Navigating Relationships

What happens when children carry ideas from home about marriage, and girl- or boyfriends to school?
What are pumpkins for?

Q: A teacher is having a hard time helping the children in her classroom navigate relationships. Specifically, several boys have latched on to one of the girls and she has become their “girlfriend.” While I know that in general this is normal development for children (ages 4-5), I would love to be able to point her to some concrete resources such as books or articles to help her respond appropriately to what is happening.

My role as scribe is never passive; wherever possible, I enlarge the scope of the story, looking for points that need clarification and asking questions that might lead to new twists in the plot. – Vivian Paley, Wally’s Stories

On the first day, the dog liked staying outside. On the second day, along came a boyfriend and kissing ensued. During our interview (edited for clarity), Paley talked about her response:
Paley: Well, it is a perfectly legitimate story. Everyone knows about girls and boyfriends. So that is the image that suddenly – for whatever reason an image comes to one’s mind, or is on the tip of a child’s tongue – then it is a perfectly acceptable story. Even little children begin to giggle when they hear the word boyfriend. It is part of the culture out there. There is no point in making any point of it. These are characters in a story. This is called A Girl and Her Boyfriend, and they kiss, which made the children giggle even more. But it didn’t make me giggle. This is something that girls and boyfriends do, and mommies and daddies and mommies and boyfriends, whatever is part of a child’s experience.
And it is good to know that they are kissing, rather than doing something of a violent nature, let’s say.
“Then they go to bed.”
I don’t know whether the child was testing me to see how I would react. It was interesting that [when we acted out the story], she no longer cared about the final part of lying down in bed. This might have suddenly created a disturbing image to her and she herself edited it out.

L is going to be for Love Songs. While you’re waiting, take a look at the letter A.

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How We’re Going to End

Now, here’s how we’re going to end up.
Makayla: Ok, my house is right here.
Paley: Once upon a time – everyone go sit down now at the edge of the rug.
We’re going to do Aaron’s story.
Alexis, Alexis, look for an empty space. That’s what you need to do.
Yeah, you always look for the empty space so you’re not squished.
Ok, everyone watch Aaron. Everyone.
And tell the story together with me.
Child: I’m going to be squished, Ashley, if you keep on moving.
Paley: Christian, tell the story with us. Once upon a time,
Children: Once upon a time.
Paley: There was a little boy named Aaron.
Children: There was a little boy named Aaron.
Paley: Who was the zoo keeper.
Children: Who was the zoo keeper.
Paley: In his zoo, he had a bear.
Children: In his zoo, he had a bear.
Paley: He had hippos.
Children: He had hippos.
Paley: He had giraffes.
Children: He had giraffes.
Paley: He had an elephant.
Children: He had an elephant.
Paley: He had two black seals that went “aarf aarf aarf”
Children: He had two black seals that went “aarf aarf aarf”
Paley: And he had a tiger that went “Rrrr”
Children: And he had a tiger that went “Rrrr.”
Paley: And last but not least, he had a very nice lion that was the king of the animals.
Children: Last but not least, he had a very nice lion that was the king of the animals.
Paley: No, where’s the lion? Show them the lion that’s the king of the animals.
Children: In his hands!
Paley: There, look, he’s showing you.

FAQs are here.

Everyone Here is the Store

Paley: Everyone here is the store. Put up your hands so that you’re all the store.
And the store walls cannot move. Because Makayla and her mommy are going into the store.
Ok, Makayla, come on. You and your mommy.
And, would you, Jailah, be her mommy?
Ok, keep your walls straight.
“Ok, me and my mommy went to the store.”
Now, Landon, would you be her daddy?
Now, make your arms like this because now we’re the zoo.
“Me and my daddy went to the zoo.
Does mommy go with?
All right, mommy, too.
All go to the zoo.
And it’s a good thing Aaron has all his little animals there.
You can look at the animals, but you know the animals in the zoo, you don’t touch the animals. So, look around. Look at Aaron’s animals.
“And I’d like Ashley and Alexis to come to my house:” that’s what she says.
Ok, Ashley and Alexis, would you come and take Makayla’s hand, and she’ll show you where she lives. Now, walk around, and everyone go to her house.
Very good.
Let’s see if we did – did we do all our stories? Very, very nice.

