Today at lunch one three and two fours were talking. I felt lucky to listen to their conversation. I had been talking with a friend about the importance of friendship in his life and so I was attuned to the way we support and witness the emergence of friendship in our day care, to how important a part of our days and lives are our friends and the way we see and value one another.

Sharing Dreams – Lunch time conversation – What do we want to be when we grow up? How will our selves and our connections evolve over time?

Today at lunch my lunch group was doing their thing, eating way too much cous cous, dripping bits all over the place, talking and laughing. I had the pleasure of offering seconds and thirds and fourths and listening and cleaning up, roles I am happy to play in my current life as family child care provider more than teacher.

Friendship is important. These kids are working on that right now, talking about what they will be when they grow up. And I get to stand by and watch and listen to the images of self emerge and the friendships blossom.

My three and two fours were talking. One four was telling her friends she plans to be a mother and and an artist when she grows up, something she’s been telling me awhile.

The other four and the three were telling her they plan to be firefighters, something they have been pretending for awhile.

Then the first four added that she also wants to be a veterinarian and a dentist. Her friend the four thought she might like to be a dentist for animals and she agreed. He felt sure at first as did the three that he only wanted to be a firefighter, just one thing.

The conversation was so interesting, I tried to capture it in notes on my phone. This is what I got before it was time to clean up from lunch, though the conversation and the play continued, wtih more about growing up, and then another game of hockey in the kitchen, this time in a game where the four suggested they were playing a game of hockey and that they didn’t want anyone to win. “Yes,” said the three. “We don’t want anyone to win, but someone always wins, right?” Always there is that tension between self and other, between the expected and what we have the power to re-imagine, to change.

But at lunch, imagining the future of their friendship, the first four suggested, “One day you can visit my artist studio and I’ll show you my paintings.”

“And you can come over and see how I fix the animals’ teeth and you can see my cute little baby.”

And her friend the four replied, “And you can see how we go down the fire pole.”

“Do you want to go down the fire pole with us?” wondered the three.

At this point, they got up, cleared their places, and began to walk around the kitchen and talk.

“I’m gonna be a firefighter and an artist, too.” decided the four.

“Can you draw a picture of us in our fire engine?” the three asked the four intending to be an artist and a mother and a veterinarian and a dentist for animals.

“Yes,” she replied. “I’ll also draw a picture of you spraying out a fire.”

“And us driving a fire truck.” suggested the three.

“I’ll draw the hose and the ladder and the fire truck.” added the four.

“How about you will work at the same artist studio as me, too,” she suggested to her firefighter and artist friends.

“Only on some days,” agreed the four.

“Only on days there’s no fires,” agreed the three.

“I might not be there. I might have to check out some animals,” said the four, making sure to be clear in her commitments.

That the children imagine themselves as firefighters, mothers with cute babies, artists, dentists who take care of animals, and veterinarians, makes me happy. That they imagine their lives well into the future also makes me happy. That they imagine themselves continuing to be in each others’ lives is why I do what I do.

The reality is that it has happened, again and again and again. Children who have played together in the early years have remained friends into adulthood and beyond. They have continue to feel cared for by us, by one another, to be in many ways similar and connected beyond the time they have spent with us.

Teens have visited after years of being away. Teens and young adults share wishes for a reunion of day care kids. Teens have hugged me in faraway places after years of not having been with us. Teens and young adults have helped one another through hard times, have been each others’ rocks when ground has shifted.

What is it, I wonder, about this shared imaginative life, about this day to day, sleeping, eating, playing, talking, laughing, wrestling, running, jumping, swinging life that binds us to one another, maybe for life?

In my life it was my sister, my neighborhood friends, my cousins, who shared my early life of play and daily living. I feel connected still to those early days when we made up the story as we went, when our imaginations and games and lives were so easily intertwined. But it wasn’t all smooth and easy, nor was it all full of happy dreams.

Solving Problems, Hard Times, and Sorrow – Earlier in the day, working things out on the swings and on the rug and in the kitchen

Earlier in the day, my twos were screaming mad. When we arrived at the park, they both expected to swing. There was one swing available and one got it, while the other one cried and cried. Offers from her older friend to push her on a tire swing with her little buddy and close friend did not help. Holding my hand she told me through tears how she had wanted the swing, how her friend had pinched her cheek before climbing onto the swing.

Nearby her friend watched and listened, pumped and lilted, looking less clear in her dominance as the back story to her triumph was revealed. Eventually she got off, her friend got on, thanked her at my suggestion. Still, the winner stormed. She lay on the ground and cried. She cried at the top of the climber where two friends had taken two seats and she had none. She cried at the monster sounds a friend made. I offered a hand, offered solace, was rejected again and again until on the walk home, I offered my hand, rather than a loop to hold and she accepted. Partway home, she smiled again, looked up, asked me a question about my life I’ve now forgotten, asked about something I might have in my life which she also has, establishing our shared vision, our commonality, our connection, and from there the storm had passed.

At home my three and four who shortly after shared dreams of a future fighting fires, making art and visiting their friend’s cute baby and art studio and animal dentistry practice, tugged viciously at an old copy of The Magic School Bus they both wanted to read, until the book was bent and torn. I took the book, asked them to choose another, went to the kitchen to prepare lunch.

Soon the four was tugging another book out of his friend’s hands. I called him to the kitchen for a talk. What was going on? I wondered.

“I had planned to read the book after I got back from the bathroom.” he shared, “But —- was reading it.”

“Ah!” I could see this could be a problem.

” Well, can I tell you what I do if someone uses something I was planning to use?” I asked.

“I know!” said the four, enthusiastically. “I can tell him I was planning to use it and ask him to give it back.”

I looked out only to see him asking while tugging on the book, and called him back.

“It didn’t work!” he said, tearing up.

“You need to ask without tugging on the book. And sometimes it doesn’t work the first time. What else can you do”

“I know!” he replied. “I can ask if I can have it when he’s done!”

And sure enough, I was able to continue making lunch while the young ones worked things out and read.

It isn’t magic, the way friendship and connection builds. It does take time and coaching. Insight and empathy help. Some say patience. I prefer understanding.

As I was preparing lunch, my two who had been stirred up at the park climbed up on the chair and slipped off, wool socks lacking traction, and bumped her head. I gave her a hug and a cuddle and her friend the three brought a boo boo buddy, a small furry dog with a plastic ice cube inside.

Children do this often. They want to help one another heal.

At lunch we sat down and I began to serve the food. My four who had figured out the book problem reminded me we forgot to pause and put our hands on the table, so we did, breathing deeply and holding hands around the table before saying our thank yous to the world, “Thank you for this food and for our friends and family to share it with.” My three who had the book, ended it with Amen, and Bon Appetite. I added Namaste. Someone remembered we had forgotten to do the gentle squeeze, so we reconnected hands and squeezed gently, began our meal.

It feels good to share these moments as a group, to share food with gratitude, to heal one another with kindness, hugs, and boo boo buddies, to see that we matter to one another, to feel our power to connect and to repair.

There was more I wanted to say, but the children are waking one by one and my time today is done. Thanks for sharing your children and for reading. I feel lucky to have time with them and to write about our days.