The importance of playing.
“Uncle Pointy, never mind them, come and play with me.” She’s my niece and just crested five years old. I’m sitting around a picnic table in the garden with extended family after consuming a leisurely BBQ and having a good old gab in the sunshine which is splitting the trees, but she grabs my hand and tugs me away. I resist but am useless, because kids somehow know I still like a play.
We agree a compromise, I sit cross-legged on the blanket in the garden the youngest addition to the clan, my grandson, has been rolling about on. It was hand-made by his grandmother from the other side and is a fine piece of handicraft. It will become the sort of valued object that gets handed down through the generations. I’ve seen hand-made christening shawls that go back a century.
I sit cross-legged with her and she decides the hair I’ve recently decided to grow a bit longer needs the attentions of a serious stylist. That would be her. She’s quite bossy, a right little Miss in her own way.
For whatever reason, I decide to tell her there’s a comb in the study on the right hand side of my desk. Reading the momentary look of confusion on her face, I explain to her about right and left and she’s off like a bullet up the garden and back into the house on a mission.
She’s very definitely one of life’s shinier pennies and comes back with my comb in one hand but my clothes brush rather than a hair brush in the other, a slight misapprehension on her part which I decide to leave alone. She gets to work on my tresses despite the sniggers from the watchers from the adjacent table.
I decide it’s a bullet I’m just going to have to take, so I relax. I’m quite at home with looking like an idiot.
She ignores them and gets down to some serious styling. I sit there on the blanket and suffer in silence, because I know she’s pleased to have a compliant adult to practise the coiffeur arts a full head of hair like mine requires. After a while, I ignore the sniggers too. The comb I can take, it’s the bristly clothes brush being pulled over my ear that requires a bit of fortitude. I tell her, and she’s more careful about the down strokes.
A kind and loving heart, and you can’t fault anyone for that, but you do have to armour it up a bit for the travails of life ahead of them.
She’s very smart, extremely bright, enchanting and everyone across the whole extended family loves her. For that very reason, I’ve always given her a hard time. Kicked her ass, to be frank. To those that are given, more is expected. My parents taught me that lesson a long time ago. She’s kin and blood and I’d walk into traffic for her without a micro-second of hesitation. I of course love her, but have always played the part of grumpy uncle Pointy, I owe her that duty.
Being yet another one genuflecting around a pedestal with her atop of it would be a disservice to such a darling little heart.
I watched her offer her minutely plaited and bead encrusted locks to my grandson after I’d specifically warned her he likes to grab for hair and doesn’t know how to let go. I tell her off. Half an hour later, I find her sitting beside him doing exactly the same thing again, because she knows it makes him happy in a baby way, but she’s a tough girl who can handle the resulting tugs.
She is the right stuff, without a frigging doubt. I choose not to notice her being naughty yet again.
Sunday, I go into the study because everyone knows that’s my writing day. I close the door, it means stay out for the afternoon, it’s my time which I need alone; everybody respects that. I’m not good at being disturbed when I’m in the groove and it’s starting to flow.
Door opens, carefully closed shut, and she’s by my side, but doesn’t touch me or speak. Boy does she have the smarts; she knows I’m listening to some music as I hack my way through a rainforest with manic concentration towards a piece I’m working on.
She stands there, about three-foot high and exactly two point four inches from my right hand side without touching me while I type away and listen to the orchestral music. I continue typing, determined to be equally as stubborn and ignoring her for a full five minutes to make a hard point.
Boy, is she tough.
Okay. I give up. Sod it. I surface and come out of the thing because I know this must be a real emergency for a five-year old to invade that old grumpy bastard Pointman’s space.
Stop the show. Wait one, gimme a mo, I’ll stop the music. Mozart and his clarinet concerto in A major gets paused and I put a hand on her shoulder and ask her what’s up? She’s been deeply offended and is very pissed off. This is serious business for a five-year old. As I’ve put my hand on her, she advances in for a cuddle as she explains the grievous hurt she’s experienced. She instinctively knows about physical permissions. This kiddo has all the smarts. The guilt dagger stabs deep into my heart; just when did I become so permission-required remote a person for children?
“Two men said I eat like an animal” she tells me.
This one already knows the ounce weight of words, and how hurtful they can be on a tender heart.
It’s of course two of my sons she’s referring to. We’re a bit more roughty toughty in what is essentially an all male household and it was a harmless but slightly biting remark. It’s just the usual ragging on each other we do, but she’s not used to the casual intensity it. Her Mom, who could literally sense there was a problem with her baby at a five kilometre distance, appears in the study and after I prod, the little woman tells her Mommy why she was so upset.
Mom leads her out of uncle Pointman’s study to hunt down the two men for the big reconciliation.
The two bad men, realising belatedly how they might have inadvertently hurt the feelings of a five-year old, seriously repent and her hurt feelings are suitably assuaged with a few cuddles and apologies from her cousins. It’s all good stuff because there’s no evil intent there. Her mommy enjoyed the funny side of her characterising the two “men” straight away.
The kiddo already has a way with words. This is one you’d keep an eye on, because the force is strong in her, as Darth would say.
She’s all happy again and goes raiding into my collection of hats, and comes up with her own unique combination of a look with a few bits of fun which are just her. Like all children, there’s a simple joy about her. She’d charm the birds out of the trees. I abandon the writing stuff and start to play with her. I’m still pretty good on the tickling front, especially with a sparkly child.
You do have to get your priorities in life straight. You can always go back to working on a piece of prose, but missing an opportunity to play with a child is something you’ll never get back. Some things you jump into the moment of, and to hell with anything else.
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