Notes From The Playground


Photo: How can you not be happy when you see children running and playing without a care? 


It is really and actually hot in Massachusetts. Not that fake hot with the high temp but the low humidity. No, this is the real deal with the high humidity, too. I’m not really complaining. Lord knows, I’m trying to suck up as much of it as I can so as to keep me through the next polar vortex that we get come winter… but still, it’s comment worthy. Especially because this farmhouse ain’t got no central air. We’re got the window units in the bedrooms, but we only have them on during the sleepy-times to keep energy usage (and cost) down. 

So we’ve been spending time out of the house. Specifically, at this cool little park that we found last month. It has plenty of shade, which is great, and it’s in our town so the other moms are low key rather than snotty like in the next town over. I’m still the idiot who brings her book as if any sort of reading is going to get done. I’m spending just as much of my time managing as I ever have… 

Monday and Tuesday, we visited the park early in the day so as to avoid the highest temps and the high likelihood that I’d get a bench under a nice tree. In my non-managing moments, I’ve noticed something interesting. Where Ursa Major is socially fearless, Ursa Minor is physically fearless. 

Ursa Major doesn’t really know that he’s not a big kid. He’s the big kid at home, so why isn’t he a big kid in the world? He will walk up to any kid on the playground and, first, inquire what they are doing and then, second, include himself in whatever their play is. It doesn’t matter if the other kids are staring at him like he has three heads. He’s all in. He wants to be part of it. Most of the kids at the playground we’ve started going to don’t seem to be too much older than he is… maybe 4 or 5 or even 6… so the eventually let him into the fold. But still, it’s kinda ballsy of him. Totally something that I have a hard time doing.I think that this is interesting because at school he is the polar opposite: He is often playing by himself with  various toys and is not into collaborative play. I think, though, that the difference here is that there isn’t a toy that would potentially have to be shared. Playground equipment can’t be guarded (or coveted) the way that a toy car or truck can. 

Ursa Minor isn’t interested in playing with the big kids. Probably because he has his own personal big kid at home. Instead, he wants to climb on anything that is 20 times bigger than he is. This, of course, is where all of my management has to come in. Of course he wants to slide on that one big slide in the middle of the playground. The one that requires you to cross the rope bridge or to climb the tricky twisty thing… you know, stuff that is designed for 6 year-olds. This week, it didn’t take long for the kid to identify the big slide. To get to it, you have to cross an interesting little footbridge made of rope, which is pretty intimidating. He stood, looking at the bridge for a few minutes, contemplating it. I was waiting for him to turn around and head back down, but he actually took that first step. And another, and another. And you have to understand: His big brother has looked at that bridge, slid his foot toward it and then shrunk back at least 6 times since we started visiting this playground. Ursa Minor crossed it on his first freaking try. I couldn’t believe it! It was just… it was awesome. But he still didn’t make it to the big slide: The next obstacle required him to put his feet in a specific foothold and he couldn’t quite master it… so across the bridge he went and then he got down. That was a challenge of dexterity and concentration rather than a challenge of daring, unfortunately. 

Watching these two boys diverge down different personality paths is interesting, and also presents me with two different sets of worries. My worries for Ursa Minor are pretty simple: It isn’t going to be long before I am going to find myself at Children’s in Boston with a kid with a fractured something. He’s going to climb his way into something, up something or down something and that’s just gonna be it. And if I am lucky enough to avoid that, then he’ll break something because he’s in some rough-and-tumble sport like hockey. He’s pretty much built like a hockey player already… it’s just… inevitable.

Ursa Major, on the other hand, is more complicated and my anxieties for him are closer to my heart. I know that the time is coming when he’s going to start being excluded from play for any set of reasons and it isn’t going to roll off of him anymore. He’s going to understand it and feel it. I’m worried about the day when he meets his first bully. Not the kid who is going to physically harm him (Major is huge for his age… and strong, too. Anyone who tries to physically hurt him is a fool.) but the kid who understands how to use words as a weapon. I guess I worry about the day when Ursa Major loses that fearlessness that he has right now. When he retreats like I did. Its possible that this won’t happen… that he’ll actually become that popular kid at school because he’s so happy to talk to anyone… but as a former nerd who would rather (still) read a book in a quiet corner than socialize, I guess I’m projecting… 

There is also the interesting dynamic of what these emerging developments will do to their relationship as brothers. Will Ursa Minor push Ursa Major out of his comfort zone and get him to have fun and do different things? Will Ursa Major introduce his little brother to a bunch of different activities so that way he doesn’t just play sports? Will these two things actually cause static between them, eventually pulling them apart? 

I recognize I have no control over any of this. I just have these questions based on my observations. As a matter of fact, I dare not interfere: I’m worried that if I meddle, they really will have a sour relationship. This bond between them means so much to me that I don’t want to hinder it in any way. 

I’m still looking forward to the day when I can take the boys to the playground, sit in a shady spot with my book and an iced latte and barely look up but to make sure they are within the the playground boundaries. It’s not that far off… yet it is so far off. I really, really need a break… 

Friday is the 4th, but I’m not taking off! See you Friday for some Quiet ‘merican Thoughts. 

One Comment Add yours

  1. zeudytigre says:

    Despite all the bike riding, tree climbing, hockey playing, judo and horse riding that my kids did growing up, we had our first fracture at great grandma’s funeral (boy fell over a fence) and our second outside our own front door (daughter overbalanced and cracked her arm on the edge of a flower pot). Sometimes they bounce and sometimes they don’t.

    Difference can be good with siblings. If they are too alike they will compete, which can be tough on the younger.

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