At a park recently, I observed two boys from a distance – two young toddler boys – two boys who didn’t know each other – their two dads a good distance away, talking together.
One of the little guys had a stick and began tap, tap, tapping at the tree they stood near. I could see the flicker of interest in the other little boy and he glanced around and found a stick of his own.
Now there were two little boys tap, tap, tapping at the tree – side by side.
And then, one boy reached for the other boy’s stick – both of them holding on tight – me holding my breath – a silent stand-off – what will happen now in this new relationship?
No words were spoken – just a stare-down – then a wordless offer – take my stick, I’ll take yours.
And so it was – two boys pound, pound, pounding now at the tree trunk – two boys stopping, trading sticks – pounding some more, and so it continued, over and over.
I wish I’d had a video of this beautiful interaction totally between two young toddlers. There was no adult right there to offer input, to tell them “we don’t play with sticks”, or to caution them “be careful” or to monitor the “stick exchange” for them, to tell them, “remember to share”, and then remark on their ensuing play.
These two little guys owned this moment.
They figured out a plan, their play was enriched.
For me – it was a powerful glimpse into the possibilities that abound if, as parents, we could allow ourselves the time to wait – to observe and trust our children’s social interactions, to let them unfold independently before we interrupt, suggest, guide, arrange, comment, fix.
For those two boys, all on their own, grew an inch that day – toward friendship.
Then it was time to leave. Both boys dropped their sticks and ran off- each to their own dad, each to their own car.
A very fun day at the park.