Central Winds Park is a big park not too far from where we live. Featuring giant playsets and a great hill for rolling, it’s one of our favorite family destinations. The kids, of course, get a lot more time there with their momma with me, but I do what I can.
The last time we were all there together, my youngest headed straight for a climbing wall built into side of the playground equipment. The walls run about ten feet high, and this was the first time that I’d seen N try it on his own. It’s designed for older kids – or at least kids with arms and legs that are a bit longer than his. I ran over to stand behind him.
Usually, when we do climbing walls, I stay behind them and make suggestions like “there’s a spot just above your foot” or “look at that handhold. Can you reach that?”
This time, however, he didn’t want me there. He shouted over his shoulder for me to get away.
I backed up a step. “I’m just here to catch you if you fall,” I said. “You’re climbing it all on your own.”
“No,” he shouted. “Get away.”
I backed up another half step.
He gave an exasperated sigh and climbed the rest of the way up the wall. It wasn’t an easy climb for him, and several times he had to really stretch to reach a handhold. At one point, his foot slipped, but he managed to pull himself up with his hands. After he had made it to the platform at the top, he turned around to yell at me. ”Why didn’t you get away?”
“I wanted to be there to catch you.”
“No, Daddy! I didn’t want that. I don’t care about me. I care about my friends and family and I don’t want you to get hurt!”
My mouth dropped open. “Hurt?” I asked.
“Yes,” he gestured with his hands. “If I fell, I’d hit you and you’d get hurt!”
“Um,” I said, not sure how to respond. “It’s my job to catch you, big guy. That’s what I’m supposed to do. I won’t get hurt.”
He thought about this and then shook his head. “But I don’t want to hurt you.”
I shrugged. “I’ll be okay. I’m a lot bigger than you are.”
We stared at each other for a few seconds, stuck in a logical impasse. Then he pointed to the side of the wall. “Okay,” he said. “Next time, you can stand there. That way you can jump out and catch me, but I won’t fall on you.”
“Okay,” I said.
He grinned and ran to the slide.
I walked over to where my wife was chatting with some other adults. ”Did you see him climb that wall?” I asked.
She nodded. “Pretty amazing, isn’t he?”
“Well,” I said. “Yes, but that wasn’t the amazing part.”