Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Exclusion Exercise

We tried something new at the Girl Scout meeting this week.

“We are going to play a game and I will pick everyone who gets to play!” said Jen. All of the girls bounced around, waving their hands in the air, hoping to be picked. I joined them, showing my enthusiasm for the game with the same bouncing and waving. One by one, Jen picked every girl. They lined up against the wall. I sat alone.

First, one girl pointed out that she needed to pick me, too.

Jen said, “No. We only need this many players. I am in charge of this game and I don’t need anyone else.”

I then said, “Wait a minute. I want to play, too! This isn’t fair. I am really mad. I am so mad that I want to do something mean to you. I feel left out and I don’t like it!”

The girls were stunned. But only for a minute. Then the wheels started to turn.

Then one girl, thinking of how Jen could include me, said, “What if she is your helper?”

Jen said, “I don’t need any helpers.”

One girl stepped out of line, sat by me, and said, “She can have my spot.”

Three other girls got out of line and said they didn’t want to play, so I could have their spots, too. The line started to waver. No one liked the idea of a game like this anymore.

So, we let them off the hook. This WAS the game, we explained. We wanted to talk about feeling left out. We were so impressed with the very mature and thoughtful reactions that our girls showed when they saw me feeling left out. We talked about how everyone has been left out before, and how everyone has probably left someone out before, too. We told the girls that we wanted to remind them that when they see someone who is left out, they can do something about it. They can make a difference by using some of the skills they just demonstrated. They can give another girl a chance to be included. They can help.

I was so touched by their obvious compassion. They showed that they really can take care of each other. They showed the skills that they need to be able to be good friends and to treat one another with gentle respect. I felt choked up about it, completely surprised with how adept they were at reading the situation and how brave they were to do something about it.

But what about the game, they wanted to know. When can we play the game?!

Jen and I looked at each other. We hadn’t thought of a game. We thought the exercise was enough. But the kids felt cheated out of a game! So, I took them to the gym and ran around for 10 minutes with one of the dads. We played their favorite game, which I think they made up with the help of this dad: Bulldozer Dude. The treat was that I would play with them (which I usually do not do).

When we were home, I asked my oldest kid, who often provides me critical feedback about how our Girl Scout meetings go, “What did you think of our game today? Do you think we got the point across well?”

“Well, you got the point across that if a grown up offers you a game, you had better be sure that grown up intends to play one with you.” She paused. “And I guess the point about how it feels to be left out.”

Still, I think that the kids learned some things tonight. And so did I. Don’t joke about playing games. Kids take that offer seriously.

1 comment:

Stacy (Mama-Om) said...

That is too funny. :)

I'm glad you guys delivered on the game, and that the girls had such helpful ideas without prompting.