Thursday, September 18, 2008

Village? A Little Help Here . . .

There's kind of an unspoken rule at the playground.

Or so I thought.

I have always believed that when at the playground, one doesn't only keep a lookout for their own kid, but also the well being of other children.

If a kid trips at your feet, you help them up.

If a child can not find their parent, you assist.

If a little one is about to run into the path of moving swing, you either physically stop the swing, or the child - whichever you can reach more quickly.

I've been attempting to open my circle a bit by getting out to parks with Zane more frequently and striking up conversations with mother's and/or nanny's I've never met. As I have found that way too often I have met a new parent and shared a quick chat without ever really properly introducing myself.

Today, I had the good fortune of bumping into a parent who had taken my toddler tunes class with her daughter. She introduced me to her friend and we began a conversation about music classes in the area. I glanced over to see Zane playing with a broken branch - climbing it, etc. It was big enough for climbing, having been broken from a nearby tree during last Saturday's storm.

I wrote the name of an area music class that I would recommend on the back of my card and handed it to the mom I had just met for the first time, and then looked up to see that Zane was no longer on the branch. I turned. Turned again. Spun in a circle.

I couldn't find him.

I began jogging back and forth, glancing every which way.

I couldn't find him.

My two friends immediately branched out. The park was crawling with children, parents, and Nanny's, so I was certain that he was still in the area and that I just couldn't see him, but the painful fear that struck my core was almost paralyzing. An inner mantra of "Find him. Find him. Find him," ran on a continual loop as I realized that I needed help. So, I stood in the middle of the playground and yelled loudly, "Everyone! I can't find my son. Please start yelling, Zane!"

My two friends continued looking. A Nanny began to look. And the others?

They looked up. And then looked back down. No one else moved.

A dad even chuckled and apathetically "hollered" Zane's name.

I'm running back and forth, in and out of equipment, and up and down ladders, while the world just goes on.

Oh. My. God. Help me. Jesus. Please. I can't find my boy.

Finally, one of my friends said, "There he is! He's in that tree".

And sure enough, my son, dressed in brown's and sage green (brilliant fashion choice for a fall day), was in a tree - not very high - not even out of the playground vicinity, but definitely camouflaged by the brown bark and greenery of the tree. I doubt he could see or even hear the three of us running around and yelling . . . he was having too much fun and there was a lot of other playground noise to drown us out. It wasn't even a situation where I could scold him. He was completely in range. I just couldn't see him.

My friend came over.

"Are you ok?"

"Yeah. But I feel like my heart was just ripped out of my chest".


She continued. Softly.

"Why didn't anyone else stop and help you?"

"I don't know. I just don't know."

I thanked her.

I turned around and very pleasantly, (although I was seething), announced, "Um, thanks everyone! We found him. It's all good!"

But it's not all good.

The playground is where we encourage our children to try new challenges. It's where imaginations turn tunnel-slides into boats, or in Zane's case, into a dog crate at the pet store. It's even the place to climb a tree. It's one of the developmental hot spots for children. It's their scene! It's also a tiny village: a gathering place for parents or caregivers and their children. It's where we teach our children to play nicely, take new risks, share, take turns, and respect others. Collectively. Parents working together.

I think we adults may need a refresher course in the village mentality.

And I'll be dressing Zane in bright primary colors for our next park outing.

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