About half the kids who come to Woodland Park as 2-year-olds stay with us for 3 years, until they are 5 and ready to head off to kindergarten. In other words, they spend more than half their lives playing together at our school, exploring who they are in the big world through one another.
They will not remember a time when they weren't together, shoulder to shoulder, figuring out what it means to be with other people. It is from playing, first beside, then with one another that they learn about what it means to be human. I can't teach that. No adult can. No one can do it for you. No one can do it alone. It's something that can only be done together.
Yesterday, I wrote that the "only way to learn about asphalt is to fall on it." Well, the only way to learn about people is to play with them. I know, I know, the experts all tell us that it's about talking. The experts who really know their stuff tell us it's about listening. And that's a part of it for sure, but these real experts, these 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 year olds know that if you really want to know about a person, you need to play with them. You need to make up your own fads. You need to develop your own language. You need to forget where you end and where the other person begins, even if only for a moment at a time.
I can't help seeing the future for these girls, for instance, and reflect in advance upon who they will become through playing together for the better part of their lives. I can already imagine eating lunch with them around our green table each Tuesday afternoon, our Pre-K class, just us, these children who have been playing together at Woodland Park for as long as they can remember, telling jokes only we think are funny, shuddering about things only we think are scary, sharing a code about what only we think is right or wrong or fair or unfair.
Just a few months ago they arrived, holding the hands of their mommies and daddies, almost entirely unaware of the other people beyond their own families, but already they've fallen into a kind of orbit together, becoming someone else entirely new by playing together. And it's really only just begun.