I haven't talked much about The Paid Job here. Funny Kid Stories are harder to come by than Stupid Kid Stories, and seeing as the kids aren't mine, writing about them even anonymously worries me. But I'm with all those kids regularly and, for the most part, feeling useful and good.
Most of my time recently has been with Vomit Girl. (See how I use a fake name to keep her anonymous?) Even after all these weeks, Vomit Girl is so anxious about school, that she-- (do we really need to fill in the blank here?) I took a change of clothes today in anticipation. (Joy, Fun and Goodness!) But Vomit Girl was out with a stomach bug today. (I feel like the straight man waiting for the comedian to get the punch line here: "How would you know?")
Nevertheless, I was in my boss' office discussing who I might go see and work with instead. She mentioned Impulse Control Boy and I brought up Control Freak just as the girl's teacher walked in and asked me if I could come see Mr. Hurting People Lately because his lack of social skills is becoming a problem in her classroom and his mom is concerned. It occurred to me that In Your Face Girl also needed some follow-up and maybe I could do a social skills group. Then it was obvious to all three of us that Chaos Boy would also need to be included and suddenly we all got quiet and serious. Chaos Boy's mom is a teacher at our school and his behavior is a Very Touchy Subject.
I was full of confidence at this point. A social skills group! I could do this regularly and teach that little group of four year olds how to make friends and how to play without controlling, hitting, grabbing, kissing (yes this is a problem) or otherwise causing chaos and repelling their peers.
I had a couple of minutes to think about this plan before the day started. I grabbed a book about personal space and confirmed that I could use an empty classroom. What else would I need? (As I said, full of confidence.)
The five were all excited to come with me. (Cool. All's well so far.)
We entered the empty classroom and they all started grabbing toys off the shelf. I dealt with that and gathered them on the carpet. (Doing ok...)
I showed them my book and asked if any of them knew what 'personal space' meant. In Your Face Girl could easily have licked my nose while she told me with much excitement that Yes! She knew what it was and she had the very same book at home! All five of them proceeded to tell me what it meant-- (although I doubt they knew-- everyone was talking at once and I really have no idea what they were saying.)
I read the story, then got into In Your Face Girl's face when I spoke about it again. I thought she'd back away, but she didn't notice (hmm.) I tried it with Impulse Control Boy. He began to incessantly tap me on the arm while telling me that I was too close. (Yay? He learned something?) Control Freak was also telling me what I was doing wrong (technically she was right) and with her authoritative face she looked ready to lead the group. (Nothing like getting a finger waved in your face while being told by a four year old how wrong you are.)
Chaos Boy was trying to escape. I touched him lightly to encourage him to come back, and he cringed away from my hand. (This child needs lots of personal space!)
We finished talking about the book and I decided I wanted to do a group block building activity. They each pulled out a toy. I insisted they put away all the toys. I chose one that none of them had picked. I put a box of train tracks on the floor and talked about how putting it in the middle helped everyone reach. (They gave me "yeah, whatever" eyes.)
Immediately Control Freak told everyone that we were going to make a track in a circle. Impulse Control Boy and Chaos Boy had already started making their own tracks. Hurting People Boy seemed to be doing fine until I noticed that he'd pre-counted the trains and realized there weren't enough for everyone. His method of solving that problem was to sit on them hoping no one could see them. Impulse Control Boy is also Copycat Boy and so he grabbed two from Hurting People Boy and did the same. (Oh my, what am I doing here?)
The result of that would have been blows if I hadn't been right there. In Your Face Girl (who was also right there) and Control Freak tried to intervene. Chaos Boy tried to escape again. In Your Face Girl was making it hard for me to get him back to the carpet because she was wanting to hug me. I told her she needed to ask (she did) and then I answered no. (God help me! Have five minutes passed yet?)
There was no way they could make one track as a group, so I helped shape the track into something oval-ish. We drove (shared) trains on it for 30 seconds (Hurting People Boy looked like he was seething) and then I could tell we needed to clean up and be done. Control Freak Girl told everyone to line up at the door while In Your Face Girl tried to hug everyone. Impulse Control Boy had run down the hall and was already in his classroom. Chaos Boy escaped.
I couldn't decide if I should just sit on the floor and laugh, or make plans to try again.