What You May

My possessions are strewn about the floor, evidence of my recent move heaped in piles across the plush carpet. My laundry basket sits in the corner, the sleeves of a work shirt spilling haphazardly over the edges, faintly dirty cuffs draped unceremoniously over the plastic set of drawers containing much of my clothing. In the middle of the room, at the foot of my big bed, my bare comforter lies atop of pile of clothes, books, and other trinkets that have not yet found homes in my new room. The bed itself is littered with the day’s discarded clothes, my book bag, computer, and curriculum books for lessons I’ve yet to plan.

I’ve pulled the comforter cover- inside out- from where it was under the floor pile, and am attempting to stuff the comforter back in, when she appears in the doorway. Three years old, she clutches her scruffy kitty to her chest, dark eyes peering from under darker bangs. She’s used to my room upstairs, accustomed to knock first, and don’t touch the makeup, and yes you can climb on the bed. This is the first time she’s been in this room, since it’s become mine, and I allow her free reign, at least for the moment; I’m curious what she will do.

Her kitty abandoned on the floor by the door, she watches me wrestle with the comforter for a moment, before lifting the corner of the blanket, undoing the work I have done to stuff the unwieldy blanket into its floral cover. What are you doing? She asks, her tiny face tilting to study first me, then the blanket. I explain, and she moves, spins, twists my blanket further out of line.

Can you put that down please?

And she obeys, chattering all the while.

Her attention diverted from the blanket, which I’ve finally managed to contain, she moves toward the wall, towards the make-shift vanity that I’ve compiled atop my plastic drawers. She investigates my bottles of gummy vitamins, pushes my coconut lotion aside, until finally her little hands find my makeup bag. The holy grail of preschool exploration. She’s pulled my foundation out of its spot when I look up: No touching my make up. And again, she steps away, a slight hesitation in her step, but she listens, nonetheless.

I continue to work, organize, unpack, and she continues to flit about the room, her curiosity stretching much larger than her own tiny frame. Into the brown paper bag of food by the door. Into the pile of books and the hole punch balancing atop. Into my clean laundry, my skirts, my shoes.

And still I move her, reminding her of rules, creating new ones, redirecting, enforcing, badgering.

Finally, exasperated, she looks up, a shrug in her slim shoulders. Well, what can I do? She asks, hands, once more clutching her kitty, turn palms-up into a defeated shrug.

I sigh then, shake my head at my own oversight. It’s not the No, No, No that is most effective; I’ll not get anywhere- and neither will she- by constantly trying to beat her to the punch, listing all that she can’t, can’t, can’t before she’s had a moment to think what she can. Chagrinned, I sit back on my heels over the (gradually shrinking) pile of laundry.

Ah, of course, I say, an apology in my tone. You can do you work! I say, pointing her to the opposite corner of the room, where my pencil holder sits atop a bin of books. Her “work” consists of using every pen in the box to “write” on the scraps of paper that used to hold my own notes and scribbles. She’s diligent and focused when she does her work, and she perks up immediately when I suggest it. I follow her scampering feet to the corner, pull out the paper scraps for her, and watch her settle into her task, a faint smile of focus, of purpose, on her face.

I return to my tidying, working slowly to clear the floor, organize my space, and still her words sink further into my mind, my heart: Well, what can I do? And I think then, as I watch her write, play, imagine, there on the floor, that I want to be the kind of teacher, the kind of adult, the kind of heart, who tells a child all that they can and all that they may and all that they will, because there is a time for rules, and a time to comply, but there is yet more need to wings, for open space to create, to shine, to fly.

And that is what I want. For the children in my classroom. For the children in my home. And for three-year-old princesses with kitties in their arms and curiosity in their eyes.

~Natalia

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