Today I took Parker to a playground. We have been to this playground many times. So frequently in fact that if we are on the main road that passes by the park he will say his version of the word "park" and point in its general direction. This happens a lot since there are two grocery stores and a WalMart within walking distance of this park.
He has at one time or another been down every slide this park has to offer and there are well over a dozen.
Some are very high and some are just a foot or two off the ground.
A few weeks ago he approached the tallest slide.
On his first attempt at going down he froze.
The line behind him started moaning and stomping its feet. To him it must have looked like some sort of multi-colored, sweaty, angry snake.
Despite me standing at the bottom shouting promises that I would catch him, he turned around and slunk down the steps. Later, on that same trip, he braved the steps up to the tall slide again, turned around and went on his belly feet first down the tall slide.
The glide to the bottom was not traumatic. He did not cry or demonstrate anything other than neutral contentment upon descending the bottom of the slide. But for him, for now, it is a one and done deal.
At this mornings’ visit to the park, we found it, surprisingly, mostly empty.
Unless I am summoned to push him on the swings, I stand on the mushy mulch and watch as Parker climbs the steps and races through the planks and tunnels. He squeals and laughs. He tries to play whatever tag-like game the other kids are playing and they ignore or humor him, depending on their moods.
Occasionally he will stop and peer at me through the rungs of the railing from so high up that I instantly get butterflies in my stomach. He does this happy screamy thing when he sees that I am close, but not too close, leaving him free to explore this place once again.
I walk the perimeter in case he needs me. I watch him so closely that I swear if he were to fall, somehow my mother gaze would be able to catch him, or at least slow his fall so my physical self has time to get to him before he hits the ground.
We meet at the slides. Any one of them.
He stands at the top.
I’m at the bottom.
He sits down.
I encourage him to let go and slide.
I can't help, but realize the life metaphor here. Let go and slide.
I need to say that to myself more often. However, I know that just because you have lived through something once does not mean it won't be better or possibly even worse the second time around. Parker must know this too.
So there we are eyes locked on each other. My arms are stretched out toward him. His little fingers gripping tight to the sides of the slide. My attempt at reassuring comments of how fun it will be and that I will catch him do nothing to ease his uneasiness.
He turns around and every time I think he is going to go for it. He is going to go on his belly feet first.
But no. He is turning around to stand up and race down another plank.
One day he will do it again.
One day I will be able to convince him that it is ok. That it is possible to conquer fears and self doubt. I will convince him to take in the view from way up top, throw his hands above his head and enjoy the ride.