Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The best 20 minutes I ever had at the park

Yesterday something wonderful happened. James was, as usual, walking and climbing up the slide, and a little boy about his age was trying to come down. He said, nicely, "excuse me", but James didn't move--just stood smiling at him. Now, the hundreds of times this has happened before, the other child's mom has come over, telling her child to go back up, or to be careful because he's little, or has given me meaningful looks as she explains the classic preschool rule, "slides are for going down, not up" (this always makes me want to produce James' physical therapist, a la Woody Allen, who will explain all the wonderful things slides are for). This time, though, nothing happened. I looked surreptitiously at the parents, and they weren't going to interfere.

The other boy inched down the slide. James stood his ground, leaning forward a little bit, smiling. The boy bumped his feet against James', and giggled. James laughed. Then James "fell" forward, his hands on the little boy's tummy. The little boy burst out laughing, backed up, and they repeated this routine again, and again. Then the boy went to a platform about three feet off the ground and made a flying leap off of it. James looked. I stood up. Uh oh. James looked down. Then he backed up, raised his hands up high, and slapped them on the ground. It's his way of jumping. Good choice, James, I mumbled to myself, and I sat down again. The boy, delighted with his audience, jumped over and over, James' ground slaps coinciding with his landings, everybody laughing. James had never met this boy before, and rarely plays with other children besides Isabel, but not until yesterday had I realized to what degree this has been due to the interference of adults, who are trying to keep everybody safe, and everyone doing the standard activities, without any kind of conflict. I wish everyone could, as Marco puts it, "trust the baby".

Oh yes, and meanwhile, Isabel and the little boy's little brother were busy exchanging a yellow leaf that she had proffered him. They would each inspect it, very seriously, and then hand it over to the other with the utmost gravity. Then they sat down in the wet tanbark and let it run through their fingers. I wish I had had the guts to ask the mom to send me the movie it looked like she was taking with her phone.

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