Sunday, October 01, 2006

Stage Mother

I've quickly grown accustomed to having a fearless child. Yes, I'll walk straight into an oncoming wave. Yes, I'll plow through a tower of blocks at the bottom of the ramp with my plastic car. Yes, I'll shimmy up a rock-climbing wall meant for kids a foot taller than me. I will do all this and more and fie in the face of danger. Bring it on!

So I've been a bit bemused in recent weeks when Jarrah shakes her head. No, you don't want to go in the water? No, you don't want to climb up there? No, you don't want to walk across hot coals in your bare feet? Hmmm. That's funny. Jim never drinks instant at home.

I've ignored the vagaries of change, however, preferring my original smug perspective: my daughter, not even two, is bold and brave and fearless. She's a tiny Magellan.

This weekend we went out for pancakes with Mary, Paul and Joy for David's birthday. Jarrah is plenty brave about pancakes. She dispatched several, along with an egg, some potatoes and several pounds of cherries from my crepes that we are still paying for. She was in fine spirits when we headed across the street to a seasonal Pumpkin Patch, complete with rides and attractions for the youngsters. I was drawn to the giant slide. David said it's okay if I tell you it was 50 feet high. I didn't measure it or anything, but that sucker was HIGH. It was soft, though, you know, blown up. "Jarrah, would you like to go on the really big slide?" I asked. Vigorous shake of the head. I mean vigorous. I ignored it. "It'll be fun. You'll go with Mommy." David got the camera ready and Mary, Joy, Jarrah and myself ventured forth. The "ladder," as it were, was a mesh grid of what looked like seat belts, flush with a really steep ramp. You had to dig your fingers and toes under it to avoid plummeting backwards. But Jarrah knew nothing of that, because I was behind her. "Pull!" I directed cheerfully, sweating copiously in the midday sun as I hauled myself and bolstered my nearly 30 lb. child in front of me. It was slow going, but we made it. At the top, all four of us got situated and went down together. It was really, really fast. I was exhilarated, but actually kind of scared. I laughed hysterically at the bottom. Jarrah looked at me, took my cue, and laughed, too, but a bit uncertainly.

We had one more to go. Again, with the pulling and hauling and sweating. I could barely manage the ladder myself, so it didn't make sense to expect Jarrah to. At the top, I caught my breath for a second while I hoisted Jarrah into position. But Jarrah knows from slides. They are fun, and Mommy waits at the bottom to catch you. Off she went, very deliberately.

Oops. I watched helplessly as she plunged to the bottom alone, whipping from side to side. She came to a stop, perfectly safe, nowhere near the edge, but completely prone and sort of upside down. And she cried. She cried and cried and cried. I had to wait for someone to pull her off so I could hurry down and comfort her. She held on to me and cried into my hair for several minutes, totally unlike her even at times when she's genuinely cracked her head. I felt just awful. But a teeny, tiny horrible part of me thought, What's the big deal? It's just a slide. What's all the fuss about?

After a while, we decided the girls might enjoy the circular swing. It's the one where the swings hang on a kind of rack in a circle and go around all together. Personally, I love them, but this one was sized for young 'uns. Jarrah had calmed down and seemed curious and interested as we were buckling her into her seat. The ride started up and she was smiling when she came around the first time. The second revolution found her enthusiasm slightly dampened. The third time the little face was crunching. And the fourth we were in full sob territory.

They were nice enough to stop the swing right away, and we took her off. She continued to cry for a while. I actually believe that if she had just gone on the swing and not the evil slide, she wouldn't have been upset. But I think the slide was a lasting trauma, and at that point she felt we were sending her into the void to do every scary, unknown thing alone.

Luckily, that's not true. But I have decided I have to work on myself now. Jarrah is fine either way, fearless or cautious or somewhere in-between. But I've learned that her personality, which I've only been studying a few months, is complicated. I'm not going to be able to pin her down that easily. She will be as changeable as clouds, and I have to be okay with that.

Sometimes, I feel like living with a toddler is as much of a whole new world as being one.


Anonymous said...

Also possible Jarrah was feeling a little bit nauseous that day, which makes for motion sickness -

LOVE the shades! :)

Best, Gail

Type (little) a said...

I, too had a fearless child. There's pretty much nothing she won't climb on, but we're seeing a bit of apprehension at big, scary looking things.

The biggest change I noticed is she is now somewhat shy with strangers. And she now needs "warm up" time with my family. (so do I, BTW)

Damn kids! Just when you get used to their likes and dislikes, they go and change on you. It's like they think they're people or something!

Anonymous said...

Really darling photos!

Here's to lots more this weekend!



Cheri said...

Be still my heart! Jarrah, dahling, those sunglasses!!!

And the picture of Mr. Roo running next to the swing with Joy is so endearing as to bring tears to my eyes!

And then the picture of Mrs. Roo, The Angel Who Walks Among Us, holding Jarrah's little arm on the 50' high slide is just too precious for words.

Well, this was just the bedtime story I needed!