange conception that the school counselor will know what to do. I suppose that after all those years of schooling and reading I do know what to do, but only to a certain point. Life has a way of being unpredictable, and no matter how well we understand things intellectually, there is no telling how we will react once we are really in the moment of the crisis. As I ran down the hall wondering what was expecting me, and silently praying that I would be able to know what I needed to do, I could hear the teacher talking about ‘that parent.’ ‘That parent doesn’t know what to do,’ ‘If she only stopped indulging that child and set some boundaries we wouldn’t have this problem,’ ‘You have to teach her to manage this child.’ And as we entered the room, I heard her say, ‘I can’t stay, I have another appointment.’
There, in the middle of the room, was a young mom on her knees, gently rubbing the back of her daughter who looked clearly distressed. Mom looked up at me, her face full of shame. I stepped forward, slowly, but not slow enough. The little girl looked at me, panicked, took her shoe off and threw it at me. I had overstepped her boundary, now I knew what to do!
I found a little chair, sat far away enough so that mom and child would feel safe, yet close enough to establish a connection. Quietly, I started to chat with mom about her child, nodding and listening, and affirming as much as I possibly could that this mother was in fact taking the lead for this child and following her heart. As we chatted, we realized that this child was extremely sensitive, so much so that she often became overwhelmed by her environment, experiencing a vulnerability that was too much to bear. I didn’t need to give advice, I didn’t need to talk to this mom about setting boundaries and managing her child. All I needed to do was to affirm this mother as she followed her parental instincts and moved to care for her child.