November 30, 2011
He sways precariously between two monkey bars, sweat teeming down his face, regarding the ground below with mounting trepidation. My youngest tells me to catch him, but I know he can reach the ground without incident, so I move a bit further away and tell him to let go. He regards me with a look that is either scorn or disbelief, but disengages his fingers anyway, letting gravity take over. Zach makes a soft landing on forgiving tarmac, rolls to his feet, and grins. “I was scared, but I jumped!” he shouts loudly, and a few children turn around to see what the commotion is all about. Then he’s up, running at what seems to his middle-aged mother to be lightening speed, off to the next challenge.
Finally, finally, he’s once again excited about the next challenge.
There was a long period of time after Zach regressed that he became a child we hardly recognized. He was so silent, desired mostly to be left alone, was only willing to engage in the safe and familiar regimen of organizing his Thomas trains. Anything novel suggested by his parents, grandma, or Early Intervention therapists was quickly rejected, often viewed with fear. This fright extended from new foods to books, and even toys, no matter how compelling we thought the latter might be to him. There were days I despaired he’d ever try anything new.
Now, he can’t wait.
This is our first time at this particular playground, and Zach is overjoyed to attempt new experiences. There’s the rope ladder he never would have clambered upon even six months ago, which he mounts with ease. I watch as he heads toward the swings, invoking my presence with a wave of his arm to summon me to a seat that used to scare him, but now makes him want to fly. There are his gradually more assertive attempts at friendship, his name, age, and request to play dropped almost casually in conversation, with rejection from older kids (or girls) not appearing to bother him a bit.
Subtle changes. Huge leaps of progress.
His adventurous air has extended itself to school, where he tells me he’s been trying to help his friends more lately, has even once shared a special toy without being asked (!). Practicing his letters so he can write to Santa is now a staple of his Mommy time, rather than a chore no amount of cajoling with demand/reward seemed able to satisfy. Finally, and perhaps most importantly to me, are his repeated tries to engage with Justin, with less and less facilitation by me and his father. This is happening despite the fact that Zach told me recently that “Justin didn’t want to play with him”, which of course crushed me, even as I tried to rally with a strategy that would render Justin momentarily fascinated by Aromadough.
Justin didn’t buy it. But these brothers are slowly making progress in their relationship to one another, and it’s glorious to see.
I end my musings when I see that Zach has stepped away from the giant slide, and is now contemplating sliding down a contraption that strongly resembles a fireman’s pole. My feet close ground quickly as I tell him he can’t imitate the girl in front of him who is most likely in double digits (and as the words come out of my mouth, I have to laugh at the fact I’m telling my child not to imitate someone). Thankfully he listens, turns, and throws himself back onto green plastic, which will take his newly exploratory soul back to earth, and into my arms.
Which despite his adventures, is exactly where he should be.