Tales Out Of School

Posted by Ken Fraser on Jul 30, 2020
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I have just published a book of stories which feature what I call..."the natural kindness and wisdom of children." Here are some examples:

In-laws and Out-laws

It’s wonderful being a grandpa. Much easier than being a step-father (and I’m both.) I’m sure the term step-father means someone who has to watch his step - not treading on anyone’s toes – not putting his foot in his mouth – or anyone else’s mouth (however tempting this may sometimes be.)
It’s much harder for the grand-children.

They have to remember the difference between Grandad, Grandpa, Grandan and Papa. And they have to tolerate the sometimes erratic behavior of adult relatives and schoolteachers, who often criticize, blame and worry.

I wouldn’t be surprised if they sometimes call us the groan-ups.

The Voice of Experience
I have often thought that young children have a natural empathy for the feelings of others and that sometimes adults lose this ability. This was brought out in the out-of-hours school care venue where I worked, when two eight-year-olds called out to me: “Hi Ken, we love your hat but it’s a bit old-fashioned.”
I glanced at my Australian-style Akubra. “Well, I’m a bit old fashioned too.”
“Ken, how old are you?” asked Chloe.
“How old do you think?” I replied “About a hundred?”
“I would say around ninety”, replied Michelle.
“Actually I’m seventy.”
“That’s pretty old,” said Chloe.
Michelle turned to Chloe, with a slight edge to her voice. “Ken is not old. He is experienced.”

The Race
Bella, aged eight, came home exhausted, after competing in the school sports carnival.
“How did you go?” I asked.
“I got a third place, a second and two fourth placings”, she said.
“So you raced four times? No wonder you’re tired.”

“No, five times. Grandpa.”
“What happened in the fifth race?”
“Well I was winning until the fast few yards, then my friend Pip fell over and hurt her ankle so I had to go back and check if she was all right.”

I went back to my newspaper. “The headline screamed “Gold medal to Australia in volleyball.”

The Water Bottle
I once worked in after- hours school care, minding some 30 pupils aged 5-12 years old, while their parents worked.
November 18 was much the same as any other day. Most of the 7 and 8-year-old boys played games outside, while the more artistic children remained inside to paint and draw.

I was on ‘playground duty’ with the boys, and a 5-year old girl (Hayley). I put my water bottle down and forgot about it. Nothing notable about that perhaps. Except that a 5-year–old girl remembered and walked some 200 metres in 30 degree heat to return it to me so I would not get thirsty.

The Fight
Educationist William Glasser believes that humans have five needs (Security, Love & Belonging, Freedom, Power and Fun). Yesterday I saw three boys trying to meet these needs by having a rather violent wrestle.

I was concerned for the boys’ safety and intervened. I praised Luke for being a great guy but choosing behaviour which might not be helping him (or others.) He went quiet, his need for recognition (a form of power) having been met.

Nathan did the same, while Logan sobbed, saying if I split them up, he would have had no friends.

There are no ‘naughty’ children – only unhappy ones. Just as there are no problem children - only problem parents.

I Don’t Like Pizza
On Tuesday I cooked for 58 children in after school care. It was the usual mix of fruit and carbohydrates. I decided on home-made pizza, made with a pizza base, with grated cheese and / or chopped ham on top.

Most of the children seemed to like it but when I returned later that afternoon from supervising sport, my colleague Mark told me that one child, six-year old Laura, had not enjoyed it at all. When he suggested that she tell the chef (me) what she didn’t like about it, she adamantly refused, saying, “I would not wish to hurt Ken’s feelings.”

Young children have a natural empathy and compassion, which many adults seem to have lost.

I wonder why.

In Mint Condition
If there was one interaction, which to me epitomised the essential “wisdom and kindness of children,” it would be the one which I now relate:
I was driving four-year-old Georgia to school, alongwith her eight-year-old brother Leo. I had a tin of peppermints with me, which I kept in the front console. Georgia spotted them asked me for one, and then begged to be allowed to “look after” the tin until we arrived at school.

With some trepidation I passed the tin to her. (I will always trust a child, although the temptation to sneak another mint into her mouth must have been strong.)

She couldn’t wait to arrive at school and when we got there she handed one of the mints to her brother. I was curious about why she was so keen to do this.

I should have known better. She said to me…”It’s because I get a lot of pleasure from doing things for other people.”

I am always regretting the fact that I am not as wise nor as kind as I was when I was a child.


Ken Fraser
Canberra, Australia

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