(The East Side Gallery is the longest strip of the Berlin Wall that remains after the Cold War.)
It was no secret to my friends and family that I’ve never really been partial to children. It wasn’t because I disliked them, although I fondly joked about not liking kids. Nah…it was more of an indifference, if you will. I tried explaining this to P, my flatmate, once at the very beginning of my Fulbright year. He laughed for about 5 minutes when I told him that I was indifferent to children. (I’m apparently the first person in his life who was indifferent to children.) You either like or dislike them, P explained people’s usual reactions to children to me. I’m afraid that’s not how I work. Well…how I used to work.
(A picture of a Trabi, one of the many stereotypical symbols of the former East Germany)
One of my anxieties about my Fulbright year was working with children. I consulted with many friends of mine who get along with children and work with them on a regular basis. What are children like? How do I handle the troublemakers? How should I treat them? What makes them tick besides chocolate? I wasn’t afraid of children, oh no, that wasn’t the problem. I just didn’t want to seem weak, nonchalant, too enthusiastic or a big ol’ meanie. One of the few memories I still have to this day is how I used to loathe substitutes in school. Although I was a goody two-shoes in school and still treated substitutes with respect, I absolutely disliked substitutes who were unsure of themselves around children, or were terrible at communicating with us. I especially disliked condescending adults.
Children can sense this and feed off of it like my sister’s dog, Norbert, when he sees someone with an apple. Like children, he can sense when you’re breaking down, about to give him a piece of your apple. And he’ll harass you until you give in to his puppy powers. All 6 pounds of him.
Children aren’t malicious to be malicious but it happens. And I was deathly afraid. What if I end up having a classroom full of screaming 10-year-olds with water guns pointed right at me? Did German children like water guns? I had to do some research and prepare myself.
The kids were sweet when I first started working with them and I was relieved to see that there would be no respect issues, especially because they were disciplined due to their ballet instructors. They’ve since melted my icy heart of indifference and as any of my friends in Berlin can tell you, I gush whenever I talk about them. My heart’s grown 3 sizes more and all because of a group of 10- and 11-year-olds.
I’ll end the post here and fill you all in on the details of how they won me over in my next post 🙂
(The orb between the two men isn’t actually part of this painting. It somehow was picked up when I took the picture.)