How Wyatt Saved Daphne Better Than I Could

I know I just posted yesterday about how awesome I think Daphne and Wyatt's relationship is - but I had to tell this story.

On Wednesdays, several moms who belong to my church and who live in the area (Washington Heights/Inwood) come together for "Play Group". It's a very mild name for what this actually is, which is a weekly co-op arrangement where beginning at ten o'clock, all our kids (ages infant through grade school) meet at our awesome church building for half-an-hour of singing and reading whatever songs and books have to do with the day's theme, then we move to the larger primary room where stations are set up for exploratory play with things like coloring pages, puzzles, a reading corner, a craft, etc. Then, after a half an hour of that kind of awesomeness, we all move to the cultural hall downstairs and let the kids run and throw balls and play with each other and each others' toys while the moms sit and chat and look on at all the cuteness.

Oh, and have a picnic lunch all together. Usually the kids end up sharing and stealing each others' food 'cause of course, what mom brought is always SO BORING!

I love the community of it. All of us LDS mothers with very young kids living in a very different (and often difficult!) city, banding together to create a place and a thing for our kids to enjoy. It is a truly awesome arrangement, and something the kids and I look brightly forward to each week.

Today was 'sports theme' so I brought Daphne's bumpy green ball and two of the little blue racquetballs that Bill brought home for the kids yesterday (job interview swag). This was going to be Wyatt's first time trying out his very own brand new birthday scooter in the gym, and he was extatic! On the chilly, fifteen minute walk to the church, I attempted to drill the idea that we will share all the toys we brought - even the scooter! - with all the kids there.

After all, before Wyatt had a scooter of his very own, all the other kids shared their scooters with him.

Wyatt was concerned about this. Not about sharing, but about how the whole thing would play out. What if one of the kids thought his scooter was theirs?

I assured him that nobody would accidentally take his scooter home. We wrote his name on it, remember? Twice. I told him that the moms help the kids gather their things, and the mom would notice it wasn't their scooter if one of the kids accidentally picked Wyatt's scooter up.

But what if we're taking turns, and someone won't get off when it's the next persons turn?

I can always set my timer. Everyone respects the timer.

Turns out Wyatt wasn't the one I needed to worry about.

When we got to play group, Wyatt immediately took off on his scooter, speeding around the gym with pure glee written all over his face. Oh, the joy! I helped Daphne and Henry out of their coats, and handed them each one of the balls I had brought. They happily scampered off to play. I plunked down next to Amber and began my fix of mom-chat.

I soon noticed a pattern. Daphne would be playing with a ball, and another kid would come and take it away. At first she'd just look confused, and head toward another toy. Then as soon as it was clear the toy was a lot of fun, another kid would come and take it from her. Soon confusion turned to disappointment. Her shoulders would slump and her brows would furrow and her lips would frown. I kept making suggestions, and she kept getting thwarted.

Then, one of the girls came up to me and informed me that she and another girl were playing by themselves and they didn't want Daphne to keep coming around because they really didn't want any "little kids" messing things up.

It hurt my heart to hear so blatantly how much my spunky little girl was unwanted, today. Now, this girl is five and Daphne has just turned three - but there've been plenty of times this girl has sought out Daphne as a playmate. I thought they were friends.

They are friends - I know that for some kids it can be hard to navigate more than one friendship at a time. Heck - that's hard for some adults! It's just something that I don't fully understand.

I nodded to this girl, told her I understood, and immediately went in search of my little daughter. I found her walking half-heartedly after her green ball that was rolling away from her. I asked her if she would please play with me, and she perked up.

We played catch (which she's unbelievably good at) for a few minutes before another kid came and stole our ball.


I asked Daphne if she wanted to find another ball, but spirits raised, she told me that no, it was fine, she was going to play with the other kids.

I know I shouldn't interfere - but it was almost more than I could stand. So I flagged Wyatt down. He sped over on his scooter, screeching to a halt right in front of me. The exhilleration of his speedy steed still played at the edges of his eyes and his smile. "Yeah, Mom?"

