A dozen kids, mostly boys, mostly 4, 5, 6 years old, with a couple of almost-4, and a preponderance of 5’s.
Mr B was greeted on arrival as The Oldest, The Co-Favorite of the Birthday Boy, The Cool One (for having drawn tattoos on himself with sharpie, to start, and then for his usual pattern of interaction, which is to start out somewhat reluctant to join in – which is actually shyness and a slow transition speed but reads sometimes as just a little bit of a personal bubble of disengagement – and then engage with the individuals for a while, then decide to do his own thing in intersection with them, allow others to join him but not follow the play plan already in place … it’ll be interesting to see how that evolves as he gets older, since it’s been his pattern from very early on…).
Back to the party: Swimming is over, pizza is over, and cake is over.
Candy bracelets have been eaten, yoyo-balls have been discovered. A game of something vaguely resembling tag crossed with rugby has ensued around the tables.
Parents watch, but so far the noise hasn’t escalated to the pre-catastrophe excess of glee point. It’s a party, they’re having fun, no stomping on the fun.
And then the crash.
Six year old collides with almost-4. The younger boy goes down, yoyo ball coming apart (ring one way, ball and string the other).
I turned at the sound of crying, and was informed that the older boy pushed the younger boy down (interpretation? Accurate? Not sure.). Younger boy is crying, angry, despondent.
The other kids stop running, but clearly don’t know what to do.
Some just stand there, staring at the boy still on his knees, face angled toward the floor, black curls angled toward the others.
Others kind of wander around in loops, neither leaving nor attending.
One of the two girls arrives as if teleported, her arm around the boy (around her age), her eyes steely and fierce, helping him to his feet.
But other than the change in posture, nothing changes. The boy still cries, still face downturned, his hands turning back and forth uselessly. The other kids still seem to be wandering in loops or just standing there staring at him. (Only a minute or so has passed, it takes longer to write it than see it.)
Then Mr B comes into the circle of onlookers, looks at the boy, comes up to him, leans in, talks to him quietly for a moment, then looks around. He spies what he is looking for, picks it up off the floor, and hands it to the boy.
Tears cease instantly. Shining face looks up with a smile at
his hero. The ring from his yoyo ball that had come loose and been lost in the
collision has been found, and returned. The reason to cry is gone, the heart no longer broken.
The other kids dissipate, reform, converge in a different arrangement. The boy who had been crying is reabsorbed, welcomed back into the loop of play. Eyes follow Mr B,
Mr B goes off again, doing his own thing.
A few of the parents turned to me and each other, and said, “Did you see that? He saw the kid crying, and he found something for him that helped, and just helped.”
I was kind of stuck. What do you say to that? Isn’t that what kids should do?
But then I remembered a few things:
a) Experience: Mr B has younger sibs. Many of these kids have only one sib, if that, and most the sib is still in babyhood.
b) Age: Mr B is nearly 7, the oldest there. Most of the others will grow more able to problem-solve socially as they head into the 7 year old phase.
c) Personality. Mr B is and always has been kind and loving as core features. Not just the way most boys are, but KIND and LOVING with an echo that goes right through your soul.
d) Modeling (I hope). Even though I know we model that behavior, and coach it, I hesitate to give credit to us. Half because I can’t measure whether it was, and half because the idea of taking credit for his choice of action feels like I’m looking for back-pats, and I cringe at that. Yes, I want to feel good about my parenting, no, I don’t want to take credit for his actions. It was still his choice, all I did was allow his choice to be free enough. Not encumbered with judgment, worry, attitude, or untenable rules.
Whether the other kids will choose to problem-solve
compassionately, or whether they will know how based on the models they are
given, no knowing.
I eased the stunned expressions off the other parents’ faces by indicating option a). Oh. They nodded. Big brothers are like that. Or can be.
I’m just glad that he is.