Feed on

Summer Speed

In the way of Kentucky, the ram and bull of April and May never quite yielded gentle spring days, heralding instead rain, more rain, still more rain, high winds and downed trees, and more than a few days with winter-like temperatures. Now Memorial Day Weekend has arrived, bringing with it a wall of heat and the sound of lawn mowers in the early morning.  Ah, Kentucky…

On a more welcome note, summer weather also brought our first taste of what fun days with a four-year-old are going to be like, and I very much like what I see. I don’t quite recognize it, but I like it all the same. Saturday began with one of the very few times Simon has gotten out of bed on his own. He usually wakes up, calls out “help me”, and waits for Matt or me (usually Matt) to come get him. He did this again yesterday, but then twice sent Matt back to our room with the declaration that he wasn’t ready yet. When he was ready, he slid out of bed, ran to our room, and climbed into our bed for a visit and snuggle. He also told me that our bedspread “didn’t smell too good”, prompting me to make an overdue trip to the laundromat.*

Next up came a trip to a reggae festival at the old Water Tower with friend Caroline. Most of what I saw looked very familiar: he and Caroline ran a lot, danced a little, hugged several times, threw clover at and on each other, and shared pineapple sorbet with me. These two always enjoy an easy and affectionate camaraderie, which is one of the reasons I welcome getting together with her; I know what I’m walking into.

It’s how the day ended that made my jaw go slack. A half hour before we needed to leave (Simon had a baseball date with the Whitworth guys), a kids’ zone of inflatable houses and slides went up. Caroline immediately headed for the bouncy house, but Simon demurred. Turning around, he pointed to a huge, 20-foot+ inflatable slide, and announced that he wanted to go down that.

I’m afraid I was visibly annoyed. The line was long, and nothing in my child’s history indicated that he would (a) make it all the way up the ladder or (b) go down the slide if he did. The two most likely scenarios were his getting stuck half-way up the ladder or panicking at the top. Meanwhile, a whole line of eager kids would be impatiently awaiting their turn while the rescue scene played out. This isn’t just me being mean. Simon has talked a good game about slides like this before, and then backed out before taking a single step. There’s a ten-foot metal slide at Willow Park that he still hasn’t gone down, even when we’ve been alone at the park and offered to go down with him.

The Summit in Question

So here we were, at a slide about four times as long and steep as anything he’s attempted. Not to mention the super-long staircase Simon would have to climb before chickening out at the top. He’s not great fan of those, either. The whole thing struck me as folly—as attempting to climb Everest before conquering the neighbor’s fence.

Thankfully, I stopped just short of outright sabotage. Matt bought the ride tickets. I sighed heavily and offered up the encouraging, “If that’s what you want, buddy.” Simon waited his turn. And then, the most improbable thing I’ve ever seen played out before me. Simon slowly and carefully climbed the staircase, turning around once or twice to make sure we were there and watching. The steps were too steep for him to alternate feet and he was very careful with his footing, so it was a slow and deliberate ascent. Then he got to the top, walked over to the slide, smiled, sat down, and pushed off with his hands.

The first third of the way down, he was all smiles and dimples. As he picked up an alarming amount of speed, his hair sheeted off his scalp to the sides, his cheeks pulled back from the Gs, and his eyes widened with terror. But it must have been a fun terror, because when he landed and I ran over to greet him, he was all smiles and begged to go again. Or to build a slide like that in our yard. He was on an adrenaline rush.

We all high-fived him, and I made an internal note about my own parenting assumptions. Namely, that while certain things about Simon are constant (his basic temperament, empathy, caution, etc.), that other things (how he gauges and responds to challenges) are more fluid. That the same kid at four might do things he would not do at three. And that it would be as easy as it would be harmful to conflate the constant with the fluid and thereby ending up an accidental saboteur.

*As it happens, the Laundromat proved to be an adventure on its own merits, as I encountered an admirer who just skirted the line between flattering and creepy.

2 Responses to “Summer Speed”

  1. Amanda says:

    If he seemed “skirting” he was already over into just creepy. My two cents.

  2. christine says:

    Do we need to add a trip to Pump It Up while you’re here?

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.