My kids scare me sometimes. I'll never forget the time Finn stood on the edge of a friend's trampoline, eyeing up the mini-trampoline on the ground next to it. He turned away, kept bouncing for a while, and then came back to the edge. I could see that he was evaluating the jump and comparing it to what he knew of his own abilities. Even though I was nearby, I was not prepared for him to actually attempt the leap. He jumped, landed on the little trampoline, and fell over on to his bottom. With my heart pounding, I picked him up. He gave me the biggest grin and said "FUN."
Even though it wasn't a jump I expected him to do, the fact that he so obviously weighed it up, decided to do it, and succeeded certainly gave me something to think about.
When my first child was a toddler - as is often the case - I was much more likely to be immediately on hand to resolve any difficulties that might crop up. It's probably partly this and partly his dramatic personality that lead to situations like him recently getting stuck in a tree and immediately wailing "I'll be stuck here forever. I'll never get down. Just leave me here. FOR-EV-ER."
Now that the twins are nearly three, and more physically confident and competent, I pretty much leave them to it. So long as we're somewhere that they can't escape, and I can see them, I'm happy for them to climb, jump and splash without me hovering.
Frankly, they outnumber me. I can't be everywhere at once. And my experience with these two is that standing anxiously next to them as they climb is likely to prompt them into riskier exploits, such as leaping at me, whether I'm ready or not. They're aware of their limits, but not mine.
Finn, in particular, is a climber. The boundary between us and our neighbour has a low diamond-mesh fence on our side, and a full-height fence on theirs. Finn likes to stand on the low fence and chat to their dog, or climb into the gap between the two fences. He terrified me one day by disappearing completely. I finally heard a giggle from behind the passionfruit vine growing over the fence.
His adventurous nature doesn't extend to up-in-the-air, flip-upside-down games with Daddy, though. That is definitely Vieve's area.
But Finn's not just adventurous; he's ingenious. When using a chair to reach the kitchen cupboards got too dull, he started pulling out the drawers to make a set of steps. He climbed a nearly-vertical plank on to a friend's shed roof, by bracing his hands on the underside and walking up. He threw Vieve's hat over another neighbouring fence, where it got stuck in a tree. When she got upset, he pulled the outdoor table over to the fence, put a big stick on top, pulled over the clamshell paddling pool so he could use it to climb on to the table, and then used the big stick to hook her hat back down. Ingenious, I tell you!
He's persistent, too. He often spends a chunk of time shooting hoops at Playcentre, and I've watched him spend a good half-hour trying to throw a ball over our fence. I'm pleased, as persistence is a trait that could serve him well, if he uses his powers for good.
Last week, we went to a playground with a rope climbing frame. The very first section was a big stretch for my little shorty, but he tried and tried. He kept letting go with both hands while reaching for the next rope, and he'd fall off. I was so proud of the way he'd get up, run back to the start, and try again.
After five or six attempts, I suggested that he try not letting go with both hands at the same time. He looked at me thoughtfully, ran back to the start, and tried again. He did it! He made it past the first section! He grinned, and clambered around a little where it started to widen.
Soon he fell again, from around a metre this time, but I was kneeling underneath to catch him. I don't usually hover, but this was obviously right at the boundary of his abilities. I said, "Do you know what happened? You put all your hands and feet on the same rope. They need to be on different ropes."
Finn ran back to the start, and tried again. I could see him being conscious of not putting his hands and feet on the same rope. He climbed from one side of the climbing frame to the other, as I ducked from space to space beside him.
Not that I needed to. He didn't fall again. He'd worked out the rules.
It was an achievement, and he knew it. Pride beamed from him and he repeatedly said (as he clambered over the height of my upstretched hands!) "I did it! I can do it! I learned it!"
It was a really special moment. I am so proud of him. He'd tackled something that was a challenge and worked at it, despite falls and setbacks. He hadn't given up, and it paid off.
Way to go, Finny.
Have you ever been surprised by your kids achieving something you didn't think they could do?
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