The Freelancer:  Unexpected Outcomes

It’s an amazing journey that our little people take in the first five years of life. Upon arrival, the child’s emotional responses are more akin to freelancers than mastered proficiency. In the beginning, they have three major freelancers – hunger, exhaustion and that other one.  They have no words for what they are feeling. They only know that they are feeling and the sensation requires a resolution.

As they gain control of their body, test their environment, and become aware of outcomes, the freelancers multiply.  Their parents help them begin to match names to emotions like funny, silly, happy, sad, reluctant, anger, or despair. Although these words are used when discussing a school-age child, the preschooler cannot boast control or knowledge of them – so freelancer continues as an apt description.  During this time, the pre school environment is a safe place for the children to work on finding names for the freelancers that cross their path. Once named the emotions are then molded to the scaffolding that supports the foundation of the child’s emotional underpinning.

As their foundation grows stronger the child become more confident interacting with the world. The pre school years provide them with a safe harbor to explore and practice competence. A regular task, in the pre primary year that helps the child learn balance while in motion, is the skill of carrying a cup of water from one table to the next. While practicing this skill, it is possible that the contents could spill and if it does we encourage the unexpected oops. We do not bring attention to the lack of success; instead we focus on problem solving skills to overcome the unexpected outcome.

The spill is a problem that needs a solution. In this case the child gets a towel, wipes up the water, and returns everything to right. After the spill is cleaned up, they will attempt the task again, hopefully to complete the task. The spill was unexpected and the outcome is recoverable–thus the jumble of emotion that fire in the pres chooler’s mind are given names.  This connection is then absorbed into the child’s understanding of the world and confidence begins to bloom.

Noted family therapist and vulnerability researcher Brené Brown makes an important point that resonates when thinking about the first five and the unexpected. She shares:

Our stories of worthiness – of being enough – begins in our first families. The narrative certainly doesn’t end there, but what we learn about ourselves and how we learn to engage with the world as children set a course that either requires us to spend a significant part of our lives fighting to reclaim our self-worth or will give hope, courage and resilience for our journey.

In pre school, children are walking, talking, playing and socializing, but not yet proficient as they will be in the school-age years. Pre schooler do not equate the unexpected with failures because the critical thinking skills have yet to evolve. As a child moves to elementary school, they become aware that demonstrable mimicry is a measurement. If a lower form elementary student cannot demonstrate competence within a specified period of time, they can feel less assured in their ability and the idea of failure arrives in their vocabulary. Our focus is to stem this by helping the child and family see unexpected outcomes are situations that needs a solution, and are fully recoverable.

The pre school curriculum embraces the whole child and family. This community helps to bridge the synaptic connection that our little people are making daily. In doing this, names are placed on emotions and allowed to take up permanent residence within their host’s emotional toolbox. The goal is to continue to give names to as many emotions that cross your child’s path during their time in preschool, ensuring an understanding that will stay with the child and accompany them into school-age years, adolescences and adulthood.

Proficiency in all things is never possible, but understanding your child’s strengths and weaknesses make the journey more reasonable. The acquired confidence will help them move into their elementary years where they can continue to evolve and mature through the occurrence of regular challenges that come with life.  Lessening the duration and magnitude of anxiety and stress while increasing the comfort of using courage as a tool to manage life will grow amazingly resilient children. Let’s accept the unexpected as a part of life as our children are preparing for their independence.

Courage is not simply one of the virtues,
but the form of every virtue at the testing point.
– C. S. Lewis

Supplemental Material


OpsBeautiful OOPS! Barney Saltzberg
The ability to keep your environment under control is a challenge – spills, drops, rips and perspective are encounters for the early artist. Barney Saltzberg does an amazing job helping the young artist see that perspective is the right of the artist. Although an attempt with art may seem like a oops, art can come in many forms, so be open to the oops.

ColoredDaysMy Many Colored Days Dr. Seuss
Unexpected outcome in a child’s life can come in many different ways. This wonderful book by the beloved Dr. Seuss, reminds us that everyday when a child awake they are not assured of what mood they awake in. Moods can be unexpected but with the help of family and friends can be worked through for understanding.

Dr. Seuss wrote this book without illustrating it. He wished to find an artist to bring it to life but passed away before doing so. Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher have done a respectful job celebrating the words of Theodor S. Geisel.

IdeaWhat Do You Do with an Idea?
Kobi Yamabi & Mae Besom
This beautifully written and illustrated book conveys the tremendous heart and courage of a young child who has an idea. After anxious deliberation, he uses courage to cultivate and share his idea. This story shows how the scaffolding erected by family and friends can lead a child to a place of security — a place that allows him to dare greatly.

MUnivMonsters University (2013) Disney Movie
Unlikely friends, unexpected benefits.



Finding Nemo (2003) Disney Movie
Being different, striking out, and using courageous can be scary but family is always looking out for you. The journey can be managed and a deeper understanding of who are can blossom.



