Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Another epiphany at the park

James, Isabel, and I were at the park at midday yesterday, and it was sunny and full of kids. James and Isabel had moved on from the smaller structure to the big one, and James was climbing up the arch, and sliding down the big slide. A bigger boy was playing with a little girl, and gently encouraging her up the ladder, step by step, and waiting for her to go down the slide with him. James was fascinated by this pair, and began following them, doing exactly as they did. Sometimes he would catch up, and sometimes he would be far behind. Sometimes he would just wait, halfway there, and watch them go down the slide, a smile on his face. When the boy started coaxing the girl up the arch, step by step, James, at first, followed to do the same.

Halfway up, he changed his mind--he wanted to come down, but the little girl was right behind him, and she didn't seem to know how to back up. He was losing his grip as he hung on, scared of a drop twice his height, and I plucked him out and put him down. He stood smiling, watching her go the rest of the way. It was then he seemed to decide on a new course of action. He waited at the bottom of the slide for the two to appear, and he'd smile at them. Then he'd accompany them to the base of the ladder or the arch, smiling up at the two children, and walk slowly towards the slide, his gaze never leaving them until they reached the bottom again, and he would laugh. At first I loved this, and then, quite suddenly, I worried, why doesn't he follow them anymore? Why did he give up?

I'm happy now that I had read, many months since, an experience by a fellow mother with a son with Down syndrome. She had seen him playing tag with friends, and it seemed, that though he was smiling and having fun, that he was always "it". This dampened her enjoyment in their game until she felt she had to say something. The children were embarrassed, and she quickly realized that she had spoken as if her feelings were her son's, which, she saw suddenly very clearly, they were not. He liked being "it". He loved being the center of the game!

And so it was this that immediately came to mind, and it brushed away the worry in one clean stroke. James loved watching them, and he loved his own small part. They smiled when they saw him peeking over the tunnel slide, every time they came down. He was a part of the game, without interfering, and his delighted appraisal of their every move seemed to make the already wonderful little pair a little brighter, a little more worthy of admiration.

Isabel, meanwhile, was happily sucking on tanbark.

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