Monday, April 02, 2018

A Life-Affirming Expression Of Love

I've experienced it enough times to take it for granted, but whenever kids wrestle at preschool, I always at some point feel as if I'm peering into something very important, and very good, about human beings.

We throw down the gym mats, remind ourselves of the agreements we've made together, kick off our shoes and go. We always make common sense agreements like to not hit or kick on another. We always agree to try to not lay hands on another person's head or neck and to only wrestle with people who have agreed to wrestle by stepping on the mats.

Since people always get hurt when we wrestle, bumped heads mostly, we have a crying chair where you can sit it out until you're ready to rejoin the fray. Some children are back within minutes while others put their shoes on and walk away judging the risks of wrestling to be a price too high.

We tend to think of wrestling as an activity that boys enjoy, and it's mostly boys who participate, but not all of them, and there are always girls who hurl their bodies into the mix.

Last week, the four and five year olds wrestled with such joy, a dozen of them at once at times, grappling, rolling, dog-piling. They were laughing, making faces, and shouting "Stop!" when things got too intense, a signal we had agreed to heed. And they did respond, as children usually do when they wrestle, almost instantly. The rule of thumb is that one must wait a minimum of 15 seconds (often longer) for a young child to answer when asked a questions, but when they wrestle they are so finely attuned to one another, reading expressions, listening to words, responding to how they move their bodies, anticipating, that there is minimal lag time between call and response.

When they wrestle like this, it's as if they've stopped being individuals and have joined together as a single body, each part fully conscious of and responsive to the others. They are forever checking one another's beet-red faces, reading expressions, looking there for consent, for invitations, for cautions. So often we label this sort of play as violent or aggressive, but when you really watch it, it becomes quite clear that, on the contrary, wrestling is a joyful, intense, life-affirming expression of love: a love that's so powerful that they can't keep their hands off one another.

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