Monday, May 21, 2018

Discovering What The Other People Are For

Both of the boys have older sisters and one of them has a twin brother, so they have lifetimes of experience in living in a world with other children. I know they love their siblings, these people who are raising them as much as their parents are, but those have always been "arranged marriages," so to speak, people with whom they have by the circumstances of their lives been thrust. It's not the same as getting to chose a person, the way we do when someone becomes our friend.

When I first began teaching two-year-olds, parent educator Kate Kincaid told me, "They're all independent suns around whom the universe revolves," and while I might today be more inclined to compare this stage of their lives to one of those two star solar systems in which mother and child orbit one another, I've found the metaphor to be largely apt. At the beginning of the school year they don't typically view the other kids as potential playmates, let alone potential friends, but over the course of the year it begins to happen.

On Friday, as I sat across the playground, I saw one of these boys take the other by the wrist. It looked to me like he was attempting to pull him along against his will. There was a moment during which they tugged against one another, one boy resistant to being pulled, the other insistent on doing so. I began moving closer in anticipation of a conflict, but before I'd taken more than a few steps, the boy being pulled managed to calmly pry those fingers from his wrist. Words I couldn't hear were exchanged, before they then took one another's hands properly, as equals, as friends, and began to walk together.

At first they just walked about the space, neither pushing nor pulling one another, following the contours of the playground. When one stepped up, he waited while the other stepped up. When one stopped, the other stopped. They were accommodating one another, working together, pointing, occasionally exchanging words that I was still too far away to hear.

Eventually, they came to the bottom of the concrete slide and opted for an ascent. They tried to do it while continuing to hold hands but the surfaces were too steep and slippery, so they freed their hands for scrambling and one after another climbed to the top. Once up there, they exchanged more words, gesturing, then apparently agreed to slide back down. The first one waited for the other and they slid down side-by-side, looking into one another's faces, beaming, as they did so. They agreed to do it again and again. Sometimes they agreed to take another track up or down. By now I was close enough to hear them. They were saying, "Let's . . ." the most magic of words.

These aren't the first butterflies to emerge from their chrysalid. We have witnessed the miracle of several first friendships over the past few months, but each time it's a wonder, these first steps in the journey of discovering what the other people are really for.

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