The weather was lovely today, and so we went to our friend Carey's house for a playdate. Carey's daughter rather resembles Kittyboy, were he six years older and a girl (does that make sense?), and so I call her Puppygirl. Puppygirl and Kittyboy, the superhero and super-sidekick, valiently saving the world from boredom - one adventure at a time!
They're both indestructo-children. You can tell the jaded, world-wise mothers of indestructo-children, by the fact that they stand at a distance saying, "Now, that looks dangerous, so be careful" rather than dashing over to help out. When the child falls, the mother of an indestructo-child looks first for misshapen limbs or flowing blood - seeing neither, she assumes all is well, which it generally is.
Carey's yard has the most wonderful swingset ever, so solid it may outlast the house. The ladder up to the slide has three or four rungs, a good foot apart from each other, and they're not steps, they really are rungs - dowels about an inch in diameter. It's a ladder, not a staircase. Kittyboy, naturally, wanted to conquor it. He's not much over two foot tall, so that was quite an ambitous endeavor. Puppygirl was behind him helping, and his itty-bitty feet kept slipping off the rungs, so what did she do but wrap her arms under his, around his ribcage, and hoist. Stubborn and strong, she actually dragged him all the way up the ladder with her. (We moms stood across the yard saying mom-things like "That looks dangerous, be careful"). They made it up just fine. Then WHEE down the slide, with her arms around his waist. They sent stuffed animals down the slide, they played catch up and down it, and then Kittyboy decided he was going down by himself - headfirst, on his stomach. There was only a drop of a couple inches at the bottom, and only dirt, no rocks. Nothing hazardous. I was expecting he'd get a mouthful of dirt, but instead he bounced off the stuffed monkey he'd sent down first, before landing on the grass. What FUN! In a few years he'll be the kid building ramps for his bike to see how high he can launch himself. Indestructo-child.
You can hover over him every moment, or you can make sure the bottom of the slide is free of rocks and clench your teeth and grimace when he goes down it headfirst, assuming that if he dislikes the result, he won't try again. Or he'll just learn how to catch himself. Either way, lesson learned.
I did help him learn how to negotiate the ladder. All he really needed was someone to hold his feet, and the first time went without incident. He can climb his dresser, after all. The second time, he was on the top rung getting ready to climb onto the platform, I had a hold of his feet and was ready for him to go either forwards or backwards. He decided to teach me the folly of assuming anything ever, by going sideways. He leaned sideways and did a sliding face-plant down the side of the ladder. I couldn't totally stop him without letting go of his feet, and I didn't want to do that completely because if his legs went through the ladder, THAT could have been a BIG problem, so I kept one hand on a foot and grabbed his arm with the other to slow his descent. Got him down to the ground, upright again, and gave my precious a hug. He cried for a few seconds, then wanted to go back up the ladder again. "Okay Mommy, let's try this again! Onwards and upwards!"
There really is a sort of laissez-faire mindset that goes along with having an incredibly brave daredevil child. It's the "well, that'll learn him" school of parenting. Scan for obvious actual dangers, and then just realize that the child is going to do what he's going to do. Some children only learn from experience, and ours is one. We've actually taken to placing him on the table or counter or such now and then, and then teaching him how to get down from it, because we can't stop him climbing - that would require impulse control - but we CAN make sure he has the skills to get down safely.
So yes, the next step was teaching him to back down once he was up! That went better than expected, too.
He and Puppygirl just had fun all over the place. They slid, they swung, they pushed stuffed animals in the swings, he chased her on her bike, she set him carefully over the lowest part of the frame and wheeled him slowly through the yard, and they got endless enjoyment from pushing stuffed animals back and forth through the cat-flap in the front door. Now that the weather is markedly better, we'll have to have playdates more often. Running and climbing in the sun and fresh air will encourage Kittyboy to continue napping!
I keep thinking, "Just wait, our next child will be a hot-house flower, afraid of everything, who cries when she trips." What parenting whiplash THAT would be! Although actually, the chances of that would be slim when she or he is watching Brother scale the walls and hang from the ceiling. My youngest brother was the No Fear Baby because he grew up watching three older siblings risking life and limb, and learned from it that risk is fun!