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Archive for May, 2013

When we went to the playground the other day, my two-year old son, Eddie, insisted on taking his two Elmo dolls with us. One is large and covered in red fur. The other is small and made of red cloth. Eddie placed the two dolls down on the ground when he went to play with the digger, a shovel that is controlled by two levers.

The closest he has to a sibling is an Elmo doll.

The closest he has to a sibling is an Elmo doll.

Next to the digger was a roundabout, a big metal disc that children run alongside and then hop on. There were two boys on the roundabout who must have been brothers as they looked almost identical. By the time Eddie got off the digger and went over to the roundabout, the two boys had moved on. Eddie placed his two Elmo dolls on the roundabout and then sat down. I grabbed one of the rails and ran around the outside of the disc to get it spinning.

“Hold on, pal,” I said.

He sat in the middle for a moment spinning with his two Elmo dolls but soon grew bored. He tried to get off before it had stopped spinning.

“Wait,” I said, and stopped the ride from moving.

He climbed down with the two dolls and went over to the swings, where the two brothers had gone. There was one boy in each swing, and their father was pushing both of them at once. Eddie stood behind them and watched. The boys soon got down from the swings and left. Eddie placed the larger Elmo doll in one of the swings and pushed once but soon saw the slides across the way. He grabbed the doll and walked over.

The slides were attached to a big plastic tree, which was hollowed out on the bottom and had a tree house on top. Eddie walked into the hollowed out bottom and placed his two Elmo dolls on the floor. He walked over to one of the windows in the tree and popped his head out.caren's iphone may 25 2013 004

Soon, a girl who was a lot taller than Eddie, walked into the hollowed out bottom and began talking to my son. She had an English accent and was telling Eddie that her name was Victoria, and she was three years old. I couldn’t hear what else she’d said, but the next thing I saw was her holding Eddie’s hand and guiding him up the stairs to tree house.

My husband and I sometimes regret not having another child because we deprived Eddie of a sibling. We try to fill the void by running around with him, hiding behind trees, kicking balls, playing tag, but it’s tiring. My husband and I are close to 50. We don’t have the stamina to be siblings.

People who practice yoga and other mystical voodoo believe if you ask the universe for things, it will give them to you. After seeing those two boys together at the playground, I wished Eddie had a sibling – and then along came Victoria. She wasn’t just a playmate. She was as nurturing and avuncular as an older sister.

When Victoria reached the landing of the tree house, she stood on one side near a telescope. Eddie walked over to the other side and popped his head out a window and began calling for me.

“Mommy! Down.”

“Why don’t you come down the slide,” I said.

She kept pulling him up to the tree house.

She kept pulling him up to the tree house.

“Nooo,” he said.

I climbed up the ladder to the tree house and help him down. Victoria followed us down.

“But you can’t go down yet,” she said in that thick English accent. “The water is coming, and you need to stay on high ground.”

She started to take Eddie’s hand to guide him back up to the tree house.

“Nooo,” he said.

“But you mustn’t stay down here. The water will be rising, and we’re all going to drown,” she said. “I’ll take your hand, okay?

She tried to take Eddie’s hand, but he shook her off. He walked over to me and took my hand and walked me over to a ladder that led up to the tree house.

“I go here,” he said.

“That’s pretty big, pal. That’s for big kids,” I said.

He ignored me and began to climb the ladder. Victoria was soon at my side, and said, “I’ll go up behind him.”

She scooted up the ladder behind Eddie. As he neared the top, he didn’t seem to have the strength to lift his foot high enough to reach the top rung. He began to fall backward. Victoria caught him, and then I caught her.caren's iphone may 25 2013 006

“All right. Enough of the tree house,” I said. “Let’s try the swing.”

Eddie didn’t want to go on the baby swings, which are fully enclosed like little baskets. He wanted to ride on the regular swings. I placed him on one and told him to hold onto the metal chains. I gave him a little push and told him to then use his legs to keep up the momentum, but he didn’t understand how to do that. Victoria offered to push him, but she did it in a very jerky manner, pushing him from the front rather than the back and shoving him rather than gently pushing.

