For those of you who may not know, aside from being the last day of the Earth's existence (haha, yeah, that was totally sarcasm), today was also the second annual "Take Our Children to the Park...and Leave Them There Day." Of course, being the parent of free-range children that I am, I participated, albeit in a modified way, in this mini-holiday.
Wait, wait, now before you call CPS...NO, I did NOT leave my two children, ages 25 months and 10 months, at the park by themselves.
Actually, I did what I do every time I take them to the park: I sat down on the grass and let them go off and play by themselves. Ruby never goes far - she plays in the grass or eats the dirt, or what have you, lost in her own little world and happy as a lark. Leonidas goes off to play on the playground equipment, climbing up the steps, rings, chains, bars, and slides...then climbing or sliding down, and doing this over and over and over again, happy as can be. So I suppose, this was really no different than any other day at the park. It just had purpose.
I wondered how many others were there under the same pretense. There did seem to be an unusual amount of parent-less children running about, but I had never been to this particular park, so that could have been the norm. As soon as we got there, he was befriended by an eight-year-old named Marilyn, who became his mother-for-the-day. He had so much fun! He learned a lot from Marilyn - how to climb up the ladder, how to go down the slide without scraping his stomach (after scraping his stomach the first time), and how to slow himself down on the swings without falling off.
In addition, for the first time in the history of his two years of park-going experience...Leonidas fell off the playground equipment!
Haha, it was fabulous! Don't worry, he's fine. He was fine within one minute of falling. He would have been fine without me, although I walked over to him anyway to make him feel more secure. He was climbing down the metal ladder, and had only gotten down one rung from the top before he tried to reach the next rung, found he was too short, and slipped off, falling down to the bottom level of the whole contraption. He landed well, didn't hit his head, and his "new mother" was instantly there, and eight-year-old savior, to apologize for not being there and to make sure he was not hurt. I held him for a minute, sat down with him, and after another minute, he was off...climbing the ladder again. Guess what - he learned what NOT to do when climbing up and down the ladder, and climbed it flawlessly at least a dozen times before we finally went home. On the way home, he told me, "My fall on the slide." "You fell off the slide at the park?" I asked him. "Yeah," he said, "my fall. My got hurt on the slide. My ok now. My happy." I think that pretty much summed it up.
I'm glad he had fun at the park with his friends. I'm glad he fell. I'm glad he learned from it with no permanent damage done, and I'm glad he's smarter and stronger from the experience. Of course, it HURTS me to see my babies get hurt, even for a moment. But it's so amazing when they come out of it healthy, strong, and above all, HAPPY. I am thankful for the opportunity to be able to give my child a lifetime of free-range moments of learning and laughter. And who knows, maybe next year when he's three, he'll be able to take the bus to the park himself, buy lunch for all his friends, then find a kindly-looking stranger to give him a ride home...