This week I have been teaching Vacation Bible School, something I am grateful to have the opportunity to do. I want to be sure the kids have fun while learning the Bible stories. but the real challenge is determining how lenient to be and how many feelings I should try to spare.
Yesterday, I told my 12 kids to divide up into groups of three or four for a scavenger hunt. Once the kids did that, because I had an extra list, I asked if anyone wanted to work alone. After about 30 seconds, one girl volunteered, and I then started to explain the instructions. Soon after, one boy started to get upset because he insisted that he really had wanted to work by himself. I explained that I had asked for volunteers (and I actually looked right at him when I asked this question), and he did not speak up. This seemed to upset him even more, and he next said that he wanted to work with the girl who was going solo. For about five seconds I considered telling him, as nicely as possible, that he needed to work with his group. But having been witness to his outbursts my first year at VBS, I instead asked the solo girl if she would mind working with him. Fortunately, she agreed. Problem solved. Major meltdown averted.
Later on during snack, my child, who was in a different group, wanted to sit with some of her friends, but there were not enough seats left at that table. Whenever I see this occur, I just pull up a chair at the end of the table for the kid. However, I was several tables from J when this happened, and a nearby adult volunteer told her to sit somewhere else, where there was an empty seat. I watched J ask the volunteer if she could just move a chair near her friends, but this women again told her to sit in an empty chair, and my child did, clearly upset. I went over to her, and she asked me to move a seat so she could sit by her friends. I offered her a seat at a table next to mine, but she refused, so I told her that she needed to respect what that grownup said and just sit there. Jordan was not happy.
Fast-forward to today at VBS, and my kids once again broke into groups. I was happy that two boys picked the boy who was upset from yesterday so he would not feel left out. But unfortunately, that same boy wanted to be with the solo girl from yesterday who had already picked a partner. The boy once again became upset and insisted that the other girl in the duo was bossing him around, saying he could not be with them, and he started to cry. I told the boy that she probably just wanted to be with her friend, that sometimes girls just want to be together. I said he could be with the other two boys who were happy to have him. I also said he could work alone. Neither of those options appeased him.
I tried to console him as best as I could, but I remained firm, telling him that we don't always get what we want in life. I insisted that the one girl was not bossing him around, and he needed to move on. After a another minute or two of crying, he decided to be a scorekeeper with one of the nice teen volunteers, and he was fine for the rest of the day.
But I, as I often do when I parent and teach, was left to question my decision. I don't want to be the one who makes a child upset, and if I can do something to avoid that, I generally want to. But I also don't think it is very helpful to coddle kids and constantly spare their feelings. Life is not fair. People can be cruel. Believe me, I see this quite often whenever I sub and I see how others are with my kid (post coming on that soon). And despite what a teacher at another school told a kid I met at the park, you don't have to be friends with everyone; everyone is not going to like you. Sorry.
Sometimes you just have to accept that you can't always get what you want. And you don't always get what you need for that matter either!