“Try pushing him from behind,” I told her.

She moved behind Eddie but continued to shove rather than push.

“Okay, I’ve got it covered,” I told her, stepping in behind Eddie.

As Victoria and I stood there for a moment, Eddie suddenly fell forward onto the ground and began to cry.

“Oh, pal,” I say, picking him up and cuddling him. “Where does it hurt?”

“Boo boo,” he said. “Eddie crying.”

“I know you’re crying. Where does it hurt?” I said.

He didn’t answer.”

He had a sister for a day.

He had a sister for a day.

“Where is his boo boo? Why doesn’t he answer?” Victoria asked, her head wedged in between me and Eddie.

“Ice,” Eddie said.

I went to the car to get Eddie’s lunch bag, which had ice. He held it briefly on his arm, and when he seemed sufficiently recovered, Victoria took his hand again and began pulling it.

“C’mon,” she said.

“Mommy,” he said, turning to look back at me as she guided him back toward the tree house.

“Victoria, I think we’ve had enough of the park for today,” I said and took Eddie’s hand.

She walked us to our car and said goodbye and rubbed the side of Eddie’s arm. It was good we met Victoria, because she caught him when he nearly fell off the ladder. But she was as cloying and bossy as an older sister. As we drove off, I think Eddie was happy to be alone again.

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When I was growing up, there was a little cluster of amusement rides off of Hempstead Turnpike called Jolly Rogers. The amusements were covered in a thin layer of car exhaust, the ferris wheel had rusty cages that were totally enclosed, and the rides were jammed in so close together, it was like the inside of a storage unit. This small amusement park was to Six Flags what a petting zoo is to a working farm. But I loved Jolly Rogers, and the stomach-dropping thrill of going round and round and up and down. Spinning around in the tea cups made me laugh in a way I don’t laugh anymore. And the way the Tilt-o-Whirl whipped you around like a lasso was both frightening and titillating. For years, every time we’d pass Jolly Rogers in our car, my heart would beat a little faster.

Tilt-A-Whirl

Tilt-A-Whirl

I’d forgotten about that childhood excitement until last night, when we took our two-year-old son, Eddie, to a carnival. Upon seeing the rides, if my son were slightly more verbal, he would have said, “Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. I want to go on the ferriswheelrollercoastercarouseltilt-o-whirlteacupsswingsdinosaurride!” But instead, he would just point his chubby little index finger like a ray gun and say, “That one!” and my husband and I would put him on that ride.

We started off slowly, putting him on a children’s ride that had an apple centerpiece and was surrounded by cars shaped like lady bugs. The man operating the ride wore a safari hat and would tell the children as they got on, “The secret word is ‘applesauce.’” Once the ride began moving, he’d say, “What’s the secret word?” and they’d shout “Applesauce!” as their cars chugged by.

Next stop was the carousel. Eddie wanted to ride one of the horses that went up and down – a black one, to be specific — so I got on the ride with him. I stood next to his horse and grasped tightly to a bar behind him as the circular motion of rides now gives me vertigo.

Ooh, ooh I want to go here. No, wait, I want to go there.

Ooh, ooh I want to go here. No, wait, I want to go there.

I then took him on the Ferris wheel. Every time our car would ascend high into the air and then over the top of the wheel, I would say, “Weeeeeee!” and then “Look how beautiful!” and point to the rides below. I was trying to assuage his fear, though he didn’t seem to have any. It’s me who now gets light-headed and queasy when I look down from a great height.

As our car rocked back and forth at the top of the wheel, I looked down at a ride called The Screamer, which resembled the hammer-like machine that pumps oil out of a well, only it rotated 360, and I thought there must be a lot of vomit in that car. I also thought if Eddie wants to ride that one, he’s on his own. I can no longer stomach rides that put me upside down.

