Moving from Disappointment through Play

While we were on the playground, a small group went for a walk, and Thomas wasn’t included and seemed to feel left out. I (Mark) sat down beside him to give him some company. He said he’d like to go for a walk, and I said we could do that tomorrow (which we all did, with Emily). Then he started digging in the woodchips and narrating his play as I recorded portions of it:

Maybe all the animals can live here and then we can take a picture and then we can send it. Can you sit down on your bum so you don’t hit this home? We’re making it special. Can you sit on your knees? Is that better? Yeah. We have to finish and then all the bugs and the caterpillars can live with me. Only tiny, and not big, ‘cause if we make it longer or big it won’t fit. Cause caterpillars are usually long __. If you see a long snake, if you see a giant cobra, then you can make it all the way ___ (makes a motion of something long with his hands). Maybe it tries to bite – what do giant caterpillars eat – no, what do caterpillars eat, tiny ones? Snakes eat mice – I don’t know what else they eat. Oh, bears love to eat honey, but they steal honey from the bees. Mom sent the bees to Dad’s house because my mom does not like them. So you said the caterpillars like to eat small ones – small whats?  Um, worms love to eat dirt because they’re used to the dirt. But you don’t know what caterpillars eat, or do you know? I don’t. I think they eat leaves. Well they __ tomatoes. Oh, they might like tomatoes? Yeah. Want to take a picture of a caterpillar? Yeah, is there a caterpillar I should take a picture of? (Thomas peers out of the fence.) There’s no more. I haven’t seen any around. Luca arrives and somehow squirrels are mentioned. Thomas says squirrels eat acorns, but they take the hat off cause they don’t eat it. When Luca puts a rock down on the “caterpillar bed,” Thomas responds: That’s perfect, that’s just what we need. He moves the rock: Let’s just put it on the brick and we can fill it up with dirt. Then he tells Luca about the caterpillar bed he is making and lets him join in.

Sometimes when things don’t go Thomas’ way, he gets mad; other times he is disappointed. But he has asserted proudly that he never cries Perhaps, unconsciously, Thomas is also proud of his ability to make the best of a disappointing situation, as he did here, welcoming me and, later, Luca into his play. Many other times we have witnessed acts of kindness from Thomas in which he is graciously inclusive. For example, when a child was upset that their preferred playmate at the time didn’t want to play, Thomas called out from the clay table, I’ll play with you in a minute when I’m done here.