Play is a great endeavor leading to acceptance, belonging and joy

Vivian Hazell
Children on playground

At the Treffert Center, we are reminded on a daily basis that children already know what we work hard to remember. Play is a great endeavor leading to acceptance, belonging and joy. We are thankful to the mother who shared the truth she learned from her young daughter.

 
A heartwarming thing happened to my kids and I at the park this evening. We were playing on the playground, and across the way there was a girl acting out and throwing a tantrum. I thought to myself, “How embarrassing that girl is acting out in public like that, what a mess,” and caught myself being judgmental. I should have known better than to let my mind think that when I myself have been there before several times with my own toddlers. My daughter, however, wanted someone to play with, so she walked over and asked the girl to play and the girl screamed in her face, “I DON’T WANT NEW FRIENDS!” Saddened by this, my daughter walked back over to me upset and I told her it will be OK, and just to play by me.

Then the little girl got on her scooter and was riding around the playground. My daughter started chasing her to play! She had set down a toy doll and my daughter picked it up. The girl then lashed out on her and hit her. My daughter ran over to me crying and I told her to stay by me and give the girl some space. Then a lady walked over to the girl and handed her a bag of toys, and the girl went on the grass alone and sat down to play with the toys. I looked away for a second to push my son on the swings and saw my daughter walking back over! I silently watched to see what would happen on her third attempt to play with this girl.


To my surprise they started playing with play dough and dolls and toy makeup. My daughter was talking a lot and playing nice even when the other girl remained silent and yanked stuff out of her hands. I let them play for a while and then walked over to tell my daughter it was time to go home. The lady on the park bench, who I assumed was the girl's mother, was reading a book called “How to Fight Autism and Win.” She came over to me with tears in her eyes and said, "Thank you so much." I immediately got emotional when I realized the lady was not her mother, but rather her therapist/aid and the girl was severely autistic. The lady had been working with the girl trying to get her to learn to be social at the park with other kids and had no success. Until my daughter, who is persistent when it comes to making friends. And I instantly just felt so much love for my sweet girl, who makes friends wherever she goes and has so much love to give and doesn’t see anything but a person. She doesn’t see skin color, she doesn’t see size or shape, she doesn’t care if you have slow speech, or down syndrome or autism or even a missing limb. She just wants to be friends with everybody. And it was so humbling and brought me back down to earth because in that moment my daughter taught me such an important lesson and reminded me not to be quick to judge and that everybody deserves to be loved and have a friend and I’m so grateful for her.

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Vivian Hazell

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