In the house corner, Deer wants the baby doll that another girl has. A teacher offers her the other, almost identical baby doll. Deer slaps the baby across the face. From across the room, my heart stops. It looks exactly like she is re-enacting violence from a parent that she has witnessed or experienced. I know, based on other things, that this is entirely possible. Deer realizes what she has done, and crumples to the floor, screaming at the top of her lungs. I scoop her up into my arms, and carry her into the hall, where we sit on my red chair and she sobs on my shoulder.
the next day:
Deer, on arriving at school: My daddy’s in jail.
Me: Oh, honey.
Deer: I want my daddy.
Me: Do you know why he is in jail?
Deer: Because he’s not here.
Me: Why did he go to jail? What did he do?
Deer: Because he went to jail.
Me: Are you okay?
Deer, smiling: Yeah.
Me: Do you want me to come with you to breakfast, or go by yourself?
Deer: Go by myself.
I watched her go down the stairs to the cafeteria. Not five minutes later, I saw her back on our hall, leaning against the wall, almost crying. She wouldn’t go to breakfast with my assistant, so I took her down. But halfway down the stairs to join the others from our class–
Deer (panicking): I don’t want my friends! I want my other school!
Me: Honey, they are your friends. They all like you. Let’s go get your breakfast.
She was willing to get breakfast, but once she had it, she balked at sitting at the table designated for my class. When I asked her to come sit at our table, she ran and hid over by the lunch lady, scrunched up against the wall, crying, and frozen. I had to get a social worker to come get her, to coax her up to the social work office to eat her breakfast there.
At cleanup time, the girls in the house corner are still struggling to get things put away. The rest of the class is sitting with me in the meeting area, doing “Open Shut Them” and other finger plays. One girl closes the house corner refrigerator door, accidentally whacking another girl in the face. The girl who has been injured is one of our three new girls, and does not speak English. I’ll call her Dove. Dove starts to scream.
From the meeting area, I call, “Dove,” and open my arms to her. She comes across the room to me and collapses on my lap, sobbing on my shoulder. I pat her back for a while, then resume the song — “Five Brown Buns.” The class takes the crying child on my lap in stride. In a few minutes, Dove goes to sit in her spot, comforted and calm.