Tuesday, January 28, 2014
To the parents of the kids who played "Duck Duck Goose" with Mr Bunches tonight (and the kids) (Life With Unicorns)
You both had your sets of kids there, in the McDonald's Playland, and your kids all obviously knew each other and got along together, so when Mr Bunches showed up ready to play, you maybe didn't even notice him and if you did notice him it probably didn't seem all that important to you that this other little kid was suddenly there, playing on the slides and mixing in with all of your kids.
You maybe didn't notice, but I did. As I sat with Mr F, eating our dinner and watching Mr Bunches watch this group of kids that was playing together and all knew each other, I saw, again, as I have so many times before, that Mr Bunches wanted to be part of the game.
And I expected, as so many times before, that he would not.
He never gets to be part of the game, not really, not like other kids can just join in, because while you don't always pick up on it right away and it's hard to notice on a busy noisy playground, Mr Bunches doesn't quite know how. He's not quite sure how to join in and his comments and his reactions and his mannerisms mark him as different. He calls kids "Kid," or "baby" or "girl," and when we remind him to tell them his name, or ask their name, he (as often as not) says "Tell my name" or something else, and that's only the beginning of how he is different, a difference kids pick up on far faster than adults.
Pick up on, and walk away from, as often as not.
So tonight I figured that he would want to join in the slide game, and that he would not get to, that he would hang out on the fringes of the slide game, as he'd hung out on the fringes of so many games before, tag, chase, guns, baseball, and that eventually he would realize that he was not part of the game, no matter how much he wanted to be, and he would drift away, and I would play with him instead, to cheer him up (a poor substitute, a daddy clambering around with Mr F in tow, to keep Mr F from running away, trying to slide or play tag, but what is to be done? He wants to slide and play tag and nobody else will, as often as not.)
But your kids, those kids, you kids, didn't exclude him. Instead, you let him into the slide game -- letting him slide into you at the bottom of the slide the way you were doing to each other, and sliding into him, too, making him part of the game.
I don't know what you made of it when his voice rang out above the clamor of the Playland:
"DAD! I'M SLIDING!"
but I know what I made of it: he was happy and he was part of the game and you did that.
That wasn't even the best part.
Then, when all the kids decided to play Duck Duck Goose, one of the girls grabbed Mr Bunches by the arm and put him in the circle, where the other kids had left a space for him.
Left a space for him! Brought him in! And then tagged him and made him the goose and when he didn't catch the boy before he got around the circle, watched and smiled and giggled as Mr Bunches went around the circle:
duck duck duck duck goose
and one of the kids got up and chased him and tagged him, and everyone laughed, even Mr Bunches.
But that wasn't even the best part, either.
The best part came three turns later, when Mr Bunches, who isn't very fast, couldn't avoid getting tagged. Four times in a row he was the goose, four times in a row he couldn't get around the circle before getting tagged, four times! He wasn't upset, he wasn't sad, but he was a little concerned: He couldn't stop being the goose and he wanted to be in the circle. He wasn't sure what to do. I could tell.
And one of the other girls said "Pick me."
Mr Bunches picked her.
duck duck duck duck goose
and he took off running in his Mr Bunches way, and the girl stood up and made a show of going after him and reached out her hand and almost almost almost touched him
(she could totally have touched him)
and he got around the circle to where they began and I yelled it too,
as three of the other kids said the same thing, and he sat down.
Part of the group.
You probably didn't think anything of it, this little boy who was a little strange, maybe, coming into the Playland and jumping into the game with your kids and being helped out.
But I did, and I meant it when, at the end, I said "Tell your kids thanks for playing with him."
We went home, and saw Sweetie, and I said "Tell Mommy what you did," and Mr Bunches, still red-faced and flushed with excitement said:
"I had friends!"
It probably didn't seem like that big a deal to you.
But it was huge for us.
So thanks again.