“I’m going on the big side of the playground, Mommy, because I’m a big boy.”
“Okay,” I say, “You can go on both sides.”
It’s a cold yet beautiful, sunny day so my four-year old and I are heading through the gate into the town playground.
He charges forward to the “big side” meant for children ages five and above. Recently I’ve had to resign myself to the fact that he is getting bigger and I cannot keep him from trying things that make me nervous. He heads for the wooden structure that will carry him up to the very tall enclosed slide. I think back to my panic the first time he did this. I yelled his name several times when I couldn’t see him up above until an older girl called down to me, “He’s right here. He’s about to come down the slide.” She was so calm and so reassuring to this lunatic adult below that I had to laugh. He did come down that slide and I was relieved to see his complete joy and satisfaction in the fact that he did it himself.
Today he easily comes down the slide and my heart is not beating a thousand times per minute. He sees an older boy (maybe about 5 or so) start climbing up a rope structure.
“Hi, do you want to be my friend?” There is a muffled answer from the boy so my guy says again, “Do you want to be my friend?” as he follows him up the structure. My heart wants to burst at the absolute goodness and innocence that is him. I am also hoping beyond hope that this boy is kind back.
This time we can hear him say, “Sure.”
My son says, “I’m a big boy and my mom says I can go on this side.”
The boy doesn’t answer but deftly raises himself onto the ropes at the top and balances his way over. My son gets to the top and realizes there are more ropes to navigate.
“Oh, I am going to go back down,” he says and starts singing a tune from The Lion Guard series to himself. He slowly finds his footing back down to the ground. It has taken everything I have to stand back and not intervene in some way. And yet I can see that he’s got this. He put himself out there and he climbed to the top. When he realized that he wasn’t comfortable he made the decision to turn himself around and find a new activity to do.
I know I’m taking him to the playground for his benefit but I’m finding that I’m learning a lot about him and myself in the process. It is in these moments that I realize that I’m learning through my son how to be a parent.