Friday, October 29, 2010

My grandma and your grandma?

I meet many preschoolers these days, seeing some for just a morning, perhaps not crossing paths again. It has surprised me how many delightful connections I am making, even though I may not be spending all that much time with them. I wonder, too, how important are these small interludes, in the life of a child? Let me share a vignette from one recent day, a four year old boy I met for the very first time....

I'm on his playground, standing, watching.
"Hey, you and I will play together. You will be my friend. You go behind that tree, steal something, and I will come get you."
"You want me to do what?" I ask incredulously, confused.
"Find something - you know, pretend!" he explains, somewhat amused at my ignorance.
"Oh, like this?" I ask, picking up a small twig.
"Yes, now, run and hide!"
And I take off, somewhat gingerly, towards the tree. He is delighted, and follows me, and we are playing some sort of cat and mouse game that I don't fully understand. A moment or two later, the children are lining up to go back inside, and the game ends without explanation.

Inside, it is meeting time, and I sit down on the carpet with the children. Much to my surprise I am sitting next to this new friend. I say something light and humorous to the teacher in response to something she has said; my new friend, as if on cue, gives me an affectionate punch on the arm and laughs along with me. It is such an unexpectedly "grown-up playful" interaction, kinda jokey, kinda goofy, much like my friend Dale was want to do in college. I look at him surprised, smiling.

Three interactions are the charm -

He later decides to play with K'nex. I guess he doesn't have the fine-motor skills for connecting these things, because he comes and finds me in the classroom, takes me by the hand, and says,
"You are going to make me a monster truck."
"I am?," I laughed, surprised, and quickly add, "I'm happy to help you make one."
I sit near him, sorting wheels and "axles." I soon see that my new friend isn't building, but just sitting alongside me. He takes two Knex rods and begins beating the side of the bin and singing an old folksong, in perfect rhythm with his drum beats,

"My grandma and your grandma, sittin' by a fire; my grandma and your grandma, sittin' by the fire..."

I am intrigued by this little fellow.

No fear or concerns about strangers. Comfortable with adults. Self-confident and sure of himself. Imaginative, playful, and creative. Showing me what friendship looks like in its purest state.

I dream of a world where all children can trust that adults will treat them with kindness...where children can expect adults to play joyfully with them...where even little moments together are valued....

Want to hear the song?

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