Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Snapshot of Recess

Yesterday was a good day. I had lunch duty at school for Sydney's 1st grade. Outwardly, this entails me helping kiddies with their milk boxes,straws, spreading cream cheese, and hard to open usually unhealthy "snacks" (highly processed junk). Secretly, it's a cover for helicopter moms (me), competitive PTAish moms, and special ed moms (like me again). Yesterday, I had two kids and two agendas. I was happy I had an excuse to take a peek at how things were going, as Sydney's sick BFF started back to school just one day before. So far so good. She's quite a celebrity (the BFF), she received an excellent reception and the kids got a solid education about what she's going through. Couldn't ask for more as a mom. Sydney's recess life hasn't changed much, and I'm relieved. They aren't in the same class, and they can't play together indoors until the BFF can get re-vaccinated. The mom "said all the right things" about avoiding Sydney, that she's probably one of the healthiest peers she has, but has to listen to her doctors. Who am I to judge.

As I talk about this, it still amazes me how social groups and the pecking orders exist no matter what age or where you are. Currently, Sydney is a group "leader". Last year, it was her BFF. She was very content doing everything she said!

This year Sydney tells me stories about her and Rebecca, another "leader", join their groups together to chase boys or for some other important 1st grade agenda. Once, I picked up Sydney early for a dentist appointment. She casually mentioned that she and her group worked out who would be the leader when she was absent, and when that person was absent who would be it, and so on. A true pecking order that I only really believed existed in fiction. I can't remember much from my own experience, as I switched schools every 6 months and didn't get much of a chance to experience this.

I see her across the playgournd, arms flying, talking excitedly, and amazingly, the girls all do what she says and scatter to execute some plan. Later, they performed a "dance show" they ala High School Musical 2. They all seem fairly comfortable in their black and white roles. Scary.

Leo shares the same kind of stuff with me. In Kindergarten, it was "Carey's team" which consisted of mean kids that scared him. He belonged in the group that "played family or superheros", where boys and girls played together. In 1st grade, he called the cliques, "teams". They consisted of "Bad Kids", "Tough Kids", and the "Super Hero Kids", and girls were just girls and irrelevent. Today, Leo says there's the "Football/Wall Ball Group" the "Pokeman Group", the "Super Hero Group", and the Star Wars Group". Girls continue to reside in the background.

It seems the boys float around from group to group more often, more activity driven rather than person driven. Leo reports that he decides, along with his preferred friend, on what to do. Mostly they play ball, but sometimes they join the Super Hero group. For a while, the leader was "too bossy" so it temporarily disbanded. A week later, another leader emerged, and now they play every day. Leo plays with them on occasion. He was a little anxious about coming up with a super power, but then figured something out that he was happy with.

Leo also compared this year to last year. He said last year, his class had a larger group of friends, but that this year it's smaller. I see this to be the case. Last year, there were about 8 boys that were in the same class and played together at recess in a couple of the groups. This year, they have all scattered, and Leo now plays regularly with 3 different boys, and often not at the same time. They are his old BFF, and two new boys from his class. This is the first year he's had these boys in class, so they are new friends. They are both sporty, so Leo mostly plays some kind of ball game during recess. Leo seems to prefer sports at recess over anythign else too.

I've had both over for play dates so I could really see what was happening. It seems like natural, good friendships. Pretty even - not one really dominant over the other. One is a really nice boy all around. The other has some issues, he seems a little insecure and isn't so nice to Sydney. Leo is always over accommodating at home, letting the guest lead, while at school he seems to lead every now and then. All activity driven with these boys it seems. One will walk off, alone, to find something else to do, without saying a word sometimes to his friends. That would never happen with girls! As far as Leo's role in his group(s), he seems to be more of a follower when it comes to large groups, and a leader when it's a small group, but not always. It seems more fluid with boys, depending on who has the best idea of what to do, stuff like that. The social landscape continues to amaze me.

In case you are wondering, I am posting these details for two reasons:
1) To document my kids' elementary years so I'll never forget the details, very therapeutic.
2) For those that are interested in what play grounds can be like. It can be helpful to read about older children if some readers have little ones.

I should also stress that I really don't care if Leo or Sydney are leaders or how many friends they have. When I do my observations, what I always look for are smiles and fun, typical reciprocity and self monitorization. I still can't believe that Leo can attend a regular school after what we've been through.

My post is not to boast, as some of you (and you know who you are) may incorrectly infer. Every one has different experiences, and these are mine. Just as valid as anyone else's. Happy children with choices, always has been my goal. I will continue to monitor Leo as I do in the event he needs support. Or if Sydney does!

Every play ground is different, but what unites us all is being human. Humans are social creatures that do, well, human things like make groups. No matter what we do or say, it happens.


Jenn said...

So amazing the differences between boys and girls, huh? I'm so happy Leo continues to do well. Quite a remarkable boy. And yes, I'm a helicopter mom too. I can relate ;)

Ashley loves Leo said...

Thanks Helicopter Jenn. I hope you are well, I'll have to stop by later after breakfast!