November 14, 2011

Sunshine and conversation

This weekend, I sat on the grass in a southern city, watching brown-and-gold leaves drift down from the trees, savoring the touch of sun on my bare arms and bare feet. The colors seem muted compared to the brilliant fall foliage we get in the northeast, but still, the landscape was more beautiful than I had expected.

The friend I was visiting seemed happy to indulge my wish to be outside, so we spent hours just wandering around parks or sitting on the grass, talking, moving every time the patch of sun moved. City parks are great for people watching, and I couldn’t resist analyzing the people we’d see. The most telling was the young father walking with his toddler son. The little boy had fallen and was crying. The father kept saying to him, “Shake it off! Shake it off!” and never so much as gave the kid a hug.

“Wow,” I said. “I bet he’d act different if that kid was a girl. He’d pick her up and give her a hug.” 

“Yeah, it’s easy to see how gender stereotypes get perpetrated,” my friend said. A few minutes later, he pointed to a girl who had fallen while walking on a stone wall. She was immediately surrounded by family, who were giving her all kinds of sympathy.

It felt like summer in the park. Whole families were running around in the grass, often accompanied by barking dogs. Groups of little kids had gathered for football practice, their skinny bodies hidden under shoulder pads and helmets. We could hear the repeated crack of a bat from the batting cages on the other side of the field.

Saturday, we walked along a wide creekbed filled with a fascinating pattern of rocks and water that led to the remains of an old textile mill that burned down during the civil war. Five stories of brick walls rose above the rushing water. We climbed around the rocks, staying out in the middle of the stream to enjoy the sunshine, talking while we wandered around. Too soon the sun disappeared behind the trees, and it was time to hike back to the car before darkness fell. Even in the south, November days are short.


Cindy said...

That sounds like a lovely weekend.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

Oh, I don't know. I know a lot of families with intrepid female athletes, and they sure didn't get that way by being coddled. Of course there's a difference between being coddled & being told that it's unforgivable to cry; is that what you were getting at?

My son's ski coach last year used to address the concerns which led to the boys' crying, but ignore the tears themselves. Like, if they cried because their hands were cold, he'd give them handwarmers; but he never commented one way or another on the tears. I really liked that.

The trip sounds lovely!

jo(e) said...

Jennifer: Right, that's my point. It's a learned behavior.