November 13, 2013

Day 35 – The here and now

The more I teach the children here, the more it becomes evident that I am no good at disciplining them.  I’ve worked with children before and I was the same, I never shouted at them or told them to be quiet.  At the shelter, the boys aren’t too loud and I generally let them talk while I write stuff on the board.  If however, they get too loud, the local volunteer tells them to quieten down. At the school, I have over 20 children so not only are they louder but they’re harder to manage.  I’ve broken up fights or made some of the children move but not really told them off. Ok so I’ve asked some of them to turn around or questioned why they continue to kick the person next to them.  Trouble is, I ask in English and most if not all the children reply in Vietnamese so we don’t get very far.

Now I guess the question is why don’t I just shout?  Why am I not able to raise my voice or discipline children?  Done some thinking and I think it’s partly because I don’t want to. I don’t want to raise my voice and tell children off every time they talk or distract another student.  I also don’t like people who shout. Ok so who does?  I tend to get put off by people who think it’s reasonable to shout to get their point across.  So I don’t want to shout at children, most of the time they know they are being cheeky and many test to see how much they can get away with. I’m no push over, don’t get me wrong, but when it comes to children, I’m a softy.

Why so soft? Partly because of the puppy dog eyes, yes of course children know to make this innocent look and yes I have to admit it works on me. I try to look away or not give in but I fail every time.  There’s something about children that makes me patient, makes me give them the benefit of the doubt, makes me care and draws me in.  Now, of course, not all children are nice, some are mean or bully other children but these children can/do change. On the whole, children have this ever lasting energy, they’re awake and ready to learn, ask questions, participate and absorb whatever you give their way.

They also have this ability to look at the lighter side.  Most are laughing or making other people laugh.  Children have some much to offer and can be shaped and encouraged to make the most of life.  But, back at home and in other countries, children aren’t perceived in this light. Many children don’t have a ‘normal’ childhood or you have the media portraying children as ‘dangerous’.  I spent the last three years advocating for women affected by domestic violence, perhaps it’s time for me to advocate for children.

I never thought I would be an advocate but I managed to support and work with many women.  Had to liaise with many professionals and it wasn’t easy.  I still don’t like arguments or confrontations; I tend to avoid these as I don’t see the benefit. Of course, discussions are great and often you can agree to disagree but when you end up in an argument with the whole ‘you said this’ and ‘I said that’ there is little point if any to continue. I’m all for saying how I feel and what I think but being cornered is not my cup of tea.

I switch off sometimes when I’m amongst people who are in some form of argument. I don’t contribute to it but I’m also not able to end it. I’m all for people telling me to my face what they think or how they feel.  But I question if honestly really is the best policy. For me, not always, I think sometimes the situation calls for it but like with anything, it’s not what you say it’s how you say it.  Plus, maybe because I’m not brutally honest, I don’t necessarily see the benefit of it.  White lies go a long way and yes of course there not the solution but sometimes in the moment it is better then the truth.

People say the truth is better no matter what, well I beg to differ.  I tend to look at the situation from the other person’s point of view and consider their feelings.  Feelings – now this is another funny one.  Of course, most of us, don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings and when we do somehow, we express how it wasn’t our intention. I tend to consider the other’s person and his/her feelings more then my own sometimes.  I also think would I like it if someone did/said this to me?

The thing about feelings is, we have so many and sometimes it’s overwhelming.  For a long time, I avoided this aspect, this – how are you feeling?  My answer was, I’m fine, I didn’t need to think, I didn’t need a minute, I was fine because I had always been fine and that’s just the way it was.  Now, after some digging and talking to various people, peeling back the layers, there I found that I had a bunch of feelings that I had avoided.  Sitting here now in Saigon, most days, I feel many different things and I’m left trying to gain some form of balance.

If I’m living in the now, living in this moment, I don’t have a problem.  Maybe many of us don’t have a problem in the now, sure we may have a problem 10 minutes later when the printer stops or when we realise that we haven’t paid the phone bill.  But in this given moment, there is no problem, now I’ve forever struggled living in the here and now. I’m trying to be more present and I’m learning what not to do.  Essentially, I want to ensure I make the most of the now because this moment right here is not coming back.

It’s similar to getting too attached to something or someone. I don’t get attached per se to people, I’m really attached or close to my younger sister but then we’ve always been close.  We’ve both changed, grown etc but she is my best friend, my sister, my person.  I have good friends of course, who I can rely on and trust.  Trouble with getting attached or comfortable with someone or something is that it doesn’t last forever.  Yes, you can make it last but somethings will/need to end.  I know I will go back home, I will leave these children, volunteers, friends behind.

Goodbye is/has always been hard for me. I’ve tried to avoid it or overlook it but of course there are only so many times you can put it off.  We had one of the volunteers leave the peace house earlier this week and I felt sad. Sad because it would have been great to have spent more time with her and got to know her some more.  She is really cool, interesting and has an Om tattoo that I really liked!  Saying goodbye or watching things come to an end, leaves me with this emptiness inside which I then want to fill.  Sitting with this emptiness or having this void is hard and is ultimately what I try to avoid.