Thursday, July 11, 2019

Monkeys Jumping On The Bed

"There were one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven . . . little monkeys jumping on the bed . . ."

As I fit the classic chant to the number of children jumping up and down on the table, I began to be concerned about the possibility of someone falling. I was particularly worried about the two-year-olds up there crowded together with all those four, five, and six-year-old bodies. The table isn't exactly high, but they were rowdily jumping up and down right near the edge of the table: all it would take would be for one of them to lose their focus or decide to take it to the next level or give in to an impulse to create more personal space with a push and someone would find themselves head over heels on the ground.

It's a game I've often played with the kids over the course of this past year, one I have mixed feelings about pedagogically, because it puts me too much at the center of things, but there had been quite a bit of pleading, so I'd given in.

". . . One fell off . . . two fell off . . . three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven . . . fell off and bumped their heads . . ."

They jumped one at a time and several at once, landing on their feet, then falling to the ground. I was concerned about the possibility of someone landing on someone else. I was particularly worried about the two-year-olds being stomped on by one of those four, five, and six-year-old bodies. The ground isn't exactly soft: all it would take would be for one of them to get a little crazy or to miss time or aim their jump or to decide to find out if it enhanced the fun to land unexpectedly on top of another person.

When we've played this game in the past, not as many kids opt in. Usually, we have a half dozen or so, but this game grew to include double that at times, not to mention a few who appeared to be waiting for the crowd to thin a bit before joining in, probably feeling concerned, like me, that this game was a knocked noggin or bruised knee waiting to happen. Specifically, I imagine they were thinking about the potential for their own bodies to get injured, assessing the risk at this time to be a little much for their taste.

". . . Teacher Tom called the doctor and the doctor said . . . " And this is where I put on the show of frustration that the kids find so hilarious, "No more monkeys jumping on the bed!"

Then they clambered back up on the table, jostling one another as the each found a place of their own in anticipation of the next round of the game. I was concerned again about the possibility of a fall or push or a finger being stepped on, but once more the children kept managing to keep any of my worries from coming to fruition.

As we played the game again and again, I found myself admiring how they all, from oldest to youngest, jumped on that crowded table in their own self-space; how they each measured and timed their jumps to the ground so as to ensure (to the degree possible in such a game) that both their own body and the bodies of their playmates remained uninjured; how they created space for themselves and one another as they reassembled on the table top; how the children in the "audience" took their places with confidence when the crowd of monkeys thinned.

My concerns didn't exactly lessen. I remained close and vigilant, but the children's behavior didn't once prompt me to act upon my concerns. The kids, two, three, four, five, and six-year olds, were taking care of themselves and those around them, while at the same time having a rowdy good time.

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