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Nana's Eyes

There is a story about a little girl who grew up in a home with no mirrors. Her only image of herself came from her Nana. She only saw ‘beauty’ in her Nana’s eyes.

I've thought of this many times over the years with my own children and children I have worked with. What do they see reflected back from me or from you? Do they see acceptance and encouragement? I hope so.

However, the reality of child care in the USA is that preschoolers have a higher expulsion rate than children in K-12 grades. Expulsion means a child was 'kicked out". People use a lot of phrases for expulsion, like 'the parents chose a different program', or 'this wasn't the right fit', but it still comes down to a 3 or 4-year-old being told he can't come back. Never mind that he doesn't get to see his friends again or even a teacher he is bonded with. And his peers don't know what happened either, they just know their friend is gone. Will it happen to them? Expulsion is damaging to a child's ongoing social emotional development.

Suspension is also a common practice in some early childhood programs. A child may be sent home for the day or the rest of the week until 'he can straighten out'. Sometime it is an in-house suspension and he is sent to the nurse's office or the director's office. The removal of a child in this way is damaging to their sense of self-efficacy and self-esteem; it's hard to feel good about yourself when you aren't welcome with your peers.

If you dig a little deeper, you find that Black preschoolers are 3.6 times as likely to receive one or more suspensions relative to White preschoolers. This is particularly concerning as Black children make up only 19% of preschool enrollment, but comprise 47% of preschoolers suspended one or more times. Similarly, boys are three times as likely as girls to be suspended one or more times. (From Gilliam, 2016).

Let's spend some time wondering what children see reflected back in our eyes. Right now in our world we have a lot of division and negativity; it is broadcast 24 hours a day on news channels and played out in our local Walmart stores. Our children see enough that is wrong; let's make sure they are seeing what is right and good about them when they look to us for help or support. Let's make sure we are the mirrors that show beauty.

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