There were a few things I kept concentrating on last spring in the lead-up to packing all of our belongings and cleaning out the Liar House; one of these was the opportunity to soak in a hot spring, and the other was playing in a pool with my friends’ cute and fun 2-year-old. The hot spring went exceedingly well, but the pool event, not so much.
Oh, the kid had a blast, so no worries about that. I however was my usual klutzy self and while fetching his ball for him, managed to careen down some steps in the water, and sprain the knee I’d hurt in 2008. Because I was in said pool, the act of spraining my knee joint happened in apparent slow-motion: stepping, stepping, ooooooooooh noooooooooo, owwwwwwww.
I carefully balanced on my not-just-sprained leg and cheered him on. And I did manage to get his ball back to him.
The rest of our trip has been joyfully uneventful of injury, if not sodden in 50+ percent humidity. I grew up in a swamp, I should know how to deal with this by now. For someone who has lived 38 of 40 years in dire summer heat and damp air, I really have gained very little in terms of strategies for contending with the climate. My best trick is to duck into a place with air conditioning. So it is that I’ve only progressed to 1957 standards for heat-busting technology. Not exactly a genius on this score is me.
But our two trips to the pool were interesting for getting to see toddler politics and drama in action.
Our little friend had brought two simple toys with him: the aforementioned, knee-killing ball, and a little toy boat. Say that 10 times fast. Given that parents want even 2-year-olds to appreciate the value of sharing, there still comes a time when hey, that toy is theirs and they get to play with it, too. I watched the pulling matches and the open-mouthed shock at other kids’ rudeness from our little friend’s perspective like I were viewing the war over Helen from a front-row seat.
From my vantage seat, I discerned the following rules: If there is a toy just floating in the water, it is fair game for anyone to play with it, at least for a few minutes. If the free-use toy is handed off to another child who also isn’t the owner, that kid may have to relinquish the object at any time, and they are expected to offer no resistance. If a toy is clearly in it’s owner’s use, another child may ask to see and/or play with that toy by simply putting out a hand as a sign of greeting and interest. They should also feel free, apparently, to add a verbalization—anything from “ahhhh?” to “can I see that, please?” is acceptable, depending on their fluency with language. While it is the toy owner’s prerogative not to hand over the toy, it is very bad form to say no to a polite request. Grabbing the toy from the owner is right out, and will summon apologetic parents from wherever they’ve been lounging, with the unfortunate result that the grabber is removed from the interaction, perchance the entire pool area, and most certainly will have to hand over the object un-played-with. When the toy owner does give the toy to the requester, that temporary user may play with the toy for a while, even for an extended amount of time, like 10 minutes. The amount of time appears to be commensurate with their concentration time.
I watched and learned. Sunlight reflected off of the broken water where the children stood. The fountain pumped joyfully behind them as they learned to share. And somewhere, off in the distance, I could hear Zarathustra’s epic music from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Sharing among the humans had been learned. Next, how to make fire.
But if he needed me to run after his ball again, well, that wasn’t going to happen.