She is a 7-year-old girl whose name I will keep to myself. I am a teacher that works as a social pedagogue. I mind her and use pedagogy to get her ready for life. Like every human being, there is a story behind her, one of those that adults do not believe, but it’s possible in children’s minds.
From now on, I will call her Kelly, as she reminds me of a student I had with a similar personality. Society has included her in that social niche labeled vulnerable children. It is a pity; I know all professionals in education want these stories to be that, just stories.
I started working with her a month ago. Unsurprisingly, she put up a bit of resistance at first; after all, it was natural to ask herself why to trust someone like me. I persisted and broke the ice; since then, little by little, and after sharing unforgettable moments, an affective relationship has been building.
Today was a particular day that motivated me to write this piece. We had a conversation during her bedtime, and she blew my mind. But before getting into details, let’s talk about what a social pedagogue’s day looks like.
It was an Irish day, gray sky and 16 degrees in the middle of summer. I came to work and said hi to Kelly and the crew. Then, the seven-year-old said: —Hernán, take me to the swings I want to play. —I agreed, but the swings only lasted three minutes; that`s how long it took her to ask for a different activity.
She said: —Sit tight; I need to get something from my room. She came with a spray in her right hand; she poured soap and water and asked me to go with her.
In the meantime, she said:—you know what, COVID19 is messed up, every day we have more cases, and I know that it is in the environment. In this spray, I made my own substance to defeat it; let’s spray it around so; we are safe.
Despite their background, children’s innocence is there. Kelly has a heavy story, as I said, but she is still creative and carries within that spirit of wanting to save the planet. Experience has allowed me to interact with kids from different nationalities, and I conclude that they are all equal; every child is a potential genius.
It got late; we had dinner and asked Kelly to get ready for bedtime. It took her about 15 minutes to get ready for her routine. I came into her room, read a book, and chatted with her for about 30 minutes.
At the end, Kelly asked: “Hernán, is it okay if I tell you a bit of my life story? sometimes I need to have someone to talk to.” I agreed, adding that it was okay to feel that need.
Kelly: Very good. Look, I’ve had four dads; one passed away; there’s no point in talking about him; he died in a car accident. However, one of them made me very sad. Even if he didn’t treat me right, I loved him. Every day when he came from the pub, he smelled like perfume; and had lipstick on his clothes. He did not treat my mom well; he never said good night to us, and simple things like cooking, he never did that. However, I loved him, but he left us.”
I couldn’t believe a 7-year-old using that speech; at some stage, it looked as if she was 15 or so. I connected the dots as questions emerged; for example, what did she mean by having four dads? Or, how will her ideal father be? I will get everything but answers. After all, she cried out affection and stated that her loved dad treated her like garbage for not saying good night, not making food, and not showing fondness.
Kelly: Hernán, thank you for listening to me, and I am sorry; I do not even know why we ended up talking about negative things; It wasn’t my intention, so we are better off changing the subject.
Hernán: Do not worry, that is why I am here; it doesn’t bother me.
Kelly: Thank you, honestly, thank you very much! Before I came to this house, I had a foster family; they did not treat me properly and thought I was their slave; thank God they moved me here. Hopefully, soon I’ll be able to be with my mom again; I miss her a lot.
All I can say is that I have mixed feelings. I know that kids mix their stories with imagination, but underestimating them is not the way. It will be better to listen, pick up bits and pieces and remember that creative stories start with real-life situations.
All words matter!