Inside Out (2015) Disney Movie
Understanding our emotions. In children, they can sometimes lead to confusion and anxiety, but with family support a child can concur the anxiety while embracing their sense of self.


DaringDaring Greatly Brené Brown
Brené Brown is a therapist, social worker and research expert in the area of vulnerability and shame. She has written several books but places most of her focus on what stops us from connecting with our loved ones, family and friends. Her work strongly addresses failure and unexpected outcome from the adult perceptive. The title Darling Greatly comes from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech in 1910 called Citizen in a Republic. Dr. Brown pulls it from this passage….

“…who at the best knows in the end of the triumph of high
achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails
while daring greatly…”

Resilience is an important marker for any human. However, what prevents resilience from taking form many time can be tracked back to feeling vulnerability. Addressing this issue is paramount because it stands in the way of have a successful relationships on every level. To dare greatly is to trust in the person you are and step forward. She is pragmatic and straight forth so her approach lacks a soft tent but her voice is genuine. She is honest about her own struggles with courage, as well as parenting her children towards their own self worth. One of the important messages that she conveys:

“As parents, we may have less control than we think over temperament and personality, and less control than we want over the scarcity culture. But we do have powerful parenting opportunities in other areas: how we help our children understand, leverage, and appreciate their hardwiring, and how we teach them resilience in the face of relentless “never enough” culture messages. In terms of teaching our children to dare greatly in the “never enough” culture, the question isn’t so much “Are you parenting the right way?” as it is: “Are you the adult that you want your child to grow up to be?”


Question for Lonna
Having children exposes a parent’s vulnerability. Upon arrival of this little one who has its mother ’s eyes and father’s smile, the parent’s anxiety is heightened. This little person unknowingly holds a vast majority of the deepest hopes and fears that a mother and father may possess. For parents, there is a sense of control prior to the child’s entrance
into school. Once in school, that sense of control is lifted for part of the day. School represents the beginning of the child’s life as an individual. At this time, unexpected outcomes become a freelancer in the child’s life. How does Playgroup help ready the child and parents for the unexpected on the pathway toward individuality?

Children and weddings have something in common. You can plan for every detail, but they will have unexpected outcomes. My husband and I had traveled the world, bought our first house and easily got pregnant. We had one last trip to Paris planned. My husband was concerned I would not have enough energy being newly pregnant and the trip
would be a bust.

We were at a baseball game and I said, “I will be the healthiest pregnant woman you’ve ever met!” I threw up and fainted throughout Paris.

After the morning sickness ended in the second trimester, I was excited to begin our classes on natural childbirth. I was absolutely not going to have an epidural–no drugs for me. Labor would be a positive experience for all of us. We scheduled the classes and were excited for the low-light drug free birth. We had the aria chosen for this beautiful
event. Then we found out he was double-footling breech.

There was the option to try to turn him, but we needed to be prepared for going into labor and a possible emergency C-section. The procedure was not a success. Actually, that’s putting it mildly. He wouldn’t turn and I screamed at the doctor to get his hands off of me. My husband said, “I believe we need to schedule a C-section.”

It was the best lesson a young couple could have. Plan all you want, but the unexpected outcome is the path that parents will most often travel.

I am a trained Montessori teacher. I know how to plan for unexpected events. In the classroom the activities and jobs, have clear control of error. Trays are the right size to hold small pitchers which have the right amount of water for small hands to carry. Even the steadiest hands will have spilt water, therefore the water is colored and a small sponge is
included for each job. The small sponge can clean up the unexpected spillage.

Children will acquire tools to put in their virtual tool box. They will use them to cope with their unexpected outcomes in life. Parents also need tools in their tool box to cope with unexpected outcomes. Young parents often have lead predictable lives, the college they worked hard to get into and graduate from, the career they choose and the partner they built their life with. Children are the happiest and most beloved part of life, but also the part parents have the least amount of control over.

One area I help parents deal with, that has the most unexpected outcomes is during the kindergarten admission process. Sometimes, in spite of effort and earnest desire, children are not accepted into the school their parents desire. This can be crushing. Parent’s emotions can range from disbelief to anger. My job becomes guiding them to a place
of acceptance.

We have a choice: we can accept the unexpected outcome, try to change the outcome, or display discontent quite openly.

Parents must remember, how they behave is the most important lesson for their children. Handling the unexpected outcome will set an example for their children. Children are always watching and listening. Parents must take a moment before handling the unexpected outcome and ask themselves, is this how I want my child to deal with disappointment?

They should picture their 18 year old on the other side of the country in his freshman college dorm. He studied very hard, maybe harder than he’s ever studied, but his final grade is a C. How do you want him to handle that? Given that scenario, I think parents will more carefullyrespond to life’s unexpected outcomes.


And at the end of the day, this is what we want for our children.
-Lonna Corder.
Executive Director, Playgroup