Archer crouched and watched the older boys from the space between the steps on the jungle gym with the slide. He gazed at the little boys digging holes with shovels and their bare hands. Like usual, he was too shy to approach them. Too interested to look away.
I called for him from the side of the sandbox but he ignored me.
Leave me alone, Mom.
He must have sat there for ten minutes, spying on the other boys, watching the way they pushed the sand to one side and how wet it got, the deeper they dug. No one noticed Archer watching. He has a way of making himself invisible, as still and silent as a spy.
Minutes passed until finally Archer shimmied out of the space between the stairs and ran around the corner to where the slide was and all of the little boys digging holes in the sand. He slowly crouched down next to them and started to dig, placing handfulls of sand in one of the the three piles, just like the other boys did.
The oldest boy spotted him, a newbie in his crew and immediatly pushed him hard in the chest. He fell back.
“Get out of here little boy,” the oldest boy said. “You’re ruining it.”
Archer got up and scurried toward me. He had sand in his eyes but he wasn’t crying.
“You’re okay,” I said. “Everything’s fine.”
I put Archer on my lap and we climbed into the swing and watched the boys from afar, my hands clenched in fists as I eyed the older boy. The bully. That little fucking shit.
It is very difficult to watch my son try to socialize with the other kids and then get knocked down. It is even harder to keep my mouth shut when I want to scream in the faces of anyone who does Archer any harm.
“So what am I supposed to do?” I asked myself, swinging back and forth with Archer’s head in my chest.
And the answer, of course, was “nothing.”
Because the sand doesn’t stop at the edge of the cement. It goes on
and on and the entire world is full of holes and slides and bullies.
And sometimes we’re just not allowed. Not allowed to play in the sand with the other boys. Not allowed to scream at another mother’s child for being a shit. Because it is my duty to let Archer figure
out this stuff on his own. And that, I am learning, is one of the hardest parts about being a parent:
Not being allowed.