Sometime last spring, when my twins were about 15 months old, I decided it was no longer safe for me to take them to our local playground by myself. It was shortly after my daughter almost walked off the edge of a three foot high platform leading up to the slide, while my son was playing the Let’s See How Many Woodchips I Can Stuff In My Mouth at Once game. I realized that I just could not keep up with both of them at the same time.
So I assembled the Kangaroo Climber, and the kids played happily all summer long in our own front yard. I’ll admit, for the first week or so I was hovering around the Climber, helping to hoist them onto the platform and making sure they didn’t step over the edge and fall flat on their faces. But I quickly realized that I needed to let them figure it out for themselves (both the climbing and, yes, the falling), so they’d know how a climbing structure worked. Only then would we be able to return to the playground.
I won’t lie. The learning process was a bit rough. My kids are on the small side and had a difficult time getting onto the platform. There was a fair amount of grunting, screaming, whining, and crying, but they both eventually found their own strategies and were so proud that they could do it without help. The falling was, of course, much harder to watch. But, thankfully, the learning curve was steep. And it wasn’t long before they taught themselves how to sit down on their bottoms, slip off that platform, and land on their feet. Like Olympic gymnasts sticking a difficult landing!
Four months later, I was finally ready to head back to the playground. My kids were a little older, a little taller, and much more skilled than they’d been in the spring. I had the utmost confidence in them, knowing how independent they’d become. And even though the drops were higher and the slide was longer and steeper, I did my best to let my kiddos do as much as they could on their own. My daughter flew down the big slide and jumped right up when she reached the bottom. My son slid himself off a platform roughly two feet high, landed on all fours, and ran around to climb the steps and do it all again.
While I was quite proud, I could see the horrified looks from the other moms. How could I stand by and just watch these potentially dangerous situations? The answer was simple. I know that I cannot always be there for both of them. The best I can do is to help them grow and learn to be self-sufficient. Of course, I would never stand by and just watch them do something seriously dangerous. But feel that taking small risks, whether they fail or succeed, is a healthy part of growing up and will teach them confidence and self-sufficiency. And what parent doesn’t want that?