Little Hedgehog Xiaohui

2018-08-27

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Xiaohui’s parents divorced two years ago. His mother left the family. His father went to work in a city to the south. Usually, the boy is left alone as his grandparents are just too busy to care for him. 

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So, it seemed a stroke of luck to Xiaohui’s grandparents when Chunhui’s preschool opened in their village. His grandmother prepared to send him off for the first day of school, but it didn’t go well -- Xiaohui cried and refused to go. His grandmother insisted, but once he got to the classroom, he withdrew into silence. He didn’t want anyone near him. If other kids ever touched something that belonged to him, he flew into a rage. He seemed to alternate between having a meltdown or sitting in a daze. 

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The teachers were concerned. With his tough exterior, it was hard to tell what was going on inside. “He seemed just like a little hedgehog,” said his teacher. The teacher watched Xiaohui and could guess that a hurt and frightened little boy was hiding behind that scowling face. Coming to the new Chunhui preschool was a big step for him and his teacher knew it. From the first day, she began to gently work with him. Though she nicknamed him “Little Hedgehog”, Xiaohui’s teacher saw the small angry boy in her class with affection, and hope.

It’s no wonder the little hedgehog was behind in social skills, she realized. He’d spent so much time alone and isolated. She was pleased to see Xiaohui’s grandmother coming to class with him one day, clearly supportive of her grandson, though she was very busy. When Xiaohui joined his classmates in making nature collages with fallen leaves, Grandmother helped out too, all the while beaming with pride. Still, Xiaohui kept to himself at school. And at home, he was listless and irritable. When he dissolved into a tantrum, it was increasingly difficult for his grandmother to calm him down. Something had to be done. 

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The teacher came up with an idea and shared it with Grandmother, who then spoke to her son, Xiaohui’s father. When he came home to help with the harvest, the father took Xiaohui to town to buy a telephone watch, now popular among left-behind kids.

Now Xiaohui could call his father more often. He did it every night. The effect of having that little bit of power in his life was magical. Xiaohui was a new boy! Almost overnight, Xiaohui was bold enough to make friends with the other children. He began to cooperate with them in class. And no more bullying. Play- fighting became just that - play. 

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The kid who’d bristled and turned tough when others came near is learning how to take life a little easier. Xiaohui is even helping his grandmother at home - something he’d never done before. Recently, just feeling pure joy, he’s begun doing somersaults, starting on the grass down by the river while his grandparents were working. Soon after, he brought his new talent to school, turning somersaults in the classroom.

If a little hedgehog could unroll from his protective ball, said his teacher, it was a pretty good way to do it.