Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Going from Crazy to Reading in 6.2 seconds...

Once upon a time when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uttaradit, Thailand, I attended a big English camp for fourth and fifth graders.  My friend and fellow volunteer Ingrid lived in the capital of the province, and she planned the whole thing.  I came in from the country side to help--I lived a few hours away in Fak Tha.

I don't remember the number of kids who attended that camp, but I think it was something like four thousand.  Okay, I'm exaggerating.  It was more like two hundred (seriously).  When farangs (foreigners) were around to teach English, every body wanted to come!

The morning of the first day, all of the kids were gathered in this huge outdoor, playground-like space.  They were...well, they were being like fourth or fifth graders in any country.  They were playing as loudly as possible, in gangs of four or five or twenty.  There were games of soccer in one corner, girls laughing in another corner...everyone was competing for space and sound.

My trio reading after a crazy bout of play.
And then, a teacher took the microphone and said a few things in Thai--he told them it was time to get quiet and meditate before beginning the camp.  Within a few minutes, that scene of craziness transformed into a peaceful, amazingly organized group of little Buddhists.  They had quickly arranged themselves an arm's length apart and sat, criss-cross-apple-sauce, backs ram-rod straight, waiting in silence.  You could hear a pin drop. I was in awe.

At that moment, I learned that kids could calm themselves.  They just need to be taught how.

Lorelei, Ben, and Kiefer don't know any Buddhist meditations. (Yet?)  But they do read.

So, for the past few years, when they get particularly crazy--maybe your kids don't get crazy?  Lucky you!--and they are jumping on each other and the furniture and the dogs, yelling and screaming and laughing as loudly as kidly possibly and I am about to go join the Peace Corps again instead of live within this chaos..., I give them a few more minutes and then say: "Enough of the crazy!  Please grab a book!"  And they do.  Sometimes I have just 5 or 10 minutes of calm before the crazy begins again, sometimes longer, but...even 5-10 minutes provide enough peace to let me stay another few days.

Thanks, kids of Thailand, for helping prepare me for motherhood.

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