When I watched him run around the merry-go-round, spinning it faster and faster, with older kids on … all I could see was tripping, leg getting stuck, face planted against the moving bars, blood and a broken nose. The merry-go-round freaks me out. I never enjoyed riding it as a kid, and now watching my son play with it, this playground toy he loves, makes my skin crawl with anxiety.
Perhaps as a consolation prize, and that no other kid wanted to go down while he did it, I let him climb up the slide. It was a good-sized slide. Not an adventure park sized slide, but a good playground sized slide. I tried to be present. I tried to just look out of the corner of my eye. I tried to just be. And he climbed up, and down, with no problems. Several times. He had fun. He felt successful, maybe a little deviant like he was getting away with something. I let him. I tried to encourage him. (But, not when it comes to the merry-go-round, that’s Dad’s job!)
Peter and I often struggle with where to put our boundaries and butt in as a parent. Especially during this new phase, this new life layer: soccer. Should we just let the coach deal with the emotional toll or should we intervene? (We asked the coach directly, and have deferred to her for answers.) When Levi is on the playground, things have changed in his “other-kid” interactions.
It used to be that he was the smallest, youngest, most fragile kid. Now Levi is four years old. Now, at certain times he is the big kid. He saw a toddler’s colorful toy and just started playing with it, for example. He wasn’t really aware the toy belonged to this other child, and maybe for all he knew it was just part of the playground equipment. But, he took without asking. The other mother was fine and very understanding, but what’s the right line? How exactly do we intervene? I stopped him, when he finally listened, and explained it wasn’t his. It all worked out in the end, but these balances are so awkward as you go through them.
I find it fascinating that as progress in parenting is made, as we age, evolve and mature, how many of these same lessons are revisited. I firmly believe in the adage that life doesn’t give you problems. Rather life gives you teachers, and you’ll receive the same teacher until you learn the lesson. The lesson, it seems that we have to relearn as Levi ages, are these boundaries. Giving a little and pulling back, and giving more. Eventually, I will be able to watch him on the merry-go-round without the fear I have no. Eventually, the merry-go-round and other playground games will all be like the slide: the thing you never went up or down but now climb like wearing an old hat.