I learned something today while watching my 4 year old play that could have saved my marriage. Seriously.
We often have great play dates, actually we have epic marathon play dates, but today we decided to keep it to two hours at the park. As usual, my middle child loves to go off on her own and experience and play by herself with the "others around". She is still engaged because she often adds her vocal opinion; over time I've appreciated the fact that she is engaging in multiple ways.
My hands-off style of playground supervision is shared with my other mom friends. This evening, two of us observed and laughed, chatted and shared as our kids learned to climb the climbing wall, go down slides on their own and even push each other in the swings. Nothing unusual. A bit into the playground fun, my middle child peaks the interest of a boy who begins to chase her and follow her on the playground. I honestly do not think anything of it except that it was odd that she was actually reciprocating the attention. The two play together heading over to the swings while our core group continued their imaginative playground fun.
This is the moment when I begin to learn... I would like to say that I did not hear ANY of the conversation between my daughter and this little boy. I was only able to observe body language. I did not interfere until the end and I learned so much through this very short interaction.
1. My daughter and the boy go to the swing together. Something happens where he displaces her on the swing (because I'm observing 2 groups of action- her action and the other core group's action- I miss the pivotal event). The little boy is sitting on the swing smiling. She walks away with her signature attitude, arms folded, brow furrowed and slightly stomping as she walks. She goes to sit down on the stairs leading up to the slide.
This is when I became fully engaged in the action.
2. The little boy jumps up from the swing. He runs over. His body language is consoling. Her body language is demonstrative (it looks like she is explaining how she was wronged). She still looks upset. He seems to keep asking her why.
3. The little boy leads her back to the swing. He helps her in and buckles her into the swing. She still looks upset. He begins to push her. With every push she begins to look happier. Finally once she was super pleased she jumped off the swing and started to run. This is when I jumped in. I had her go back and push him because he worked so hard to make things better. She pushed him until she had to use the car potty.
So then when we got home I asked... "What did you and the little boy talk about? Why did you get upset?"
Her: Well we agreed that I would push him in the swing, but then when he got to the swing he wanted to do it himself.
Me: Oh wow. So then when you guys went back to the swing what happened?
Her: Well, then we took turns pushing each other.
What did I learn that could have saved my marriage:
1. When you embark on your journey (marriage)... it's together. Sometimes they'll forget that you are on the same team. Sometimes you may forget that you are on the same team. What matters most is if someone remembers your original agreement and has the courage to step up and save the team. My daughter reminded the little boy that they agreed to push each other on the swings.
2. In heterosexual relationships, if the wife is upset and the husband notices, don't punish him. Work together but let him take the lead in making you happy (rectifying the situation). Punishing a person that is trying is pointless. My daughter was visibly upset when the little boy decided not to go with their original plan. She allowed him to lead her back toward their agreement and they worked together so that each person was happy.
3. Return the favor. When you're in a relationship if a person works really hard to make you happy... make sure that you turn around and make their day too. I did not let my daughter leave once she was happy. She pushed the little boy until he smiled as well... and until she had to pee.
4. Finally, actions speak louder than words. You don't have to yell. Sometimes you do. But honestly, you can change a person's behavior and opinion with action. My daughter and the little boy did not yell at each other or even cry. If you weren't paying attention you would not have noticed that something was wrong. Major attitude changes occurred because of actions rather than yelling.
I think life is all about making the most of what you have and when you choose to do that with another person, you find yourself at the crossroads of the uneasy road ahead. Maybe I am reading into this playground situation too deeply, or maybe I am looking for answers and inspiration. Either way , I witnessed small actions rectifying a potential lose-lose or lose-win situation to make it a win-win. If we could all remember to respect the other person, practice strong emotional intelligence, refuse to punish others and reciprocate happiness a lot more marriages and relationships would not sour. Happy loving!
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working in edtech. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.