As we headed for the food tent, Eddie spotted a small roller coaster shaped like a train and out went his chubby little index finger like a pointer. “That one!” he said.

As we got closer, what looked like an innocuous child’s train seemed to whip saw the children up and down and then around.carousel

“It looks like they’re going to get whiplash,” said a woman standing on line in front of us.

I hoped Eddie wasn’t going to be tall enough for the ride, but when I stood him in front of the measuring stick, he just made it.

The seats weren’t large enough for adults, so he was going to be riding this one alone. As we stood on line, I had him grab the bars of the railing next to us and kept saying “Hold tight. Show me. Hold tight,” and as he grasped the rail, I kept trying to pull his hands off so he could show me how tight he could hold.

When the man operating the ride opened the entry gate, Eddie and all the other riders swarmed the cars. Eddie wound up in a seat alone. Two children were then turned away because the ride was full. So I picked Eddie up and put him in the first car, next to an older girl who seemed capable of saving my child’s life if he was about to fly out. I then saw her practicing lifting her hands in the air as she planned to do when the car flew down a hill. So much for my lessons in how to grasp a rail.

You ain't goin on that one, sunshine.

You ain’t goin on that one, sunshine.

Soon, the ride started, and I watched my son get whipped around in the car, the weight of the older girl pressing him toward the outside of the car. He was holding on so tightly to the bar in the car, I’m sure his knuckles were white. But his face was beaming. As I watched him fly by, his shoulder length hair flying back in the wind, I could feel his joy and almost remember a life without fear.

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Parents who tell their children to use their “inside voice” in restaurants must not have a child who yells, because inside is where my son screams the most. He yells at the top of his lungs when he doesn’t want me to put him in the bath. He then yells when I try to lift him out. He yells when he doesn’t like the meal I’ve served him, and he yells when I take it away. This morning, as I lifted him out of the tub to get dressed, he let such a loud, sharp scream, I was sure somewhere in the world, glass had shattered.

“Stop it!” I said.

“AAAAAHHHHHHHHH!” he howled, even louder.images

“Eddie! Stop it!” I yelled back, startling him. His eyes then welled up, his bottom lip began to protrude, and he started to cry.

“I’m sorry, pal. I’m sorry,” I said, pressing him against me. “But I just hate when you yell like that!”

And I do. If phases have names, we’re most definitely in “The Yelling Phase.” And he does it in the most routine situations, like when I’m putting on his seat belt or changing his diaper. He yells really loudly, too. Last night, I had him on my lap when he let out a blood curdling scream, inches from my ear. If we were a comic strip, his mouth would have been a large “O” and my eyes would have turned into two “+” signs. I lifted him up like a stinky object and handed him to my husband.

The yelling has been going on for several weeks now, and this morning, I was almost at my wit’s end. Before we even left for school, he had unleashed a hefty spirited scream about five times, and being eminently mature, I yelled back at him three out of those five. The fifth time, I lifted him into the air and said, “That’s it! We’re doing a ‘Time Out.’ My pediatrician suggested I try it, particularly when I’m feeling frustrated, because it gives us both a breather. But as I hastily carried him from the living room to the dining room to set him down in our wing back chair, I remembered the chair was no longer there because we’d temporarily moved it out to the front porch. So I carried him back and forth between the living room and the dining room, his feet dangling, not knowing where to place him. I finally just set him back down on the floor and said, “Don’t do that.”

On the way to school, he screamed two more times in the car. I carried him into his classroom and placed him down on the floor and said to his teacher, “Is yelling a phase? Because he keeps yelling at me at the top of his lungs. I need to know it’s normal, and I need to know it’s going to end.”

