I had lunch with Jeffrena today. She is nine years old. Me gusta Jeffrena. She wears her hair high on her head in a little top-knot that looks like a poodle puff. Today she added a Chinese hair stick with several little blue tassels of beads draping off the top--tre chic.
As the class was lining up for lunch, Jeffrena refused to take her place. What I've taken to doing lately with these little moments of protest (or inability to control bodily outbursts like slapping ones neighbor) is telling the child to walk next to me at the end of the line. I take his or her hand, and we go along nicely together.
Somehow this and a brief conversation outside the lunchroom after the rest of the class had been settled wasn't enough to settle my little Jeffrena. So I took the opportunity to invite her to join me at the "Conference Table" in our room for lunch.
She told me all her troubles, how Lacey sneezed on her, twice, how Itima wants to beat her up, how Lorna doesn't want to be her friend anymore. Most of the trouble centers around the idea that no one wants to be her friend. Luz says she walks too slow on the line. So, I asked, "Did you try to walk a little faster? Maybe Luz doesn't want to get in trouble." This is when Jeffrena says that if she walks fast she might have an asthma attack--that it happened to her one time when she and her aunt were hurrying somewhere. Jeffrena is a slow walker, I've noticed this about her. She's cautious. So I talked to her for a long time about how scary it is to have asthma attacks. She told me that one time in class she felt one coming on and cried a little, but it didn't happen. She didn't tell anyone. I told her that that was brave. Then she told me that she tried to explain why she walks slow to some of the girls, but they didn't care.
The gist of the talk was for little Jeffrena to focus on the positive--those children who do want to be her friend, rather than those who cause her angst, and even if it is only one friend, that that is her blessing. She went on again about this child and that, but I quietly repeated my words and told her to think about them. After school she hugged me and said she was glad she had someone to talk to. I'm very glad I had someone to talk to too.