The Youngest Support Group

Posted on: February 28th, 2013 by

I recently witnessed a support group in action – and it was comprised of four-year-olds.

It was the end of a weary day, and I was picking up my daughter from pre-school. As usual, I was in a hurry to get her home. After all, we had a schedule to follow: dinner, some mandatory fun, and bedtime rituals.

I was also preoccupied – dwelling on work I needed to do, wondering if a new doctor would be a fit for me, and whether I would ever accomplish my life’s goals.

I walked into Ari’s classroom and immediately felt distress. There she was, sitting alone, beginning a challenging puzzle, a picture of one of Van Gogh’s Sunflower paintings. She was determined to put it together and didn’t want to leave until it was done.

“Mommy, can you help me?” she pleaded in frustration. (She’s at the age where she thinks I know everything. I like that.)

The problem is, I’m puzzle-challenged, and despite the relatively large pieces, this one was going to give me trouble.

I asked the teacher if she minded if I sat down on one of the miniature chairs that my ass barely fit on and helped my daughter. The teacher gave her blessing. So I took off my coat, sat down, and then floundered.

Three other students came running over; they wanted to help. At first, Ari didn’t want to share her project, but seeing how her mother didn’t quite know everything encouraged the other children to join, the girl accepted the others’ help.

Through trial and error, the children gradually put the pieces in place. Together. Cooperatively. With remarkable sophistication, they discussed the strategy of how to best complete the puzzle.

Piece by piece, the puzzle came alive. Finally, only four pieces were left. I handed each child one piece and, as he or she inserted the puzzle piece, the group cheered. They cheered for themselves, and, just as important, they cheered for each other. When the last puzzle piece was inserted, the group gave each other high-fives and hugged each other.

I took a picture of the completed puzzle, as the children smiled and laughed. 20130205172706

I consider myself lucky to have witnessed something so extraordinary in an otherwise ordinary evening. And I was heartened to see that the ability to support fellow human beings is innate in people so young. We adults so often hear of bullying and children who don’t get along, it is easy to forget the other side.

After the celebratory congratulations, Ari and I went home, had a late dinner, and went to bed a tad later than usual. Okay much later than usual.

She loved that I spent time helping her and her classmates with a daunting task.

And I loved that she fell asleep still believing I knew everything.

How have you allowed your inner child to shine through?

Have you helped a child/children to succeed at a task?

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18 Responses to The Youngest Support Group

  1. Kathi had this to say about that:

    Lovely story. And I’d say she must be in a good preschool where manners and cooperation are being encouraged. :)

  2. Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

    Thanks, Kathi! Yes, the teacher is really all about social manners and social skills. I’m hoping that this good teamwork approach is fostered throughout these youngsters’ lives.

  3. Tami Boehmer had this to say about that:

    What a beautiful story! I used to love picking up Chrissy from preschool; the children were always so full of wonder and love. One of the great gifts of being around children is the opportunity to let out my inner child. These days I’m getting in touch with my inner teenager as my daughter goes through this stage of her life – the good parts I didn’t recognize or remember.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Thank you, Tami! It’s so much fun to let one’s inner child out, and children do have a way of bringing this out in adults. I agree that children are so full of wonder; somewhere along the line people get jaded as they grow into adulthood. It’s wonderful that you are getting in touch with your inner teenager through Chrissy.

  4. chrysalis had this to say about that:

    I used to work in Special Education. I loved helping the children with autism, and other learning difficulties. I always told them. You can reach your goals, you just may need to use a side door or a back door. There are many different ways to attain your goals. Not everyone has to use the same door. Kids are the best. I loved to see them smile when they got what they needed to get. It was very rewarding.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      That must have been a very rewarding job. There’s no better feeling than helping a person — young or older — in jumping over hurdles to accomplish their dreams. I love your “side door” and “back door” analogies. No two people are made the same, and so our processes to accomplish our goals are as diverse as we are.

      Thank you for your comment.

  5. Marie Ennis-O'Connor (@JBBC) had this to say about that:

    Beth, this is such a sweet story with a deeper lesson hidden in it that many of us could learn from. Thanks for sharing x

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Thank you so much, Marie, for your kind words. I also felt that some adults could learn from the lessons of these children. I was wowed that evening!

  6. Jan Baird Hasak had this to say about that:

    What a heartening post, Beth! I’m sure your daughter was proud that you spent the time helping her. I used to be a Sunday School teacher for first and second graders. It was a challenge to make sure they weren’t bored if they arrived early, so I always had a project at the ready. They looked forward to whatever I was going to provide for them to do. Now that my kids are all grown and I moved away from that church, I miss those times, but your puzzle experience reminds me of happy teachable moments and challenges me to go after my inner child. xox

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Jan, I’m sure you were great at engaging the kids at your Sunday School! It definitely is a challenge to ensure that the kids aren’t bored, isn’t it? I love your phrase, “the happy teachable moments.” I love teaching my daughter things, and I felt honored to be helping these children do something so awesome to them as putting together a puzzle.

      We all have that inner child, I think. I’m letting my daughter teach me how it’s done!

  7. Nancy's Point had this to say about that:

    One of the reasons I loved being a classroom teacher was because I got to observe this very thing on a daily basis. Generally speaking, young children love to embrace the efforts of one another. There’s something so beautiful in how they support and encourage each other without judgement involved. That seems to come into play later. And often they do this for their teacher (and parents) too! Great lesson. Thanks for sharing this story.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      That must have been wonderful, indeed, to teach children. These teaching moments are so gratifying, that it would be nice to observe this daily. I’m sure your students really loved learning from you.

      I’m lucky that I got to see such wonderful cooperation.

  8. DrAttai had this to say about that:

    What an amazing story and a fantastic lesson for us all – from four year olds! Lovely post.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Dr. Attai,

      Thank you so much for the kind words regarding this post. I also appreciate that you shared it. It was definitely a life lesson for me to watch such wonderful cooperation unfold.

  9. Philippa (aka Feisty Blue Gecko) had this to say about that:

    This is a beautiful and humble account, Beth, I am so glad you shared it. WE have so much to learn in every sense and your story illustrated this very clearly. One of my favourite sayings is the old “you learn something new every day”, but I add my own ending – “and you never know who your teacher will be”. I love the fact that we learn from unexpected sources as long as we are open to that learning.

    Thank you :)

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Philippa, I appreciate your reading and commenting. I love your own ending: “and you never know who your teacher will be.” So very true.

      I feel fortunate that a few four-year-olds taught me a powerful lesson that day.

  10. consuella Henton had this to say about that:

    Hi professor Gainer, this story was so cute and encouraging,and i loved the teamwork the children had displayed for one another. It reminds me of what we have to do in our everyday life, for a little help goes a long way and everybody feel good at the end of the day. when a task is completed. happy!, happy!, joy!,joy!

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Consuella,

      Thank you for reading my post and commenting! I’m glad you enjoyed the story. I think we need encouraging examples of people getting along in a world where so many people are simply consumed with themselves. I realize that not only am I a teacher, but I’m also a learner and can learn something from young kids!

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