This summer, I took my kids to the splash pad. It was a hot day, and we needed to GET OUT OF THE HOUSE with no drowning risk. For free.
Thank you, St. Julien Park, for your beautiful, clean, splash pad.
The kids had a blast. Mine tend to run as a bit of a posse, so I got our table claimed (WITH an umbrella thank you very much), towels laid out, put cover-ups away, and started watching my crew. They had a blast. There were very few other children there, so they basically played with each other.
Then a day camp bus pulled up and it got REAL crowded REAL quick. My anxiety level jumped up, and I swear I rode a bit of an adrenaline high for a while from it. Constantly counting in my head.
1, 2, 3, 4.
Ok 1. 2. Where’s 3? “Where is your sister?!” “Never mind I found her!”
1, 2, 3, 4.
And it continued.
You know what I saw watching my kids reacting to these new people? Not anxiety but JOY! More friends to make!
My oldest daughter found some girls her age and started playing princess and damsels in distress and superhero unicorns, and Woman Girl (aka Wonder Woman … it’s such a cute replacement name we don’t want to correct her). My son IMMEDIATELY ran to some boys who looked maybe a year or two older than him and started playing with the water guns and splash buckets, and he was so happy to not have to be a prince, or worse — a brother unicorn #thatbrolife. My 3 year old played with some other girls her age, mostly on the playground because she is now big enough to slide down the fire pole, ladies and gentlemen. My nearly 2 year old just wanted me to run through the rainbow sprinklers with her, and that was a-ok with me … as long as I could keep up with my head counts every few minutes.
1, 2, 3, 4.
My 3 year old decided she wanted to play with my son on the water guns. He accommodated her easily and she had fun. Until she didn’t. Until a big boy decided he was going to make her his personal target. He shot her in the face once. And again. And again. As I started walking over to explain to an 8 year old that maybe he should try squirting someone a bit closer to his age, my son covered his sister with his body and stood up for her. “Hey! You can’t squirt people in the face!” You know what that boy and his buddies did? They laughed at my son and said they wouldn’t play with him anymore.
And my heart broke.
You know what else happened? Three other boys from the group invited my son AND daughter to play with them elsewhere. They adjusted their play to include their buddy’s bratty sister, and the smiles on both of my kids’ faces told me how happy they were to have found a more inclusive crew.
Sometimes kids stink.
They say mean things, hurt each other, and can truly be all-around not-nice people.
Sometimes, kids amaze me.
They are SO INCREDIBLY brave. They face rejection from friends while learning social norms, and they continue to ask to be included. They try again.