My good friend Mackenzie is the kind of person who is always on the look out for things that would maker her friends happy or make their lives easier. She'll send links to news stories or documentaries relevant to issues you've mentioned to her, she'll call you when the vitamins or herbal tea or shoes you buy for your kids are on sale, and she'll pick up something she knows you've been needing if she finds one laying around or sees it for cheap.
A few weeks ago, at a garage sale, she bought a big container of action figures for her kids and found two classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. She knew we liked that show, and set aside the turtles to give to the boys when we met at the park today. The turtles climbed the slides and launched from the brides, they went on our hike and took quick naps in the recycling bins. Now, back at home, they are doing more typical TMNT things, fighting bad guys with their awesome ninja skills.
But this is the part I wanted to tell you about: As we were getting packed up into our cars parked side by side, Woody was strapping in just as Mackenzie was putting her baby in the car seat next to him. Woody said to Mackenzie, before she closed the door and walked around her car, "Wait. I want to tell you something. Thank you for the Ninja Turtles."
He was looking at her with his big-eyed open face.
I was so glad, in that moment, that I had never forced him to say those words. I had never coerced them out of him. I had said the thank-you myself many times, for a gift given to him, because I wanted to. And I had told him before that it is considered polite, a way for people to know that a gift or kindness was appreciated.
And I guess, all on his own, as a kid growing in his understanding of what it means to be a human creature living socially, he wanted Mackenzie to know that.
Woody challenged Mackenzie to a foot race, which he won by a nose.
One other thing I wanted to add from today. Woody is usually a very physically cautious kid. It's taken him longer than many of his peers to be comfortable on the swings, preferring the enclosed "baby" swings until about age 4, and then mostly staying off the swings or swinging on his belly in year 5 when he was too big to fit in the enclosed swings anymore. Today, for the first time, he wanted me to push him high on the open swing. He was so proud of himself. I remarked on how cool it was to see him feeling so confident about something that had been challenging for him until recently, and he said, "Maybe it's just that I needed to wait for my body to be a comfortable size for the big-kid swings."
I loved that. If only we all could say with no shame or judgment about ourselves that we just need to grow into our challenges, that we need a little more time and confidence and security before something is going to feel not only do-able, but really good...