Giving the kids the freedom to explore without constantly intervening can be difficult. Not many of us have been given the same opportunity, especially as very young children. Thinking that a five or three or even one year old can do things on their own with little help from us can seem impossible or even dangerous.
We were at a birthday party in June and Egan was climbing up stairs, climbing the ladder on the play set, and other things he has been doing for a long time. It was funny to watch the other parents looking at us, looking at him, looking back at us, to see why we weren’t helping him. There were a lot of “be careful” comments while they were watching him. There were many comments about his bravery and how it must make us so worried, so nervous, all the time.
Sometimes it does make us worried, like when he is climbing the stove. But we have grown to understand how capable these children are if we simply give them space. Egan knows what his limits are. When he gets stuck, he knows I will be nearby to help him. The same goes for Gannon and for Waverly, too, though they rarely need help from us anymore. We have boundaries, of course. Egan isn’t going to climb a ladder up to a roof, or anything, though the other day he did climb up a slide that was very tall. It was one of those old, metal slides. He didn’t want to slide back down, nor did he want to go down the ladder. We got stuck for a moment at the top but we figured it out, in his time, not mine. He let me know when he was ready for me to carry him down the ladder.
Gannon has been riding a two wheel pedal bike with no training wheels since he was 3.5 years old. Waverly tries but doesn’t have the confidence quite yet. She will in her own time. Egan has a balance bike that is attached to a rocking base. He prefers to rock it while standing on the seat or standing in front of the bike, facing the back of the bike, with his feet on the rocking platform. He also enjoys flipping the bike upside down (with help from his brother and sister) and climbing on the underside of the rocking base. Someday, he will understand the mechanics of a bike simply from the exploration he is doing now.
Gannon is interested in climbing trees but we don’t seem to have a good tree for climbing around here. Waverly too likes to sit up high in a branch, looking down at us with a big smile on her face. We have been reading a book about Amelia Earhart and Waverly has so many questions about flying. She likes jumping from the tops of things or off of tall rocks.
Sometimes when they run down the road, my anxiety spikes, watching them moving so quickly over loose dirt and gravel, down a hill. I can see how easily they could slip and get hurt. But I can also see, which is more important, how much they love running. They’ve done it so many times and it pains me, at times, to not yell, “Slow down!” They know what they are doing. They haven’t fallen yet and if I had, each time, told them to be careful or asked them to slow down, I would have taken all the fun away from them. Eventually they would stop running down that particular part of the road, fearful that they would slip and fall, a fear in which I would have instilled in them for the sake of making myself feel better.
There are so many instances where I see them pushing a prior limit. Climbing a little higher, going down a faster slide, pumping themselves on the swing to a new height. I see them running faster, riding their bikes faster, going down hills faster. They have this ability to know when they are ready for more. I can’t possibly know this for them. I can’t hold them back from what they know, from what they deserve to explore.