Adeline excitedly walks down the steps, holding onto the railing. As soon as her feet hit solid ground she takes off, racing to the playground, followed by her four school-mates. Within moments, Adeline, Quinn and Logan are up on the swaying bridge, jumping up and down and screaming together. Adeline runs for the slide and Quinn and Logan follow her. They all slide down and pile up at the bottom, laughing and shouting the whole time. They run around the play equipment to the stairs and soon they’re back up on the bridge. Adeline starts shouting “Ba ba ba!!!” and Quinn and Logan join in.
Meanwhile, Quinn’s twin sister, Grace, came down the steps with the rest of them but has since been wandering around the edges of the playground, looking at flowers and talking quietly to herself. When she comes near me, where I sit on the bench taking it all in, she gives me a happy little smile. She’s not lonely – she’s perfectly content playing by herself. Parker, the final child in Adeline’s class, is also playing by himself. He sits in the little car and pushes himself around. Every few minutes he goes over to where Adeline, Quinn and Logan are playing and he tries to get involved. But he inevitably goes off on his own again. He wants to play with them, but he’s shy.
This is the dynamic that plays out every day when I go to pick Adeline up from school. It’s so invariable that it’s striking. These children, ranging in age from 17 months (my sweet Adeline is the youngest) to 2.5 years, have amazing, distinct and realized personalities. Some are outgoing, loud, active, extroverted, while others are quiet, shy, calm, introverted. I watch them all and the truth seems undeniable: this is genetic. Continue reading