Time sure passes quickly by when you aren't paying attention. It seems like just yesterday when we made our first trip to the playground with Kathryn when she was around seven months old on Mother's Day. She was so tiny that we could barely get her to sit up in the smallest swings to take her picture that first time, and we sat her on the little sliding board and gently slid her down the board from top to bottom as she looked at us wondering what we were doing to her.
We took her back periodically and each time watched her mature a bit as she tried new things here and there. She took little steps each time. Once it was just sitting on the swing by herself as we gently pushed her watching her strawberry blonde hair flow in the breeze. Holding her hands as she slid down the board counting on us to keep her from going too fast as she reached the bottom, yet we could see as each trip progressed a little more freedom as she felt her way a little more beyond her boundary each time.
Her next goal was to travel down the sliding board by herself and when she was about two and a half she was finally ready enough to try the small sliding board alone. She made her way to the entrance of the slide and slowly sat down at the top and hesitated for a few seconds. We encouraged her saying, "You can do it sweetheart" and eventually she finally let go knowing we would be there to catch her at the bottom of the slide and we did so. She was so proud that we did it again and again. As she enjoyed this new found skill, she continued to practice and excel until she no longer needed us there, until the time came for the higher slide.
We repeated the process for the larger slide and we assured her we would catch her again. She tentatively sat there and was about to change her mind when we convinced her to go that it would be okay. She finally listened and we caught her. She hesitatingly tried again, but that was enough for that time. Yet the next time we went to the playground she immediately went to the slides and tried it again and again. Soon she was doing that slide as well without our help.
Pretty soon Kathryn was climbing all around the jungle gym exploring the slides and ladders without little need for our assistance and Mom and Dad were reduced to just standing by in case of a need for help. The swings were still one place that she needed a helping hand as they were too high for her to sit on alone and she was not sure how to make them work, but she was beyond the beginner swings. So at three, she moved on for the first time to the main swings and gently we pushed her on these backless straps and she got used to how they felt.
This year Kathryn is four and a half and time has sure made some changes. She is much taller now and she handles the slides like a pro as well as climbing all over the play unit. For the first time, she was able to climb on the dinosaurs that sit in the playground and rest on them like a prehistoric rider and she smiled from ear to ear as that was a new challenge she conquered this year. Also this year, her legs were long enough to reach the pedals to move around and effectively work the sand shovel and dig and dump sand in the sandbox.
Finally, the riding the swings was her final challenge and she is even making great strides in that area as well. She is learning how to use her legs to move the swing back and forth on her own although she still relies on us for a little push here and there but she is getting the hang of it too. Pretty soon she will be a playground professional.
I have been thinking a great deal about this lately and how much it parallels life. We all start out hopefully with support on the playground those who pick us up when we fall down and wipe off the dirt and dust when we make a mistake and put us back on that sliding board. As we gain confidence we strike out more and more on our own and eventually we leave that net behind until we go down the sliding board alone.
Unfortunately unlike my daughter who has us watching out for her at the playground in case she steps too far out of her comfort zone and needs help, we eventually have to deal with the playground life brings to us on our own. We make mistakes and we need to rectify them. No one is perfect and it is important that each of us remember that as we journey through this world. We are all flawed each in our own way. We all have our bumps and bruises as we meander through this playground of life. It might help us to help each other a little more often.
All it could take is to give that person who looks a little frazzled a smile. Or say "Hello, How are you?" to someone who seems a little sad. It might make their day and who knows it might help you feel a little better as well. Let's try to be each other's helping hand just a little bit in this playground of life.
Til next time…