"The free play of art is the result of mastery. " --Ernst Fischer, The Necessity of Art

"Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them." --Ladybird Johnson

"...a well-trained ear, a well-trained intelligence, a well-trained heart, and a well-trained hand...." --Zoltan Kodaly


After Halloween

Dear J,

So today, one of my second graders mentioned to me, at the end of class, that the music we'd listened to in class ("Peer Gynt: Hall of the Mountain King") reminded her of the monsters under her bed.

"Hmm. Do they come there often?"
"Yes, they're there a lot."
A child sitting nearby chimed in: "I have a monster, too--he lives in the closet."

At this point, every child in the room was quiet.  I mean, J, they were  perfectly still.

Completely attentive children: this is not something to be taken lightly, in a second grade classroom a few days after Halloween---when candy is still a part of just about every child's  breakfast and lunch.

I continued to load the ukuleles onto the cart, waiting to hear what to say in response.

"Know what I do when those monsters show up under my bed?"
"I laugh.  They can't stand laughter."
"No, Ms. N-- you can't laugh---they'll grab you and eat you if you laugh at them."

Heads nodded.  Several children started tying and untying their shoelaces.

"Monsters aren't real, you guys."  This, from Shivone.  Was he trying to convince the others, or himself?

"Well.  They sure do seem real, don't they?  In any case, I think they realize you're stronger than they are, when you laugh.  Especially if you're really afraid.  Give it a try and see what happens.  'Course, you could always turn the light on--that gets rid of them, too. Or tell them you're gonna make them brush their teeth--they hate brushing their teeth, that's why they smell so bad."

In the midst of the animated discussion which followed,  I thought about how important it is to give our kids a chance to learn ways of dealing with the terrors they face--from monsters under the bed to the possibility of parents' divorce.  How much they need--how much we all need!-- tools for handling our fears.

Thinking, too, what a deep toolbox we have available, through play: through  the safe venue of music and stories---not just the mass market stories and movies, but all of the old stuff, our rich heritage of songs and folk tales.

 Much better sustenance than the candy they consume--filling  our kids with the warmth of real nourishment.

How lucky are we, J, to be a part of all that---because it warms us in the process, too.

More, later.

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