Here in Aotearoa, we are a nation stunned. And in mourning. And sad. Angry, at a loss with how to respond to the news of a mass shooting in our own little country.
Late last night a friend messaged me, asking how people like us are supposed to deal with this news, and how can we help. The ‘like us’ I think she means is the kind people, the ones who celebrate diversity. The ones who want to raise their children immersed in love and safety. Parent ‘me’ came to mind instantly, but as the questions swirl, the me involved in ECE pops up too. In that immediate moment, I wondered if there is anything at all we can actually do. Over this morning’s coffee I realised there is. What can people like us do?
We can love our children, and every child who crosses our path. When I did my ECE training I was told “there is no place for love in ECE”. Thankfully I disagreed, and met my tribe who disagree too. There HAS to be a place for love in ECE, in these years that set a person up for life. When we surround them in love, they feel worthy. They witness love, and will have a model of this for future relationships. They will see love as the ‘norm’. One of my very favourite quotes ever (and my quotes list is enormous) is from Robin Grille:
The human brain and heart that are met primarily with empathy in the critical early years cannot and will not grow to choose a violent or selfish life.
I believe this in my whole heart. I know nothing of this shooter’s upbringing, and part of my ‘dealing with this’ is watching the bare minimum of reports. But I don’t expect empathy and love were largely felt components. Note the emphasis on felt. Saying we love is one thing, but children must feel so loved that they don’t doubt it.
We can promote an understanding of this one human race, not the us and them divisions. How we talk to children about difference is really important. Have a think to some of what you may have said, or heard over the years. Descriptions of a house not like ours as “funny”, food that is different as “weird”. We’re leading with the differences. And this sets up our children to look from this angle. But if we lead with similarity, the fundamental need of all humans to have shelter, or food, we are starting with commonality. How are these people like all of us? Then the differences are a further insight, an enriching fact about diversity, but not a division. It seems such a small shift in perspective, but really it is huge.
We can model tolerance for different views and ways of doing things. Our team cultures can be positive examples of humans living and working together, or they can toxic examples of ‘one way’ only thinking, and intolerance to multiple perspectives. What are our children witnessing around them, day in and day out. We often worry about children’s behaviour, how can we ensure they are behaving kindly and including others? How can we? By modelling those very behaviours. By living them so fully ourselves that our children soak them up. The best of human qualities are ‘caught’ by our children far more effectively than they can be taught.
We can stay hope-filled. We can keep believing in our hearts that kindness is the way, that what we do today for our children and families matters. That each one of us has a role to play in this world, even when it feels the dark times are overtaking the shining examples of warmth within our ECE walls. They aren't. Keep striving, keep shining, and acting on the faith that these wee people we surround with love will grow up to be loving. Even if we never see the ‘results’, trusting that that's the way of it will mean we keep giving our all. Our children, and our worldwide human family needs our all.
And lastly, we can remember that through all this, our children are small. They are vulnerable. They are not mini-adults and they do not need to be exposed to information above their level. Please, please remember that all of us as humans can not un-see something. We can't unhear news that confused and frightens us. This is hard as an adult, traumatic even. But for our children? I cringe when I think of our tiny ones watching the news. Some adults think our children need to know. Do they? I love Dame Whina Cooper's words, and I'll leave you with them:
Take care of our children. Take care of what they hear, take care of what they see, take care of what they feel. For how the children grow, so will the shape of Aotearoa.
- From our hearts to yours, Tessa ❤️