Monday, October 3, 2016
How to Handle a Giant People-Eating-Goat: Making a dream book with a six-year-old
On the last day of a training for dream teachers I was leading in Prague, Marketa brought us a little book with the most wonderful illustrations. She told us she had made it with her six-year-old daughter Františka. She said, "It is one of the most precious books we have at home."
She proceeded to tell us the origin of the book, which is titled Velký Kozel, or "Big Goat".
Little Františka woke crying from a very scary dream. Her mother comforted her, but did not press for the contents of the dream when her daughter said that she did not want to talk about it. "I know that my daughter is brave, and I knew she would deal with it when she was ready." A couple of days later, Františka came to her mother with a question. "Mom, do goats eat people?" "I don't think so."
"And what about billy goats?"
"That's an interesting question. Why do you ask?"
At this point, Františka was ready to tell the dream. What had scared her was a giant black billy goat, bigger than a tree, that was eating people. "Let's explore," her mother suggested. "Why would a goat start eating people?"
Františka thought about this. She loved puzzles and codes, and soon her creative and investigative mind was working. She started telling the story of a goat who was desperately unhappy because he was abnormally large and shunned by other goats.
"Wait," her mother said. "Don't you want to draw his picture?"
She drew the big black goat, and as her story developed, she made picture after picture. Not wanting to miss a detail, her mother helped her to write the chapters that went with the drawings.
Once there was a very big goat who was unhappy because he did not fit in. He had eaten a blade of magic grass that made him bigger than trees or houses. He grew as big as a mountain. He was always hungry, and he started eating people. One day he ate a goat that had wandered away from the flock. Now the goats were very scared and they asked a giant for help. The giant asked the black goat what was wrong with him. "I'm too big!" the black goat complained. The giant went to consult a wizard.
When the giant found the wizard, he was in the middle of an experiment. He was so startled that things blew up. Nonethless, the wizard was able to tell the giant where to look for the counter-spell that will restore the people-eater to the normal proportions of a goat. This will require another blade of magic grass, dipped in oil. The wizard also explained that humans must make a special blueberry cake that would bring the people and other creatures the giant goat had eaten back to life.
The story develops terrific energy on its way to a happy ending. Františka's mother, who is a librarian, was able to bind the pages together to make a lovely little book, which will always be treasured.
There is a rich teaching here for anyone who has the privilege of listening to the dreams and stories of young children.
There are three things we need to be prepared to do, always, to help kids with their dreams. First, we need to listen up, to be present without judgment or analysis to what is being shared. Second, we need to be ready to provide help, right away, with the scary stuff, In Františka's case, this simply required hugs from her mother and reassurance that mom would be there whenever she needed more. In another case, a child might need to be encouraged to spit out bad energy (quite literally) or to accept a stuffed animal as a guardian for the night.
Third, we want to be poised to help kids do something creative with their dreams. Pictures on the fridge are a great start, but why not think about helping a child to create a long-running journal, or even to make a finished book? Františka's dream book, in its text and pictures, is at least the equal of many books for children produced by professional writers, and it has the power and authenticity of imagination working on first-hand experience.
Bravo, Františka! And Bravo, Marketa, for being a dream mother!