I took the kids to the playground on Saturday. Scott was playing a tennis match, and the weather was glorious. My kids were still rebounding from the long car drive and even though they were physically tired from the trip, their arms and legs and minds needed a good airing out. I needed to get out, too, into the sunshine, and away from the piles of post-trip laundry.
L. lasted about one minute before he fell apart, and we went to the van for his drawing book. He sat under a tree way beyond the playground fence where he could sketch in peace, but still where I could see a corner of his orange t-shirt, poking out from the trunk of the tree. He wanted his space, some quiet time to draw, some time to focus, and NO people.
T., on the other hand, launched herself right into the fray of a basketball game underway on the small court by the playground. There were four or five older boys, ranging in age from 9 to probably 12 or 13. She watched for a couple of minutes and then darted in--a little figure in pink--and tried to steal the ball from the biggest kid. I held my breath. Would they knock her down? Would she get hurt? Should I put a stop to this? But I didn't want to curb her impulses, and inadvertently teach her that she couldn't hold her own; that the small court there wasn't a place for her, or that there were things she couldn't do.
I stood back and watched, and bit my lip. The older boys were startled and amused by this slip of a kid in a pink Tinkerbell shirt and leggings who was interrupting their game. In the end they grew impatient with her, big-brother style, and told her to leave. She stood back, hands on hips, in a pose I've seen all too often lately. Then, without a second of hesitation, she threw herself at the biggest kid when he wasn't looking and slapped the ball right out of his hand. She shot at the hoop and missed, of course, but the basket itself didn't matter.
What mattered was that she'd done it. She was glowing with pride that she'd played, and stolen the ball, and held her own--for a few minutes. It was all about the element of surprise, I know; all about what an improbable opponent she was to those boys, my little exclamation point of a girl, holding her own against those bigger kids, who could have plowed her over so easily. Maybe she'll always have this advantage: she'll be the small girl in pink, taking people by surprise, stopping them in their tracks, always dreaming her big, beautiful dreams.