This week I have been confronted by two surprising details about myself. I am a wuss. I am a total hypocrite.
This lesson brings me back t0 the playground – a paradise (especially our local wonderland that is ‘Livvi’s Place’), with complex niche groups restricted by the tiny territory – the sandpit. Here, while operating as security, translator and peace worker you can read a book. Oh no I wrote that wrong – sit on a book! Something often required when stuck for long periods of time on the sidelines busily trying to hold back a lemming baby from capsizing out onto the ground.
There is much to observe from the edge of the sandpit, and I was surprised to realise that I am still a shy little girl in a big bright world. This lesson is brought about after some time focussing on that short lived but intense relationship – the playground friend.
As we arrive at the playground, Matilda bounds around the perimeter skipping or hopping with the sheer delight of being free, until some treasure catches her eye. It may be a Dora t-shirt or a Hoot backpack, (if it is a picture of that cheeky Peppa Pig – screams of delight may erupt from her). Matilda quickly makes a beeline to the owner of that coveted item. She has found a friend.
At the opening of this Act during which play and running about may take up to three hours, I lead her out of her comfort zone with verbal prompts such as – ‘say hi’ and ‘ask them what their name is’. Holding my hand tightly, Matilda cautiously slides up closer to her new friend, and after a minute or two of mumbled greetings…they are off.
Matilda seems elated as she is freed to gallop away with her shiny new playmate. Children don’t often need to chit chat after that. Their conversations are short, simple and direction based. ‘Do you want to go over there?’…or…’I’m going in the sandpit – me too!’. Sometimes they love to jump and skip together. Can you imagine that – pure joy born from synchronised bouncing?
Often Matilda will run off so fast that I am left (literally holding the baby) near the other Mum. THEN I have to try and make introductions, and I really don’t want to! If we are standing side to side, I try and say hi quickly….otherwise the space becomes uncomfortable. If there is a lot of space between us, I tend to work up to it, I might even have to repeat myself as my voice comes out so tiny and young. I do not like it…no I do not like it at all! I find it really difficult and a bit desperate to say my name…’Hi, I’m Elissa’. Very formal and very direct – but where have I left any opportunity for actual conversation? ‘Hi, how are you?’ That comes out nice, but perhaps a bit random. Often the mother doesn’t hear me ask, or looks at me with mild shock that I have spoken and acknowledged her over the invisible barrier that separates us, as if we watch our children playing through a glass window.
I have always been shy and never used to raise my hand in class. I used to always get anxious before parties or going to places where I would meet mostly strangers, or know I was going to be judged – such as the School Formal. I needed reassurances from my Mum or sister before I could walk out the door. This could take hours, and many changes of clothes.
I felt that I had grown out of it. I have travelled around and outside or Australia by myself without worrying about meeting new people. I have gone to the theatre, restaurants, movies, and cafes and stayed in hostels all by myself. Losing yourself in the pages of a book is a good way to travel alone. A girl reading alone seems less inviting than a girl staring into space and that way you can avoid random conversations, or small talk when you are squeezed uncomfortably in the middle of a row on the plane. That’s where they usually like to seat girls alone – between big burly businessmen, as I discovered.
Without a book to hide behind at the playground, I am exposed. I am often trailing Matilda as she scurries about, and if I do sit, it is near the other Mum who has a similar invisible cord to her child as they lead us in their play. I don’t always feel like going through the motions making small talk. It takes energy and sometimes I just want to have a little quiet sit down, read a magazine and glance towards MJ every few minutes and perhaps even rest.
When I am talking…talking…talking it can sometimes makes my pelvic pain truly sore. You don’t realise how much you use your stomach muscles to talk until it pains you to do so. Is it fair to expect my child to do the same? To force her to make small talk before their play begins…does it matter? Why do children need to meet and use names when all they want to do is run and rush about? Naming causes them to pause and what does it teach them? To always introduce themselves to strangers? In a world of stranger danger is that what we really want?
I am perplexed and confused, and as we reach the weekend I am looking forward to some quiet time at our park…but this time I am going to let Matilda loose and observe her from afar. She can talk if she wants, but I’m going to be close by reading the paper and keep my hypocrisy hidden within…paradise is yours to explore my darlings!