Friday, October 28, 2016

Enduring Their Discomfort

For those of you unfamiliar with our neck of the woods, we have a sunny season during the summer then a rainy season that covers the other 11-and-a-half months. At least that's the joke. This autumn has felt like an especially wet one so far. Maybe it isn't any more so from an historic perspective, but we've sure played outdoors under some raging atmospheric rivers already this school year.

Kids who have grown up here know nothing else and are generally quite comfortable playing in the rain, with our without proper rain gear, but even the heartiest among us sometimes struggle with the  seasonal transition from warm and sunny to cool and wet.

Our four and five year olds start their days outside and one day last week that time coincided with torrential rain. As each kid arrived, they said to me, "It's raining," to which I answered, "It is!" Some of them were just making a statement of fact, while others were clearly presenting this information as a way to suggest that we might want to go inside. A few were even visibly upset, hunched forward, feeling uncomfortable. While most of the kids launched themselves into their play there was a largish group that just collected near the gate, milling around, engaged, it seemed, in the act of simply enduring their discomfort.

One boy repeatedly asked me, "When are you going to bang the drum?" which is the signal I use for transitions. It was his way to asking when we were going indoors. Each time, I checked my clock before answering, "Forty-five minutes," "Thirty-seven minutes," "Thirty-three minutes," and so on. I was tempted to start cajoling the kids, "Come on you guys, get to playing!" but instead I just did what I normally do, roaming, loitering with intent, telling jokes, and briefing my parent-teachers on what to expect for the day. 

Actually, that's not entirely true, I also moved away from the gate where I didn't have to keep checking my phone for the time because, honestly, it was raining so hard I was worried it would get water damaged, and I didn't want to spend the better part of an hour engaged in a slow motion countdown.

I kept an eye on those kids from afar, six or seven of them, who were simply enduring, letting the rain make them heavy and hang-dog, while the rest of the kids dug in the sand, splashed in the puddles, swung on the swings, and collaborated in games of heroism and housekeeping, more or less as they always do. Five minutes passed and they were still up there by the gate, doing nothing other than experiencing the deluge. Ten minutes passed. By now, they were as wet as they were ever going to be. If there were gaps in their rain gear, the water had found it. 

And then, the next time I checked, they were gone. They had reached the end of their tolerance for damp boredom and had joined the games around them. When I next found the boy who had been eager for me to bang the drum he was standing directly under a stream of rain water that drained from the top of the play house. I said, "We're going inside in five minutes," to which he replied, "Aw!"

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1 comment:

Julie S said...

I have landed at a preschool this year that is a "we're going outside EVERY day no matter the weather!" philosophy. I love it! I have those same kids on occasion and inevitably they realize they can be wet and unhappy or wet and running around having fun. What fun it is to run through the puddles with them and build humongous rivers and streams in our sandbox. Love the PNW!