A common conception about three-year-olds is that they have a tendency to be ‘difficult’. After volunteering with 20 kids of this age since the start of the year, I can confirm that this is true. This quality is nothing bad, it’s natural that kids of this age, who are still learning how to share and play with one another, will try to get a rise out of one-another. Because of this immature and sometimes even violent behavior, it is easy to think that these kids, especially those coming from difficult backgrounds, have a hard time realizing when they’ve done something hurtful.
Every couple of weeks the kids in my Gan teach me something new. One of the first ‘a-ha’ moments I experienced in the Gan happened while I was trying to break up a tussle between two of the kids. The narrative of these fights is always, not surprisingly, about a toy. Before I had the chance to step in, one kid kicked the other, causing him to burst into tears. Before I even said anything, the kid looked at ran over to kneel beside his friend and started stroking his head. I had never seen anything like this, especially coming from kids this young. This boy took his apology past just saying sorry. He immediately tended to his friend that he realized he had hurt.
This action really took me aback, because it showed a level of maturity that I wasn’t expecting. In moments like these I realize that these kids, whether they’re aware of it or not, care for each other. Most of the kids spend upwards of eight hours a day at this Gan, making some of their peers people they spend the majority of their time with. As a result, the kids pick up skills, such as apologizing, at a much younger age. Saying “sorry”, as simple as it seems, takes a certain level of maturity that is not always expected of such young kids.
The ways in which the kids in my Gan teach me are subtle. To them, apologizing to a friend by petting them on the head is normal; it’s just what they do. To an outsider like me, however, it shows me how caring the kids are to one another. Transforming apologies into action, no matter how small the action may be, shows a level of empathy that should not be overlooked.
18 year old Rina Dale, from Newton, MA is spending a year on BINA's Gap Year in Tel Aviv. The GAP participants, together with their Israeli peers in the Mechina (pre-army) program, volunteer in the surrounding south Tel Aviv neighborhoods. This is Rina’s second blog post describing her experiences volunteering in a preschool for children of refugees and asylum seekers.