Monday, November 29, 2004

A litle boy in the playground

I wrote this a couple of years ago after one particularly eventful trip to the park near our house. As you've gathered by now, lots of neat things seem to happen there.

Everything I write is given a tentative, working title, sometimes called a "slug". This piece was slugged "Letting Go," but I didn't publish it. I thought about submitting it at the time, but never was able to evolve this beyond a lovely little description of a typical day in a little boy's life.

I might yet do something with it as my list of potential publishing venues continues to grow. But for now, I want to get the words out there so they don't shrivel up in some file that'll only get buried on my hard drive.

With that in mind, I hope you enjoy this scene, both as I described it, and as I captured it on film afterward:

I never thought I would start letting go of my son before the age of three.

Parents often see themselves letting go of their kids after a 18 to 20 years. A trip to the playground with my two-year-old last week taught me the letting go process starts much sooner than that.

As we approached the park, Noah informed me that he didn't want to climb on the large, castle-like structures. "They’re scary," he said, his voice trembling just a bit more as the stroller got closer to the playground.

After we arrived and I parked the stroller, he reached his arms up for me to pick him up. He shivered every time I suggested we so much as walk up to one of the structures for a closer look.

His older brother, 8, and sister, 5, raced off to the playground and joined a beehive of kids clambering up down and through the multicolored structures. Zach and Dahlia would stop playing every few minutes to make sure Noah was still watching them.

They called out to him, inviting him to join them on one of the lower platforms. He shook his head, but continued to watch their every move with intense curiosity. He so very much wanted to play with his big brother and big sister, but he simply wasn't sure he was ready.

Curiosity finally got the better of him. He slid out of my arms and down to the ground. He put his little hand in mine and started to subtly pull me toward the imposing, multicolored structures.

“Go closer” he said, “but not up.”

We walked up to the main staircase and I asked him if he would let me carry him up. He took a long look at his siblings flying down the side-by-side slides and slowly nodded his head.

The higher we got, the tighter he gripped my neck. But he didn't ask me to go down. He wanted to be there. He just wasn't yet sure was OK to let go.

Dahlia breathlessly jumped in front of me and reached her arms out to him. A petite five-year-old, she was barely bigger than he was. But he instinctively wiggled out of my arms and carefully crawled the couple of feet until she was able to reach him.

Hand-in-hand, she walked him over to the big twistie-slide and sat him down in her lap. I hustled down to the bottom of the slide and held my breath as she pushed off.

I needn’t have worried. As they arrived at the bottom, Noah was smiling ear-to-ear, screaming “Again, again”.

He got up, grabbed Dahlia’s hand and headed back to the rope ladder. No more fear.

Tears welled in my eyes as my little guy pulled himself up the rope ladder and waved off my offers of assistance. My hand remained outstretched, a few centimetres under his wiggling tush, suddenly useless now that my son had learned to do it on his own.

My son had taught me that it was OK to let go. 


Joan said...

Man, Carmi! You're better than an episode of Little House on the Prarie or the last 15 minutes of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition on getting me teary eyed!

What a great story!

Jef said...

I like your posts because they are small, written snapshots of the every day moments that so many people pass over. Plus, I get to precariously live as a parent through you. A three-legged manx is just not the same as a child.

Chris said...

Beautifully evocative, Carmi. Those moments are what parenthood is all about.

Mellie Helen said...

'Tis bittersweet. We train 'em up best we can, protecting them, providing them with the tools to cope on their own, and then what do they do? Cope on their own, the little buggars! It's a phenomenon that takes place innumerable times over the span of their childhood and our parenthood. And I don't expect that experiencing the "I don't need you now, Mommy or Daddy" gets any easier along the way. Partly sad; partly a proud moment for a parent who has served his child well. Thanks again, Carmi, for sharing your gift.

Diane said...

Carmi, once again you have so eloquently shown us the true meaning of good parenting. This was such an engaging snapshot of all the small steps that parents and children take on the child's way to adulthood.

Have you ever considered publishing these as a compilation? I, for one, would be sure to buy a copy, and I don't think I'm alone here.

carmilevy said...

Thank you for that sentiment, and for that suggestion. A long time ago, I submitted something to Chicken Soup. I didn't put a huge amount of time into it - it was essentially a derivative of something I already had on file - and I never followed up on it.

Now that I seem to be doing this kind of writing fairly regularly - both in my column and on the blog - I think I'll revisit it. I've got nothing to lose but my pride.

Thank you all so much for continuing to read me. It means an immense amount to me that you enjoy what I write, and that you find it meaningful.