Our moment is a little late this month, but itís worth the wait. John Korsmo an experienced member of our research group tells a story about how he turned a time out into an opportunity to spend some time Ė Mark Krueger
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I see him standing in the corner. Walking towards him I exchange typical ďwhatís up" greetings with the familiar kids, and pat shoulders and slap. Itís about 5:30 in the afternoon on a school day and like most days, there is a lot of energy in the room.
I sense that he is angry by the look on his face and the way heís rapping on the cement-block wall with his clenched fist. His face is wrinkled up in a forced grimace and his eyes are teary. Iím sure he sees me but he doesnít look up. Leaning back against the wall beside him I bend my knees, and slide down to be closer to his height.
"Whatís up?" I ask Ė more as an inquiry into whatís going on than as a greeting.
He shifts his body away from me and knocks his knuckles harder against the wall, but says nothing. I stay quiet as long as I can although itís only several seconds.
"Havin' a rough day, huh?"
"Mmhmm" is his only verbal response.
"These timeouts can seem like forever, huh?"
He is looking at me now, and a few seconds go by before he explains why he is in his fourth timeout of the afternoon. He is telling me that he was just having fun with the other kids, but the youth worker who sent him to timeout doesnít like him and treats him differently than the other kids. He says he hates the youth worker and he hates this community center and he should have stayed home and heís not coming back. Iím thinking about how many times I have heard him say this before.
"You know what I used to do when I had to kill time? I used to make up stories in my head, kind of like daydreaming. Want to give it a try? I will give you the topic Ė what the story is about Ė and you can finish it."
He doesnít respond but I think heís thinking about it, so I decide to give him a topic, ďOk, thereís a boy who lives on a farm and he has to get up early to work with the animals," and now Iím making myself stay quiet.
Itís been a couple minutes but he responds, ďIs that it?"
"Yep. And you can make up the rest."
He exhales loudly and stops rapping on the wall to bend down and pick up a crumpled ball of paper off the floor. He is fidgeting with the paper ball, moving it from one hand to the other and back again. A couple more minutes go by.
Iím about to break the silence, but he beats me to it, ďOnce upon a time there was a farmer and his son."
He looks up from his paper ball and I nod my head. He slides his back down the wall to sit on the floor and I do the same, sitting next to him while he tells me the story. Itís about a farmer and son who are going to milk some cows. The farmer puts his arm around the son's shoulder as he walks him across the busy street to where the cows are. The son milks a cow and the farmer tells him that he is proud of him. Itís a great story and I tell him so. He continues to play with the paper ball, smacking it like a volleyball from his left hand to his right over his bent legs.
I want to spend a little more time with him and hear more about the imaginary farm so I ask him some questions for more details. I wonder if he has ever seen a real farm as he describes more to me about the animals and people in his story. I wonder if his dad lives with him and if someone has told him they are proud of him but donít think I'll ask him.
The paper ball flies towards my leg so I intercept it and I get in his game. I feel a bit of his weight leaning into me as we volley the paper ball back and forth for a while over our bent knees.