Apparently, between our last visit to a playground (admittedly at least a month ago) and today, my son has secretly been brushing up on some of his physical skills in preparation.
Today was the first in several that the sun was shining and there were no ominous clouds looming overhead. Simon was also being a little chatterbox, and though I love him, his little voice, and our Mumma/Toddler conversations, I can only be asked “Mumma what you doin!?” so many times in a row before I start to go a little crazy. So I abruptly declared that we were to set of to the nearby playground, and grabbed the sunscreen.
When we got there, Simon started out timid as usual, standing by, watching other kids at play. I reassured him: “It’s ok honey, you can go play too.” and he stepped forward slowly to the closest colorful jumble of playground equipment. I stood by as he climbed the steps, counting them out loud “one..too…fee…” and then I climbed up after him to assist him on the slide. There were two slides side-by-side, and usually he wants to sit on my lap, but today he wanted to go beside me. We went down like this three times, and on the fourth, I told him he could let go of my hand if he wanted to. He did, and I watched my baby go down a slide all by himself for the first time, and land safely at the bottom where he giggled and shouted excitedly: “Slide again!”. I stopped climbing up with him and stood off at a small distance to give him space, but also close enough to catch him quickly if needed, and ease my motherly worry.
After a short while of this, he wandered over to a slightly bigger slide, and this time I only watched, as he went up, up, up and then plopped onto his bottom to slide down by himself. I beamed with pride.
He then walked to the swing set. Now, here I ought to confess one of my lifelong phobias: I am terrified of swings and have been as long as I can remember. (There are some photos of me as a baby swinging happily in a baby swing at a playground, but I can’t remember that.) I have always avoided swinging, and in school, when my friends insisted we all go on the swings, I would reluctantly scoot onto one, and swing myself slow and gentle, but as high as I dared in order for no one to notice my terror. I would squeeze the chains with a death grip and tremble as I kicked my legs out to get a tad more height. And when the legs of the swing set would lift out of their holes in the ground because kids were swinging fast and hard, I would feel myself want to cry.
Because of my own swing issues, I have completely understood when Simon has been too nervous and wary any time Jeramy or I would suggest them. Even on our laps, he did not like it. Despite my best efforts to never let on to any of my own irrational fears in front of him (spiders, needles, bridges, etc.), I still always felt relief when he would say no to swinging.
However, today I asked him “Simon, do you want to try swinging?” and he said “Yeah!” In my head, I imagined I would sit down on one and lift him into my lap where we would gently sway back and forth, my feet safely in gentle contact with the wood chip covered ground. He wanted nothing to do with that, and wanted to sit on his own. So I helped him situate his tiny bottom onto the blue plastic seat, and explained how to hold on to the chains tightly, and I gently prodded the swing forward. He loved it. I pushed him higher in small increments, as high as I dared for such a tiny guy. He really loved it. It was actually the most peaceful part of my day, standing in the breeze, watching the swing go back and forth, neither of us saying much more than a word or two here and there. After quite a while though, he told me it was “Too windy.” and I helped him down.
Finally, he rushed over to one of the larger sets of playground equipment, intended for older kids and with much taller slides. These had ladders instead of steps, and my tiny little 21 pound guy was halfway up the ladder, without any assistance, while I stood beside him dumbfounded until I finally grabbed him and told him this was not the safest choice. In an effort not to freak him out though, I climbed up behind him, and helped him the rest of the way with his footing as the ladder became arched, and then we went down the tall slide together.
As we walked home I kept shaking my head in disbelief. This is the child who usually gets nervous at the drop of a hat, and shies away from anything too out of the ordinary for his comfort. Instead, today, I observed him make physical leaps and bounds that I had no idea he was capable of. He was fearless, strong, agile, and proud of himself.
I was so incredibly proud too.