Wednesday, August 23, 2017

In Rhythm

Two two-year-olds were at the cast iron pump, accidentally taking turns, filling their containers, then dumping the water into the sand. They were using plastic jars that they were calling "cans," each holding about a cup or so of water. The turn taking was accidental because they weren't intentionally making space for one another, but had rather simply gotten into a mutual rhythm of pumping, dumping, and studying the results that left room for both of them to go about their similar business. There was a little jostling now and then, but they were mostly just peacefully playing the same game, side-by-side, while in sync.

Then one of them discovered a larger container, a red bucket that held at least twice as much water. Trading his "can" for the bucket ruined the rhythm, leaving the boy with the smaller container in the position of waiting, reluctantly, as the larger container was filled. There was some fussing, some insistence upon "mine," and the jostling began to look more like shoving.

There were several of us adults around and we chirped the usual things one says about taking turns and waiting and not shoving. Then the boy with the larger bucket, perhaps by way of putting space between himself and his rival, walked away from the pump to dump his water, which happened to be into a channel that had been carved out the day before by older kids making a proper "river."

The water flowed better here where the sand was more packed down, with one finger of it reaching all the way to the drop off between the upper and lower levels of our sand pit. I narrated its flow, "You made a river . . . It's flowing . . . I think it's going to make it all the way to the edge . . . It did! . . . You made a waterfall."

Meanwhile, his companion had been filling his smaller container at the pump. He said, "I'm going to make a river too." With that, he dumped his smaller volume of water into the sand at his feet, which didn't flow at all, but rather simple absorbed into the sand, just as it had done every other time he had tried it.

The cycle of play then came back around. The boy with the smaller container watched as the other boy filled his bucket, there was no fussing about the wait this time, because now he was making a study. He continue to watch as the other boy carefully carried his bucket to the old "river bed" to dump it. This time he narrated what he saw, "River . . . Waterfall!"

With that, he dropped his small container, exchanging it for a larger one. He waited for his turn. He filled the bucket, then carried it to the proper place where he dumped it. The water flowed into a waterfall. He watched until the water was no longer flowing, then returned to the pump where the other boy, the boy from whom he had learned how to do it, was just finishing filling his own bucket, and the rhythm, for the time being, was restored.

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