Naptime hadn’t gone so well. The natives were getting restless in the living room. So we ventured forth into the great outdoors and headed toward the park.
Sadly, our local neighborhood corner park was infested by middle-school-age heathens – who thought it was just hilarious to stuff themselves into the bucket swings and squeeze down the toddler slides.
“I don’t want to play here,” Search informed me. “I want to take my shubble to the other park.”
And with such impressive use of expressive language, how could I not acquiesce. So off we went to the toddler playground at our friendly local Central Park.
There the ground is a squishy cushy blue mat-like covering. There are two bucket swings. There is a single tunnel, a slide and three low-laying animal rockers. Everything is primary colored plastic – rounded curves and easily disinfectable. (No judgment on that last part, I don’t go anywhere without my Purrell.)
It’s safe. A worry-wart parent’s dream really.
The muppets went down the slide once, walked up the stairs again, spun the mounted steering wheel, got bored and took solace in scooping sand out of the 4×4 allotted plot of sanitary sand and dumping it on the covered picnic table.
I noticed that Search and Destroy had picked up a shadow throughout their outdoor exploits. A small blond boy was following their every move – never coming closer than five feet back. Finally the father of our little blond Ru (Hunger Games reference) came to claim the wee one, laughing, “I know, you want to play just like the big kids, huh?”
This was the first time I’ve ever heard my tiny twins referred to as “big kids.”
It clearly went to their head.
And shortly thereafter we found ourselves wandering over to the “big kid” playground. It is old-school awesome. In fact, it’s pretty amazing that the city hasn’t deemed it a litigious liability and knocked it down.
A full sand pit with concrete tubes/tunnels surrounding a real wood log structure, connected with rusty old 1970-era nails. A ladder on one side leads up to a steep twisting metal slide. On the other side, tree trunk stumps are repurposed into stairs of varying levels leading to honest-to-goodness monkey bars.
To the boys, this was a time-warp paradise of imminent danger. SEARCH AND DESTROY!
Destroy started to climb the ladder. I watched him rise higher on his personal beanstalk with a giant pit in my stomach. This really did look unsafe. But kids have been playing here for decades.
Two steps up from the middle platform, he fell. It was just a stumble. But down he went.
I stood at the bottom of the structure. He knew I was there. Several mothers sitting on the nearby park bench stared at me and proceeded to engage in an immediate whisper. “How could she let that child play there? He’s far too small. He’s far too young.”
While Destroy descended in need of a hug, Search charged forward to conquer the toddler Mt. Everest.
“That’s scary,” Destroy warned his brother.
“I can go,” Search reassured us. “I’m being very careful.”
And up he went. Destroy followed five steps behind. The judgey mothers were aghast with horror.
“How are you going to get them down?” one called to me.
“I’m assuming the slide,” I replied matter-of-factly.
As if on cue I watched one kid swinging from the top, while the other came shooting off the bottom with the gleeful indiscriminate laughter only heard from a child given free run of the outdoors.
Approximately 754 chutes and ladders later, they’d pretty much mastered the thing.
They moved on to additional activities most likely to cause scraped elbows and knees – the concrete tunnels.
Search climbed out the backside and scuttled over to the wood wall lining the play area. From the upper grassy side he clambered over. I watched. Curious as to what he was going to do. He quickly realized there was a much deeper drop than expected.
I let my sons’ fall.
Yes, I’ve dropped my kids before. But this time, mommy-judgers be damned, I let them fall.
I made sure they knew I was right there. I made sure I was close enough to scoop them up and kiss a boo-boo. I made sure they were never in a situation truly threatening their wellbeing (freak accident unpredictability aside).
I let them get dirty. I let them make their own choices (well-supervised).
I let them fall.
Because I knew they could get back up.