The air was crisp, the breeze was cool, and the sky was dramatically blue at kindergarten recess on Monday, a welcome change from the gloomy gray Mother’s Day sky. Over at the gaga pit, things seemed to be going well for my friend M.
I have to watch him carefully, since his temperament is a bit like those poblano peppers that yesterday’s recipe warned me about. They tend to be mild but can occasionally be very spicy. On this occasion, M. was employing the “avoid the ball” strategy, and it was working well for him, even when the second ball was added to the pit. He didn’t try to get anyone out. Instead, he just used his quickness and precocious avoidance strategies to evade every swatted ball. As a result, he remained in the pit for most of the recess time. His one “out” was clear-cut. He accepted his fate without dispute or explosion.
When the whistle blew to end recess, I girded myself for some sort of event. M. doesn’t always appreciate transitions. M. grabbed the gator ball and hugged it vigorously, smooshing it so that it resembled an oversized raisin. He began walking in the opposite direction of the pit’s entrance. Another student readily deposited the other ball in the mesh bag that the kindergarten teacher held open. M. showed no inclination to follow this example. The teacher repeated her earlier direction. “Line up and bring the ball to me, please.” M. showed little interest in that direction. He continued in the opposite direction. Then, he threw the ball toward the far wall of the pit. At this point, another kindergartener stepped into the situation. He scooped up the ball, now back in its plump (non-raisin) condition, and ran it over toward that open mesh bag. M. was not pleased. The spice was rising. “Hey! Give me back that ball!” he demanded.
“I’m just putting it in the bag,” the other kindergartener said as he dropped the ball in the bag.
M. was enraged. This was his squishy ball, and he was having a good time turning it into a raisin and throwing it against the gaga pit wall. He began expressing his displeasure with what we professionals call “red language.” By kindergarten standards it was more habanero than poblano.
I stepped between the combatants, and escorted M. toward the alternate entrance to the building. He fumed. “I don’t like that boy. He is not my friend.”
“Well, M., he was just trying to do what the teacher had asked you to do. He was putting the ball away, since recess was over.”
“I was going to do that! He shouldn’t have taken it from me. I’m not going to be nice to him.”
“That’s too bad, M. I don’t think he really did anything wrong. He picked the ball up off the ground. He didn’t take it from your hands.”
M. was not swayed. This was a grievous wrong that the boy had done, and it called for a proportionally harsh consequence. As we entered the building, M. imposed his final sentence.
“I don’t care. I’m not ever going to play with him. I will never have a play date with him, even when we are in high school!” Ouch!
A little while later we paused in front of a cleared-off bulletin board to pull out a few stray staples that M. noticed along the bottom edges. This required some persistence and concentration. He dropped the subject of the egregious gaga transgression.