We Have to Stop

Paley: Alexis is next. Now, your story’s over. You all sit down.
Tiffany, would you be Alexis? Would you be the little girl?
Alexis: I’m the mom.
Paley: Yeah, you are the…oh, are you the mom? Ok, so you be the little girl and she’s the mom. “Me and my mommy had so much fun.”
And, let me see, Timberly, would you be the doggie?
Child: Kimberly.
Paley: Kimberly, would you be the doggie?
Child: She loves to crawl.
Paley: Now, wait a minute, I’ve got to see this name. Excuse me, Christian. Would you be the dad? We need a dad. Would you be the dad? Ok. All right.
“And my dad brought my doggie to school.”
Now, Jackson, this is the doggie. And my dad didn’t want…
Child: Stop following me, Ashley.
Paley: Wait a minute, please. We have to stop this story right now.
Everyone, find your place where you were. Behind the line. Everyone.
Alexis, we’re going to do your story all over again. Your story’s been interrupted too much.
Everyone find your place right now because we’re going to have to wait.
We’re going to have to wait.
Behind the line.
Behind the line. It’s too squishy over there.
Brandon, move over. There’s no reason for it to be squishy.
Aaron’s the only one playing with this right now.
Everyone else – we said that Aaron could do it. But if there’s more than one person doing it, then it uses up too much space, remember?
Just Aaron right now, because he won’t be happy if he’s not doing this right now.
We decided that already. We can all see that.
Now, let’s remember Alexis’ story. Concentrate on Alexis’ story.
By the way, Aaron’s listening to the story, too. I’m certain of that.
Ok, Alexis is the mommy. Who was the little girl?
Now, we want to be off the stage unless you’re part of…so would you move off the…oh, you’re the doggie. I’m sorry.
“Me and my mommy had so much fun.”
Show us how you’re having fun.
Ok, painting.
“And my daddy brought the doggie to school.”
Daddy, Jackson, you bring the doggie to school.
Now, listen to what this doggie is all about.
“My dad did not want to bring him in because the doggie doesn’t like school. He likes to stay outside.”
So, the doggie has to stay outside with the daddy.
Ok, everyone can sit down now.

Listen to What Ashley Did

Paley: Ashley, you’re next. Boys and girls, listen to what Ashley did. She put together Darion’s two stories. Listen to this.
Who are you? I didn’t even ask you. Are you intsy wintsy spider or are you George?
Ashley: George.
Paley: George. Then you go back because you’re not here yet. And you can go back, Landon.
Kayla, would you be…
Jailah: Jailah.
Paley: Excuse me, Jailah. Would you be eensy weensy spider?
Ok. Now, this time she’s doing it. The eensy weensy spider went up the water spout.
Show us how you’re going up the water spout.
Jailah: I have to crawl up there.
Paley: Right. She is crawling, isn’t she?
Then George was in the water. Look, listen to what she did. She took the eensy weensy spider story that we had from Darion. His first story. Then she put George into the eensy weensy spider story.
Ok, “George was in the water.”
Is the spider still in the water with you?
Then George – Tejay, would you be the man with the yellow hat?
Brandon, will you be the man with the yellow hat?
Ok, George ran away from the man with the yellow hat.
So, sort of run after each other. But don’t catch each other.
All right, Brandon, you run after her, but don’t catch her.
Just sort of a slow motion run like you see them do.
All right, man with the yellow hat, you stop.
“Then George went back in the water again.”
Ok, very good.

Let’s All Start Together

Now, Darion is next. And, he wants us to start off…
Do you want to do a story, did you say? In the next group, you can do a story.
Darion wants us to all start out singing eensy weensy spider. So, let’s all start together.
All (singing): Eeny weensy spider crawled up the water spout.
Down came the rain and washed the spider out.
Out came the sun and dried up all the rain,
and the eensy weensy spider went up the spout again.
Paley: How was that, Darion. Was that all right?
Ok, that was just the beginning. Then he does a Curious George story.
Now Darion, would you be Curious George, please?
Darion: Ok.
Paley: Oh, I said I would ask you if you wanted to be Curious George or the man. Who do you want to be?
Oh, Makayla wants you to be Curious George.
Would you be Curious George because she wants you to be that?
Or would you rather be the man?
He’s having a hard time to decide.
Darion, do you want to be both?
Ok, how about being Curious George then?
You’d rather be the man? Who do you want to be?
Do you want to be the jungle?
Wait a minute! I think I know.
Darion, do you want us to act it out and you watch? That’s the same thing he wanted us to do with the eensy weensy spider. He wanted us to do it, and he watched and listened.
Why not?
A lot of story writers let other people act out their stories.
Landon, would you be Curious George? Curious George.
“He went to the jungle. He ran away.”
Would you be the man who’s trying to find him.
Ok, come on. The man was trying to find him. Ok, good.
Thank you, Darion. That was a good story to act out.

