Friday, April 07, 2017


They have been playing together all year long. They initially called themselves "Diggers" because they were the ones digging in the sand, manning the cast iron pump, exploring together how gravity works. Anyone who picked up a shovel was "in," excluding has never been a part of their games, but there have been 4-5 at the core of the group all year long. Today, they refer to themselves as "Octograbbers," by way of "Crabbies," referring to the fact that their game has evolved into running around with a shovel in each hand, manipulating the world as a club of Edward Shovelhands.

I've known most of these kids for years now and have seen each of them struggle with friendships or tantrums or hitting or whatever, but now these Octograbbers are daily creating a beautiful world in which they seek agreement rather than conflict. Each have their own quirky passions -- construction, sharks, robots, organizing -- but their shared passion for this friendship is what drives them to easily adopt one another's passions by turns, sharing even that. There have been occasional conflicts, of course, but for the most part, and especially now during this Octograbber era, I feel little need to check in with them, because they seem to have this getting along with one another figured out.

Many adults still don't have it figured out.

Long ago, I watched the television series Six Feet Under, which is where I picked up the line: "Together we're a genius," and let me tell you, these kids are that, the highest form of collective genius.

Earlier this week I wrote about an outdoor dance party on our new stage. Well, we've continued it all week and the "gravity" of the whole playground has suddenly shifted toward this simple platform and a little recorded music, so much so that it has even drawn the Octograbbers down from their usual habitat up by the pump. They've not joined the others on the stage, but they have been a part of the larger music/dance/performing game by addressing the pile of soil that was left behind after we leveled a spot for the stage. As the other kids performed, backed by numbers from Disney movies, Broadway shows, and television theme songs, the Octograbbers used their duel shovels to dig a hole atop the pile of dirt. As the other kids danced and emoted, the Octograbbers filled their hole with water from a nearby puddle, using their shovels the carry the water. As the other kids made song requests, the Octograbbers used their shovels to cause their newly created volcano to erupt in a mudslide, discovering their own Octograbber way to enjoy the music and our new stage.

Of course, this is the sort of thing the Octograbbers do all day long, cooperating, collaborating, agreeing, and engaging in their own scientific and social experiments. I'm not always right there with them because, like I said, they don't on most days really need me. But I was standing amongst them as their volcano erupted. They let out a collective guffaw, one that I hear daily from across our playground and which in that moment I recognized as their version of "Eureka!" Together they're indeed a genius.

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