“Teacher, my tummy hurts,” Angelo said. His arms were folded across his abdomen and he winced his eyes.
“Do you need to go to the bathroom?” I said.
The classroom was getting up from nap with children in various conditions of awareness. Before nap, the kids had black beans for lunch. Beans mean one thing to me: gas. And during nap, the beans go to work.
Angelo grasped his stomach.
“Do you need to go to the bathroom?” I repeated, a little louder this time, so waking children could hear me and decide if they needed to tag-a-long to the throne room. Angelo nodded his head yes. “Go wait next to the door,” I said as I went around the room waking children.
From his cot, Angelo stood up… and ripped one. Whooooosshhhh! It was loud. It had bass.
“Eww,” said a child from her cot. She placed her blanket over her nose.
“Sorry,” Angelo said. He was as surprised as everyone else. Angelo stood frozen. His arms were in the air and legs bent, like he was balancing on a high wire.
I turned toward Angelo. The noise was, well, quite startling. “Angelo, go wait by the door,” I said.
Angelo, concerned, let down his arms and started toward the door. But then, as he took his first step and put weight on his foot, I heard a little “toot”. He heard it too and froze. Couple seconds, then took another step. Sure enough, another hushed “toot” could be heard.
(Oh no. He’s going to toot toot train.)
Angelo licked his lips and stared at the door. I’m sure he was doing some kind of simple math in his head, gauging the distance between him and door. There were five or six kids along his path as well.
Then, Angelo went for it.
Toot, toot, toot.
Toot, toot, toot.
Kids were waking up startled as the Angelo train went puffing by their beds.
Angelo was walking on his heels with his toes in the air. Tongue out on his lips. His eyes were wide as his socked feet shuffled on the tiled floor in a controlled panic.
Toot, toot, toot.
Perhaps he should shuffle his feet, skate on the tile. I don’t know. But he sped walked to the door as swiftly as he could.
Toot, toot, then silence.
“My gosh,” I said.
Angelo made it to the door. His feet were together, but his arms were out, as if he just stopped at the edge of a cliff. The class was quiet, but me and five other children stared at Angelo.
(Did that just happen?)
“Angelo,… you okay?” I asked.
“…Yes,” Angelo said, after a brief internal analysis.
Children are still staring. Then, one child who couldn’t hold it in any longer, let out a quick burst of laughter. Then another laugh from another child.
Angelo turned from the door. He couldn’t help it and let out a little smile.
“Teacher Gilbert,” Angelo said.
A couple of children had hands over the mouths and were giggling.
“Yes?” I said smiling. I couldn’t help it.
“I don’t have to go to the bathroom anymore.” he said.
“Okay. Go wait at your bed.” I said.
Angelo pivoted around. Then, slowly, let down one foot. No toot. Angelo let out a sigh of relief, walked back to his cot, then began packing up his pillow and blanket.
Moral of the Story: Bodily noises are rude as adults, but great laughter as kids.
I was inspired to write this post after reading the article Playing, Laughing, and Learning in Preschool by Sarah Smidt in TYC. Smidt observed situations that made children laugh and turned the situations into episodes of learning and relationship building. The last suggestion Smidt makes is around gas and other bodily noises.
“Break the taboo,” Smidt writes. “Learn to accept that laughter at passing gas, burping, and mouth sounds is a part of childhood, and humor will follow.”
Kids will laugh at a lot of things that are zanny and over the the top. However, bodily noises is one area where I’ve seen adults shy away from. Perhaps they think that if we encourage the behavior, then children will learn that these noises are permissible.
I’m think, however, that throughout life, there are things that are just going to happen and you just have to laugh a little. Children are learning about everything, including how their body functions. Sure, we will teach the children to pass gas in the bathroom or turn their head when they need to burp and say “Excuse me.” But there are times when kids can’t help it and they’ll laugh.
Laughter is good. Teach on the behavior for next time, but separate and celebrate the laughter.