I praised him for his maneuverability. he beamed. I told him that Daphne was feeling a little bit left out because she was having a hard time finding someone to play with her. He frowned, surveyed his surroundings, nodded once and said, "Okay, Mom."

As he sped off, again, he called to Daphne, "Daph! Chase me!"

I watched her for a moment chasing Wyatt and their friend Connor on their scooters. Her laughter was a balm.

Ten minutes later, her heart-broken cry echoed through the cultural hall. I walked over to where she was sitting with a few other kids - when had she stopped chasing her brother? - they were looking at a cool drawing/tracing toy that one of the girls had brought. I tried to take in the scene objectively as I approached - one of the kids was telling Daphne that she couldn't use the toy and to go away.

I know that she had probably interrupted their play, and surely there was no true meanness intended - but it was one thing too many for my little girl - and one thing way past too many for me.

I scooped her up, informed her brothers (who were very unhappy about it) that we were leaving. I coated and booted my brood, and we were off again into the frigid streets of Northern Manhattan.

I took them to the library to pick out some Christmas books and a few movies to watch this week.

After we'd made our impressive selection, I ushered the kids over to the kids area where they plopped down on the colorful foam mat and began reading books with each other. I perused the shelves nearby, looking for the latest installment of the Ally Condie trilogy.

Then I heard Wyatt shouting. Mortified, I rushed over to the scene, ready to chastise him for yelling at his sister.

I was surprised to see him laying into a complete stranger - a little girl with dark pigtails, shrinking away from his verbal onslaught while her mother sat next to her, chatting away on her cell phone. My knee-jerk reaction was to want to pull him away apologetically, but as I approached, I heard what he was yelling.

"You don't take that book from my sister! That's mean and you're being mean, and you give it back to Daphne!"

My progress toward my son halted, and I slid down onto the reading couch next to me. The whole scene in front of me changed. I looked at Daphne where she sat small and concerned on the foam mat. "Daphne, what happened?" I asked softly.

Daphne looked at me with wide and nearly-tearing eyes. "That girl tooked a dinosaur book I was reading," she said.

"Wyatt, come here," I said, not loudly but firmly.

He whirled around and looked at me, fire in his eyes. He walked toward me stiffly, and I was impressed that he was willing to disengage from the situation without argument. He must have been able to read the intense pride in my eyes. As soon as he got near enough for me to wrap my arm around his shoulders, he said to me, "Mom, that little girl took Daphne's book!"

"I know," I said. "I understand what happened - and because this is a library, I have to ask you to stop yelling and to let it go. We'll have to find a different book for Daphne. But Wyatt, I want you to know that I am very proud of you for defending your sister."

His intense expression broke, and his boyish grin took it's place. His freckles stood out on his round and grinny cheeks. That I might be prould of him hadn't even occurred to him - which made me all the more proud.

I looked back over to where the little girl was sitting by her mother, holding the dinosaur book to her chest, watching us. Her mother was still chatting away on the phone. Apparently it was no big deal that her daughter was just being yelled at by an angry five year old. Or that her daughter was a book thief. I offered the little girl a smile. It was even sincere.

I pulled the distraught Daphne and her heroic brother to me, and spoke softly to them. "That little girl probably saw you reading the dinosaur book and though it looked like so much fun! It probably didn't even occur to her that she should wait her turn, or ask - she just thought it looked fun so she took it to see what you guys were laughing at. I'm very sure that she wasn't trying to be mean."

So the kids relaxed, and found other books to look at. I was showing Henry a board book about shapes when I felt a tiny tap on my arm. I looked down into the big brown eyes of the dark pigtailed girl. With all her innocence, she handed over the dinosaur book and pointed at Daphne. "aquí, para la niña," she said, smiling.

"Gracias!" I said, smiling back. She skipped off to read another book from her pile next to her mother (still on the phone). "Look, Daph!" I said, and with a squeal, she and Wyatt grabbed the book, sat on the floor, and began pouring over it's pages.

It was a pop-up book with pages that folded out to show the entire Jurrasic era.

No wonder.