When I get started each week I take some time to review my earlier posts on the topic. Quite often I run across something I had forgotten and/or feels especially timely again and I want to re-visit it. This is the case with this post, written while we were on vacation in Maui four years ago. My daughter, at six now, has started the slippery fall of not wanting to include everyone. Some days boys are icky or she doesn’t want to invite someone into her games but back when she was two this was not the case. I learned a lot from this two year old. I hope you do too.
I’ve realized that my two year old is a remarkable teacher when it comes to this topic. She is so inclusive in everything she does. It never occurs to her that someone or something should be treated differently. For example, on the play ground, or yesterday in the pool, Sweets immediately declares any child that can walk her friend. (The non walkers are “itty bitty babies” and deserve hugs and squeals of delight but are not quite friends.) Now any of the declared friends can totally ignore her, and some of the older kids often do, but this does not matter to my girl.
She always tells everyone what she is doing, “I building a sand castle here.” or “I moving this chair here.” and invites them to play along. “Want to play with me? This is going to be fun! “Sometimes no one joins her and she does what ever she set out to do alone and then when she decides it is time for something else the invitations go out again. “I playing train now, choo choo! You want to be a train too?” Sometimes it looks like she is wearing the other kids down and finally they relent and play, often at the urging of their parents. “That little girl wants to play with you.”
Yesterday there was a little boy who clearly spoke no English and was constantly confused, and possibly a little scared of my girl incessantly approaching him with her invitations. It took 6 or 7 attempts but he finally joined Sweets with a game of pulling lounge chairs in the water. Then the little boy played happily with her until it was time to go. If I put myself in the same situation, I would probably make one or MAYBE two attempts at striking up a conversation but I would never keep going with the voracity Sweets displays. It never occurs to her that a kid who speaks a different language should not be invited or that he wouldn’t want to be included.
Last week, she was “counting money” which consisted of eleven or twelve round wooden disks and one real quarter. As I looked at her game I immediately wanted to remove the “real quarter” from her game because it didn’t match the other pretend coins she was using. The wood pieces are bigger and the quarter looked small and frankly it kind of bugged me. My girl counted and stacked these coins, playing a variety of games and all the while this real quarter was part of the group. It was never more or less important then the other pieces even though it looked so different. I really had to keep myself from influencing her.
Later as we were walking back to our hotel room Sweets decided to pick up leaves. She wanted mommy and daddy to have one too and proceeded to pick up three of the ugliest, crinkled up leaves for us to share. There were beautiful specimens available but this was of no consequence. What was important was that everyone had a leaf. Leaves no matter their shape or condition are equal to Sweets. Once again I had to fight my personal preference for the pretty one, the big one or the smooth one and I tried not to compare my leaf to another on the ground or in daddy’s hand. Mine was dried out and a large piece of it was actually missing. I would never give this leaf the time of day if I were choosing.
I then thought about how I interact with people. I definitely make judgments based on how people look. He is awfully scruffy, that girl looks like a snob (how snobby of me to think so!), that couple looks like they are having a terrible time, that store clerk looks approachable, etc. My girl never makes these type of distinctions and while I suppose they have their place when evaluating if someone looks dangerous, what might be possible if I suspended judgement until AFTER I actually spoke and or interacted with someone? What if I viewed all people as equally as my two year old views leaves?
“Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won’t come in.” ~Alan Alda