a playground lesson

(iPhone photo. Camera + app)

Last weekend it warmed up just enough to take Corrigan to the playground.  He had just finished a 5 day stretch of being home bound so he needed some fresh air.  It was cloudy and felt like it wanted to rain so when we got to the school the playground was empty.

We were really happy it was empty. Anti-social much?

He played for a long time, running around the equipment rather than on it and seemed to be having a good time. In his own way.  Mark and I were sitting on a bench, snapping photos of him playing when we heard voices.  Around the corner came a Mama pushing a double stroller.  Inside the stroller was a beautiful baby girl and a boy that looked to be the same age as Corrigan.

My stomach felt instantly sick. The empty playground suddenly made me feel very exposed.

The little boy came flying out of the stroller, up over the little hill and dashed up the play equipment like a ninja. He was yelling things back to his mom in clear sentences and was engaging and absolutely adorable.  He was like a toddler tornado, his appearance suddenly made the playground seem brighter.

Of course, my little toddler was kneeling on the rubber-mulched ground, scooping up fistfuls of the shredded tires and winging them up over his head repetitively.  Over and over he made the same sound as he threw mulch, only glancing briefly at his possible playmate as he whizzed by time and again.

It was clear as day that while those two little boys were close in size and age, they were developmentally very different and I won’t lie and tell you that it didn’t sting. It always stings, just a teeny bit no matter how many times I tell myself that I won’t over think it. That I will just be thankful that he has come this far.

Our new playground pals were so friendly though. The Mama was happy to talk and the little baby girl had great big chocolate eyes that she would not take off of Mark. Eventually, feeling somewhat at ease, I made myself ask the question I dreaded.

“So how old is your little guy?” I asked.

“He will be 3 in August!” she replied. “How old is yours?”

Three at the end of May.  He is going to be three.  Good grief, it doesn’t seem possible.

While we talked I noticed that Corrigan was paying more attention to the new addition to the playground and after a little bit of observation he actually got to his feet and followed him.  Mark and I watched as he attempted to climb up the play set as fast as the other little guy and started yelling and jabbering in imitation of the talking that his new friend was doing.  He even climbed up the set alone and then slid down the slide, with no prompting, pleading or someone to catch him at the bottom like usual.

It was clear how important pre-school is going to be for Corrigan this fall.  In a matter of 30 minutes time he went from mindlessly throwing mulch over his head to full-on playground adventure.  He didn’t have a clue that he was different, if he couldn’t do what his new friend was doing he made an attempt at least.  He was smiling, and falling down getting dirty and it was glorious.

The other little boy was rough and tough, could tumble like a gymnast with no concept of his flinging limbs or lumbering flights up the play set stairs. Over and over, in his innocent exuberance, he would bump hard into Corrigan and sometimes knock him over.  His Mama warned him a few times to watch what he was doing but I asked her, out of earshot of her boy, of course, if she wouldn’t mind just letting him be himself.  Let him play rough with Corrigan?

Corrigan needs that kind of interaction.  He needs to understand that bodies move and bump into each other, that sometimes you might get pushed, that in the race to the top you might get a tennis shoe in the face.  I wanted him to get tumbled a bit so that he would learn to stand a little firmer. I wanted him to know that people push to be the first on the slides, that he had his own weight that he could use to protect himself…to defend himself.

While we were talking I noticed that Cor had wandered away from his friend over a little way next to the fence.  I called him back to play but he found that all of the leaves had blown up against the fence and he was instantly immersed in last season’s leaves, musty and damp from hiding below the snow all winter, throwing fistfuls up in the air and squealing.

His new friend ran over quick as lighting and joined him.  I stood and watched as two little boys were on their knees, belly deep in crunchy fun…having a totally normal moment. Corrigan was not just a happy puppy shadowing a new pal around the play set. His new pal had followed him and together they were having a blast.

Sadly, it started spitting ice cold rain and we were forced to cut out visit a bit short and I left feeling good.  Not a bit of sickness in my stomach.  My boy will adapt. Heck, he might even catch up totally. He can learn, he wants to learn and that as much as it terrifies us to send him out among the viruses and germs, on a little yellow school bus where Mama can’t fix everything, school is what he needs.

And that you can learn as much in an afternoon at the playground as you can in a classroom. Even when you are 36 years old.

4 thoughts on “a playground lesson

  1. Isn’t it wonderful to learn something new. I’ve had a feeling/hope that Corrigan would “catch up”. Yes, interaction with other children may hold the answer. Love Dad


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