Monday, February 11, 2013

Love In Wrestling

I usually wait until the kids tell me they need to wrestle before laying down the gym mats for wrestling. Typically, they tell me this by spontaneously wrestling in the classroom, and lately a group of our Pre-K boys have been letting me know they need to wrestle. If you want to read how we go about setting this up as an activity, keeping it safe while at the same time keeping it wrestling, or some rationale about why I find it necessary to provide this opportunity in preschool, here's a post from back in 2009 in which I provide our wrestling rules and reasons more or less as they've remained for close to a decade now.

I've long felt that this urge for assertive physical contact is for many children driven by barely contained love for one another, and this year's Pre-K group has done nothing but confirm my theory. In fact, I've actually heard Calder say, "I love you!" while in the midst of wrestling with his buddies, but frankly, he doesn't need to say it because it's right there in the expression on his face.

And lest you think that this is something done just for the boys, I'll re-share an observation I made back in 2009:

Parent educator and teacher Chris David once explained the differences between boys and girls by asking me to think of their brains as architectural structures. Boys, she said, tend to have brains comprised of many little rooms. If a boy is playing in one "room" and the subject of rules comes up, adults need to understand that the typical boy must leave the room in which he's playing and go down the hall to find the room that houses the rules. Girls, on the other hand, tend to have brains made up of one large room. The rules and their play are in the same room so it's far easier (and quicker) for them to apply the former to the later . . . Applying this metaphor to wrestling, it's no wonder that girls rarely engage in wrestling during times that are "not time for wrestling," while boys sometimes forget. When wrestling is officially sanctioned however -- at least in the little laboratory of our preschool -- the girls are as game as the boys.

Wrestling, of course, isn't for everyone. The one thing I've added since 2009, is to provide "tumbling mats" in another part of the room as an alternative for those who would rather avoid the physical contact or who just need a short break. Lily appeared to be one of those kids. She let me know up front that she did not want to wrestle, saying, "It's too rough for me."

But the rest of the kids did wrestle, joyfully, sometimes pairing off in one-on-one matches, but most often writhing around as one big knot of bodies. Typically, I need to stay right on top of things, continually reminding the children of the rules -- "No hands on faces," "Luca is off the mat," "I heard someone say stop" -- but last week, these kids really didn't need me. I was impressed by how attuned they were to one another and how well they managed to keep the rules in mind as they explored leverage, force, and muscles with one another.

As part of our preparations for wrestling, I had reminded the kids that someone is likely to get hurt, that this is just part of wrestling, and sure enough Calder picked up a nose bleed when he bumped in nose on the back of Luca's head. "If someone is crying or angry," I tell the kids, "We all have to stop until that person is off the mat." Without a word from me, we all stood back on the edges of the mat while Luca's mom Megan tended to his nose, and while Connor's mom Trisha cleaned up the drops of blood from the mats, then we went back at it.

After awhile I noticed Lily standing just off the edge of the mats following the action closely. At one point she stood on the mats for a few seconds before stepping back off again as her friends bodies tumbled closer. Megan asked, "Lily, do you want to wrestle?"

Lily didn't answer, but she did smile. She was on and off the mats a few more times.

Megan said, "Lily wants to wrestle."

One of the boys, a proficient and enthusiastic wrestler stood smiling at Lily, but that was apparently too intimidating for her. He then lay down on the mats, on his belly, entirely inert, a kind and gentle invitation to his friend. Lily fell on top of him and the two lay there for a bit. He rolled over and Lily lay on top of him again. She was so proud and he should be too.

Don't let anyone tell you there's not a lot of love in wrestling.

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1 comment:

Michele @ The Hills are Alive said...

what a great set up and love the last image of your sweet and in tune little guy knowing his friend wanted in but needed it toned down a little so he lays down so she can take part at her level that is awesome! This little guy will go far