It's funny how a simple afternoon trip to the playground can stir so many emotions. Funnier, I guess, that I could be so annoyed at a 6 (?) year old. I mean, really, I'm a grown woman, why would something a random 6-year old girl said really need to bother me?
Sunday was the quintessentially perfect spring day. 30-something degrees at dawn, progressing upwards to about 65 or 70 by 4pm. Cloudless blue skies, warm sun, light breeze. Perfect.
We walked over to the school playground at about 2pm, and saw several other children that we did not know playing on the climbers. Samantha, considerably more hesitant on them than others her age, would begin to climb up something, then call, "help! help!" even though she was really just playing around for effect, and didn't actually need help. But the other children didn't know that. A 6 or 7-year old girl offered to help by showing Samantha how to do certain things. Samantha responded to her in her own way, and the girl would look quizically at me and say things like, "Why does she shout when she's talking?" (my response: "She's just talking.") or "Huh? What does 'shah' mean?" (my response: "She said 'sure.'"). It's kinda hard not to get snarky with a 1st grader.
And it really kinda got to me.
I know, I know, grow some thicker skin, lighten up, pull up my big girl panties, it's not a big deal...
But Sammi's lip started to quiver, and I suspected she may have been a bit more aware of things than she let on. I'm not sure, though, as Sammi has never shown that she's understood or been affected by the subtle nuances of conversation by other children, has never understood the sideways looks or avoidance of other children who don't want to play with a "baby", or who don't want to be hugged by some little girl trying to throw her arms around them. I asked her if she wanted to go play on the other playground nearby, which has swings, and she did.
Some more random children on the other playground, doing their own things, not really an issue (although I did get a little bit irritable with one little boy who, impatiently waiting behind Samantha for his turn on the jungle gym, said, "Does she even know how to do the jungle gym?" I responded, "No, but she's got to try in order to learn." The boy's father jumped in and reminded the boy that it took him about a hundred tries before he was able to do it - I love the parents around here!). But they soon cleared out and we were alone.
For a few minutes.
Merciful joy, exquisite timing, a wonderfully familiar face.
A child from Sammi's class, a little girl about a head taller and 6 months older, with her grandmother. The difference in her presence was staggering. She wanted to play with Samantha. She understood what Samantha was saying. She didn't patronize her, and actually enjoyed their interaction.
And you know what?
She couldn't propel herself on the swings, either.
And she was scared to go down the slide on her tummy, something Samantha's been able to do forever.
And they had fun.
This really, really reinforces our reasons for wanting to keep Samantha in her home school, wanting her to move along with her typical peers. They like her. They protect her. They encourage her. They understand her. And they live in the neighborhood.
The ones that know her are like night and day contrasted against the ones that don't.
And that, friends, is the support system I'm so happy has been put in place, the ball I am so happy has begun to roll.
The next step will be to turn those others into Ones That Know Her, too.