Video Games with Bubby

Child: That’s my daddy singing.
Paley: You remember that story that we told about Aaron yesterday? I mean, Aaron’s story. This is the way he acted it out for us. Just like this. I think Aaron wants all of his animals to be in the middle of the stage.
You know something? I think we can let him leave all his animals in the middle of the stage, because that’s just where he wants to be. He won’t be happy if he’s not in the middle of the stage. He’ll be sad.
So, we’re going to do this. Here’s what we’ll have to do, though. Pretend Aaron’s not in the middle of the stage. He really is and he wants to be, and we’re going to let him be in the middle of the stage.
Tejay, your story’s first. Make sure you don’t step on Aaron, all of you. Come on, Tejay. Tejay is going to be his brother, Bubby.
Child: That’s his story?
Paley: Yeah, this is his story. Jacob, would you pretend to be the little boy? Thank you, dear.
Makayla, would you be the mom?
“Me and my mom went to the grocery store, and we got something.”
Now, you want to go to the grocery store. And then, so get something in the grocery store.
“And then me and my mom went to another one. And we got a toy.”
Tejay: Power Ranger toy.
Jacob: Toy.
Paley: Ok.
Tejay: Power Ranger toy.
Paley: A Power Ranger. Can you hold up a Power Ranger? There. Does that look like a Power Ranger? Ok.
“Now, and when we went back home…”
Now you’re the brother. He’s your big brother.
“When we went back home, I watched Bubby play games.”
So show us how you’re playing the games.
Is that games on a computer?
Tejay: On a TV.
Paley: On a TV. Show us how you do that. How do you turn the game on?
Tejay: Push a button.
Paley: Ok, go on. Push a button. Do you stand when you watch the game, or do you sit down?
Tejay: Sit down.
Paley: Ok. Go on. Sit down.
Tejay: From the bed.
Paley: From the bed? Oh, ok.
“And then I play them.”
So, Jacob, you play with your brother, Bubby.
What does Mom do?
Tejay: Watch TV.
Paley: Mom, would you come and sit down and watch TV? Look, the whole family together.
Great. Ok, thanks a lot.

Hi, Hippopotamus

Paley: Aaron, your hippopotamus.
Hi, hippopotamus.
Hi, hippopotamus.
Hippopotamus, are you going to the zoo?
Are you going to the zoo?
Are you going to the zoo?
Oh, hello, elephant.
There you are. There’s the elephant.
Ashley: Hi, elephant!
Paley: Hi, elephant.
Ashley: Oh, crocodile.
Paley: Oh, crocodile.
Ashley: Crocodile.
Paley: Crocodile.
Ashley: Crocodile.
Paley: There’s a crocodile.
Look what they’re doing.
Aaron has the crocodile.
Aaron has the hippo.
Hi, hippo.
Here’s some food. I’m giving them some food.
Is this the mommy?
Mommy hippo.
And the baby.

Next up: Story acting.

Mom, Dad, Store, Zoo

Ok, Makayla.
Makayla: Uh, me and my mommy…
Paley (writing): Me and my mommy.
Makayla: …went to the store.
Paley (writing): Went to the store.
Makayla: And we went to the zoo.
Paley (writing): And we went to the zoo.
Makayla: Me and my daddy went to the zoo, I mean.
Paley (writing): You mean me and your daddy went to the zoo.
And – look what I’m doing – “and me and my daddy went to the zoo.”
(rereading story) “Me and my mommy went to the store and me and my daddy went to the zoo.”
Makayla: Alexis and Ashley came to my house.
Paley: And, I’d like Ashley to come to my house?
Makayla: And Alexis.
Paley: Alissa?
Makayla: And Alexis.
Paley: Alexis. I’d like Ashley and…
Have they ever been to your house?
Makayla: No.
Paley (writing): I’d like Ashley and Alexis to come to my house.
Makayla: That’s all.
Paley: Ok, thank you.

Mom, Dad, Dog, School

Alexis: Me and my mommy have so much fun.
Paley (writing): “Me and….” – go on.
Alexis: And my daddy bring my doggie to school…
Paley: Ok, now wait, I have to write that down.
“Me and my mommy had so much fun. And my daddy brought my doggie to school.”
Alexis: And he – my dad wouldn’t bring it in because he didn’t want everybody else to see because my doggie doesn’t like the school. He likes staying outside.
Paley: Ok, “and my dad didn’t want to bring him in because he”- because your dog doesn’t like the school?
Alexis: Because he doesn’t like the school. He wants to stay outside.
Paley (continues writing)
Are you going to be Alexis, or are you going to be the mommy, the daddy or the dog?
Alexis: The dog.
Paley: What’s the dog’s name?
Alexis: Sammie.
Child: Jackson
Paley: Hm?
Alexis: Sammie.
Paley: Sammie?
Child: That’s my dog’s name.
Paley: Is it?