Recess was always the best time of the day, especially when we could do whatever we wanted outside. At the back of the school were tall trees offering plenty of shade and roots so wide that “rooms” could be created in a “house”. There were swings, a seesaw, and always plenty of kids who wanted to play a round of softball. At times, a teacher came outside to see what was happening, but oftentimes, we were left to our own devices. We knew better than to spoil the fun we were having by creating discord or conflict. Most times, we settled things on our own, because if too great a conflict arose, we would lose the privilege of playing outside and choosing our own fun during recess.
There was the day I was seesawing with a friend. Up and down we went over and over again. Suddenly, when Molly* got to the ground and I was high in the air on the seesaw, she got off. You know what that did to me! Suddenly, I had landed on my butt and with my back on the ground.
“Why did you do that?!” I asked her.
She shrugged her shoulders. “I just didn’t want to do it anymore.”
“You didn’t know what would happen?!” I yelled at her retreating back.
She just kept her back to me and marched on into the school.
I felt betrayed for three reasons: the sudden shock of hitting bottom without any warning, the feeling of betrayal from not being given any warning, and the initial physical pain as I landed on my bottom on the ground.
As I remember the incident, I dusted myself off, none the worse for the wear. We didn’t speak about it again, although I’m not sure why. I suppose that after my initial anger and realizing I had no broken bones, I must have just let it go (which was rare for me.)
We remained friends, although I’m certain I never seesawed with her again. Strange how, even today when I notice a seesaw, I remember. It doesn’t make me angry, but I remember. I don’t think about all the times I got off a seesaw without pain; I only think about the one time I got hurt. Little wonder, that when my kids were young and enjoying a seesaw, I made certain they knew how not to disembark a seesaw!
There’s a secret to getting off a seesaw without anyone getting hurt. One person gets off the seesaw while still holding the seat down, then gently lowers the other person by controlling how fast the seat goes back up. When it’s done right, there’s no pain from a fall.
As adults, there are times when we need to disembark. Sometimes things happen and we need to become disengaged. Sometimes we need to part ways. When those “sometimes” occur, I think about what I learned that day on the playground in second or third grade.
I try to remember the seesaw and the fact that when it’s done right, there doesn’t need to be any pain from a fall.
*Of course, Molly is not her real name.