The playground seems like the last place where you should be learning lessons, especially when the word itself implies that we are trying to get away from lessons as fast as possible. No, these lessons are not for my daughter. They are, instead, lessons she has taught me through her behaviour and her approach to simple situations amidst the swings, the sand, the monkey bars and the slides.
Take your time to try something new
Gy was at the park last week and eyed the monkey bars with longing. It is something that has always eluded her and she always shied away from trying it. Noticing this, I said, go ahead, give it a try. I promised her that I would stand and watch her. Gingerly, she climbed the ladder and tentatively tested the bars with one hand. Feeling enthused, she gripped it with both hands and swung away from the ladder. She stayed there for a few seconds and then dropped to the ground below. Her eyes shone as she turned and looked at me. I cheered, as was expected.
Spurred on, she climbed back up and did it three more times. The fourth time, she released one arm and lunged forward to grab the next bar in the sequence and wonder of wonders, she stayed on the bars! I was flabbergasted that she had managed to master it in the space of a few minutes and was inspired by her ‘Never-give-up’ attitude.
Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty
If you’re like me, you like your hands to stay clean. I don’t mean obsessively washing them with hand sanitiser at the sight of dirt, but staying clean. Gy revels in sand and loves the feel of it through her fingers. I like sand too. It’s easy to clean. Grime and dirt are another story, though. Once Gy had gotten the ‘hang’ of the swinging, she tried to move beyond the first two bars and couldn’t quite manage it. I stood by, chanting, ‘You can do it. Go on.’ Looking back I realise how utterly useless I was as a motivator.
A nimble little slip of a girl who was mastering the bars, helpfully told Gy that if she picked up some dirt and rubbed it between her palms, it would give her the grip needed for the swinging. Knowing my aversion for dirt, she looked at me and something changed inside me. I nodded and said she could do it. She scooped up handfuls of dirt and liberally dusted the sweat off her hands. Energised, she returned to the bars. Now, whether it was her zeal for the task or the dirt, I will never really know, but she managed the entire length of the bars in one stroke! Eyes dancing in happiness, she ran to my side and said, ‘Did you see? Did you see?’
It’s okay to fall down
Given that this was the first time she had actually managed to swing across eight bars, it was but inevitable that she would lose her grip midway at some point. And fall she did, straight on to the sandy playground below. Her face twisted in pain and she tried to smile bravely through it as I went to help her stand up again. Gently, I asked her if she was all right and if she wanted to continue playing.
Eyes glistening with tears, she gulped and said, ‘I just need a few minutes. I will be fine.’ True to her word, she took a short break and was back on the bars, swinging and laughing.
After a couple of tries, she ran around the playground to show me that the pain had been temporary.
Making friends is easy if you know what to say
Gy had never visited this particular playground before, so she actually knew nobody there. Within 15 minutes though, she had managed to befriend the other girl who was swinging nimbly across the bars. I was sitting on a park bench some distance away when she came running to me, excitement in her voice. ‘Amma, Amma, I made a friend! There she is! A is her name!’
Pleased at her joy, I replied, ‘That’s lovely. What did you say to befriend her?’ With amusement, she said, ‘I just said, “Hello, my name is Gy. What’s your name?” Then , she was off, running back to her new-found friend. In that second, I realised children have a simple and direct way of dealing with things, while we as adults, manage to complicate even the simplest task of saying ‘Hello.’
Making up with friends is even easier
Children and their fights on the playground are the stuff of legends. You know it and I have seen it at work. But what has always struck me is the speed at which children forgive each other. Within five minutes of making a new friend, Gy came to me with a morose expression, saying that A had fought with her. I sat there, silently and waited for her to figure out the solution. She sat by me and brooded for a few minutes and suddenly got up, ran back to A and said, ‘I am sorry. Shall we play again?’ And that was that. They were back to laughing and swinging side by side again.
As the sun gently set on the horizon, shedding its pinkish-orange hues on the playground before me, lighting up the faces of carefree kids, I wondered, isn’t that what Life is all about? Of trying, of falling, of getting our hands dirty, of making friends and making up with them. Yet, we seem content to complicate these things way out of proportion.
I may not have all the answers to parenting nor may I have the exact thing to say when Gy asks me a question. But, I know, that these five lessons on the playground will stand us all in good stead when we are facing the playground of Life.
Welcome to Thoughtful Thursdays
Here we will explore an aspect of positive parenting, a tool or a technique that has helped me in my journey.
If you’ve visited before, you may be familiar with my Yelling Less journal.
Have you learnt any life lessons from unexpected quarters?
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