According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, "levity was originally thought to be a physical force exactly like gravity but pulling in the opposite direction, like the helium in a balloon. As recently as the 19th century, scientists were still arguing about its existence. Today levity refers only to lightness in manner."
In the lower school, we have moved on to the letter L for Levity in our FLIGHT program and no word could be more perfect as we enter the holiday season. It is important for all of us, adults and children alike, to find a sense of lightheartedness or levity in what can be for some a stressful couple of months. As humans, we can sometimes overthink, over-analyze, over-plan, and over-stress; therefore, remembering to not take ourselves too seriously brings a much-needed cheerfulness or levity to most situations.
Which brings us to biggies and smallies. These are terms coined by Dr. William Sears, the famous child pediatrician and author of several well-known parenting books. Dr. Sears matter of factly states in The Discipline Book,
"a smallie is a behavior that is annoying but doesn't harm humans, animals, or property, or which even if uncorrected does not lead to a biggie. These childish irresponsibilities will self-correct with time and maturity. Harmless behaviors fade both as your tolerance level widens and as you avoid reactions that reinforce the behavior. Calling your child's attention to a smallie may intensify the habit or push him into a biggie. Focus on the biggies, and you'll be amazed how the smallies correct themselves."
Through teaching ourselves, as parents and educators, to focus less on the smallies and more on the biggies, we bring a much needed sense of levity into our lives. For the children we teach and parent, it is much the same. Simply asking children the question when they are confronted with an issue that might seem daunting to them, "Is it a biggie or a smallie?" brings things into perspective, both for the adult and the child. We must coach our children toward recognizing that when both biggies and smallies present themselves they can approach the issue with a sense of forgiveness and levity. This will dramatically lessen their anxiety and worry. And who doesn't need a little levity in their lives? A smile, a little joke, and an apology go a long way in repairing hurt feelings and turning what seem like biggies into smallies.
So, whether you use the old definition of a physical force the opposite of gravity (Think helicopters landing on our field!) or the more modern definition of lightness in manner (Think biggies and smallies!), levity has a tendency to bring things into perspective and makes us feel even more grateful for the beautiful gifts that life brings us.
-Natalie Wilhelm, Lower School Head and Learning Support Director