There is a playground near our house. Relatively new. It is called the Tot-Lot and it is purpose-built, as the name would suggest, for children aged five years or less. We take Beatrix, my four-year old daughter, to play there several times a week. It has quickly become the neighborhood destination for families with young children.
The play equipment at this scale is age-appropriate but also just a tad bit challenging. There are some slides, a rope net for climbing, a balance beam, a chair swing, and a few other standards one would expect.
Instead of grass, there is a surprisingly soft professional grade AstroTurf. I was dubious of this choice at first. Worried
Recently, Beatrix has really taken to the monkey bars. This took some time for her to try.
“What if I fall, Daddy?”, she would ask.
“Well, you might and that is OK. The best part of falling is that you can get back up and try again.”, I would respond. It sounded good in theory at least.
Her skills and abilities get better with each turn on them. The very first time, with a bit of help up, she would only hang on the first bar. Then, she learned how to jump up and reach it by herself. Now, she can traverse the full set with no difficulty. Each time we go to the playground, she seems to take it just a bit further.
This last time, she added a twist that even I did not expect and managed to find a new level to her ever-increasing bar skills. She now jumped from the small platform to the second bar. Deftly grabbing on mid-air. Her fear of falling seemingly gone.
The first time she did it, my heart nearly stopped. Yet, she succeeded. I was amazed and proud.
The second time immediately followed the first (I got a video of it this time). She made a couple of cautious attempts before, finally, throwing caution to the wind and doing it again. I was even prouder still.
The third time, she was clearly tired out. Her bravery and confidence overcame her body though so she got up on the platform. This time, no cautious test jumps. She just jumped. But, this time, her hands slipped and missed. She twisted mid fall and landed like a pancake — the whole front of her body hitting the ground at once. It was one of those terrifying parental moments where as you run to their aid you start to wonder what the doctor bill will be.
She was crying hard as I knelt down to help her up and comfort her. I took a good scan and there appeared to be no injury. “You’ll be OK, honey.” I assured. “Does it hurt anywhere?”
She shook her head no. Her crying slowed and then, to my amazement following such a hard fall, she said, “I want to try it again.”
I took a deep breath and realized that this was as much a test to my fear and confidence as it was for hers. I let her go and watched as she got back up on the platform. By the time she was ready for a re-attempt she looked as if nothing happened. I was so proud. I could sense she was too.
She jumped a couple of more times and made it just fine. But, again, on the third time her body could not keep up. She lost her footing and fell off the platform, face first into the AstroTurf. I was sure she broke her nose this time. I rush down and pick her up. She is crying even harder than the first time. I pick her up and lightly caress her face. Marks from plastic grass embedded in her cheeks. I check her nose. It appears to be fine.
“I want my Mommy!”, she wailed.
“Mommy’s not here.”, I said, “Do you want to go home?”
She shook her head yes.
“Well, let’s go sit on the bench and calm down a little before leaving.”, I said. She agreed. So, I carried her over to the bench on the other side of the park, placed her on it, and sat down next to her.
After a few minutes, the crying stopped. She took a final deep breath, turned to me, and asked, “Can I try again, Daddy?”
“Sure, honey. Sure.”
I was even prouder still.