Very often, the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already. That is why children's games are so important. They are always pretending to be grown-ups - playing soldiers, playing shop. But all the time, they are hardening their muscles and sharpening their wits so that the pretence of being grown-up helps them to grow up in earnest.

~C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Monday, October 31, 2011

Serious fun

Last Friday I had a really fun day planned.  In the morning, Oliver and I were headed to the Little Gym for his second class, then we were headed to a friend's house to squeeze in a lunch playdate before heading home for a nap to rest up for a little Trick-or-Treating in the afternoon.  I was excited.

Oliver was not.

First, Little Gym.  Let me back up a little to the first class last week.  I didn't know how he would react to a class like this and I didn't know what we would be doing the first week.  Well, he wasn't into the singing, shaking bells, saying his name, and pointing to body parts that they started with as a warm up.  No surprise there - this was a new place and Oliver always needs to settle in for a little while before he joins in.  But, by the time we were walking and running in a circle he was following along willingly, even if a little less enthusiastically than the other kids.  Then they let him go off to do whatever he wanted on the mats and equipment.  Well, that did it - he was into it.  He walked the balance beam and jumped off the end (holding my fingers of course).  He ran from the balance beam to the bars where he would swing and then drop down.  He jumped off of the spring board.  When they called us back together for the "skill building" activity, he paid attention and was ready to give jumping and forward rolls a try.  It was clear he was having a grand old time.

So naturally, I expected the second week to go just as well.  I even hoped maybe he would participate with shaking the bells.  But no.  He didn't want to do anything.  Walk in a circle?  Nope, I'll just sit thanks.  Run in a circle?  Still sitting.  Play with a parachute?  Not having it.  Free time?  Ok, I'll try this stuff out again.  Wait.  Some things have changed since last week.  That's not right.  Mommy, fix it.

At this point, I was feeling just a tiny bit frustrated (ok, more like really frustrated).  How about the balance beam, Oliver?  Well that was ok with him, but he had no intention of getting excited like he did last week.  And I started to remember that 1) there were a lot more kids there this week, which was a bit overwhelming, 2) he was tired from not going to sleep until long after he was in bed and waking up really early for no reason at all, and 3) I'm not doing this for me - I'm doing this for Oliver.

We made it through the rest of class pretty well, with just a few tears when another kid took the ball he was playing with at the end.  At the car, I asked him if he had fun.  He said yes.

Then we headed off to the playdate, which went great, and home for a nap.  He was asleep in minutes. I had to wake him up to go on our Halloween adventure.  I was excited to take him trick-or-treating in his cute little construction worker costume.  And at first I thought he was going to have a great time.

But, Oliver hardly smiled the whole time.  He didn't talk much.  We went with a friend he had been talking about and asking about for weeks, but when she got there he didn't want to play with her.  He just stared around him with his super serious face.

I wanted smiles and excitement.  He wasn't showing any of that.  I wasn't sure he was having a good time at all.  I kept trying to tease a little smile out of him, but he was just so subdued.  Then we got back to the car, and he completely surprised me.  He told me we could take his costume off because he was done "Halloween Treating."  And then, you know what he said all on his own?

"I had fun."  That's right.  I never would have guessed it, but he was having fun.

Friday reminded me that Oliver's personality is quiet and observant.  He doesn't get upset by new situations or a lot of people, but he doesn't get excited by them either.  He stops talking and smiling and just takes it all in.  It's not that I don't know this, it's just that I forget.  Sometimes I'm the one who gets excited, while Oliver takes in the world around him, notices details, and has a quieter kind of fun.  And now, looking back at the pictures, I can see a few glimmers of the fun he was having.  I was just too busy wanting him to be something other than he was to appreciate that these little moments could tell me more about how he was feeling than all the serious faces he could put on.