Posted by Duff

This weekend was our neighborhood’s annual Halloween Parade and Yard Party. Everyone meets up, kids in costume, circles the block once accompanied by a wireless tape recorder of Halloween sounds, and then has snacks/plays in the hosts’ yard.

It’s pretty cute. We even had some clapping spectators.

This year, The Dervish refused her costume. Ironic, since I can’t keep her “Ladybug Coat” off her when she’s stampeding around the house (and Heaven forbid I try to take it off her for meals or bathtime). So she was the only kid dressed in street clothes amid glitter, feathers, fur and assorted head pieces. I put the ladybug hood on my head, instead.

She was also the only kid not interested in the table of cupcakes, cookies and donuts, retreating instead to the playscape, sandbox, and a collection of playground balls.

She likes to be distinctive. And fortunately, active and chocolate-free. Good stuff.

The hosts’ neighbor’s child immediately came over to protect what she must have staked out as her territory, and eyed The Dervish warily. When The Dervish left the slide to play with a  (read: the wrong) ball, The Neighbor Child yelled for her mother who yelled back instantly, “You’re fine.” and went back to her discussion.

The Dervish made The Neighbor Child nervous for a while longer, whooping it up in leaves that were awaiting bagging. Other children drifted over until all were in the play area and practicing their own brand of Sandbox Politics.

And that’s when I noticed The Dervish amid the backdrop of Other People. How small she is, even though she’s only a year younger than many of those kids. How she stands out to me as if there is a spotlight on her. How this feeling isn’t unique: all parents must see their children in this way. 

In the moment, I worry about how she’ll handle herself amid disagreements, bullies, and personalities she doesn’t care for. What if her personality will be one that others don’t care for? Will she change for the wrong reasons?

And I wonder if (and hope) she’ll be the one who tells a bully to pipe down. Will she protect someone who can’t stand up for herself? Will she bring the shy child into her game? 

I watch her watch other kids, do what they do. Or choose not to. Or do it differently. I see her moving seamlessly amid a group that she appears not to notice, and am amazed by her two-year old grace.

She picks up a ball and attempts a basket. The ball falls backward, behind her head, and she is unfazed. She is only a few yards away, but it seems like there is an ocean between where she stands now and where we started out together.

This is only the beginning.

There are so many variables, and she is one herself.