As I continued telling his teacher what he’d been doing, Eddie looked up at me with eyes that seemed to say, “Why are you telling them this? They like me here.” Not only was I talking about him in front of him, but I was taking our private matter, born out of a particular dynamic between us, and revealing it to everyone at school, where they thought he was the happiest, most gentle child. “Smiley,” they call him. I felt like he was Mr. Popular, and I’d just whispered in everyone’s ears why he shouldn’t be.blog old yeller swing

For the rest of the morning, I kept having a vision of Eddie’s eyes looking at me as I told his teacher about the crimes he’d been committing at home. I had betrayed him.

“That’s not what he was thinking,’ said Eileen, the woman who stands behind the counter at the café I go to every morning.

“I’m projecting?”

“You’re projecting,” she said.

That afternoon, when I picked Eddie up at school, his teacher told me she had said to him, “Eddie, why are you yelling at mommy?” It made me feel worse because I’m sure it made him feel like I’d succeeded in turning his teachers against him.

The teacher then said Eddie yelled a lot more at school that morning. Superb, I thought. I’ve turned my angelic little child into a behavioral problem at school. And now it’s all going to feed on itself. Eddie will feel angry at home, and then when I react badly to it, he’ll feel unloved. He’ll then go to school feeling depressed and unloved and will then act out, until they start reacting badly to him at school, too. He’ll then bounce back and forth between these two hostile worlds, feeling no love anywhere.

This yelling felt like a game changer. I have managed not to screw him up, until now. But the screaming was getting me so frustrated, I was getting angry at him.

The only time he's not yelling.

The only time he’s not yelling.

As we drove home from school, he yelled a couple of times in the car. When we got home, I walked him over to the little park near our house, like I always do, to let him blow off a little energy before his nap. I found myself walking a little ahead of him on the sidewalk and not turning around right away when he called me, out of spite. I was mad. I was tired of him yelling at me. But I couldn’t be mad for very long. We’d brought a ball to the park, and he kicked it and then ran after it, and before he could kick it again, I interceded and kicked it. He then ran over to the ball and kicked it, and then I stepped in again and kicked it. Soon, we were both vying for the ball, trying to take it away from each other, and I felt like all was forgiven.

When we got back to the house, I put him in his crib for his nap, and as he lay there looking up at me and I looking down at him, I felt thick with remorse at having outed him at school. I began to rub the side of his head with my hand and explained to him that I was sorry I’d talked about him to his teacher but that I was trying to get her advice.

“I didn’t know what else to do,” I said.

And as I said that, he looked up at me teary-eyed and then moved his mouth in an exaggerated motion, pretending to yell. He knew exactly what I was talking about. I knew I wasn’t projecting.

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Somewhere along the line, maybe at a garage sale or antique store, I picked up a book called “Don’ts for Mothers.” The word “Don’ts” is underlined. It’s a small hard-covered book, about four inches high and three inches wide, that says at the bottom “1878,” though it’s in such pristine condition, the book has clearly been re-issued.

I bought it because I like old books. They hearken back to a time when people used loftier language, like the word “Anon,” and invoked God when doling out mundane advice about things like diet and daily ablutions.

Under a section called “Pregnancy and Childbirth,” the book says, “Don’t employ the common sort of female midwife. Their ignorance is the cause of many fatal accidents.”don'ts

Under a section entitled “Ablution,” it says, “Don’t feel it necessary to wash your infant’s head with brandy.” It further states, “Don’t use white lead as a powder. Some are in the habit of using it, but as this is a poison, it ought on no account be resorted to.”

The book says, “Don’t allow a babe’s clothes to become wet with urine. Children can be taught cleanliness, by putting a vessel under their lap when there is a sign of evacuation and will soon be not content to do without it.” So I guess I didn’t need to buy eight cartoons about potty time, featuring Elmo and other recognizable cartoon characters, all going to the bathroom, wiping and then flushing the toilet.

Under “Diet,” the book says, “Don’t add either gin or oil of peppermint to the babe’s food. It is a murderous practice.” Upon reading that, I threw out my gin and peppermint oil.

“Don’t gorge the babe with food, it makes him irritable, cross and stupid; cramming him with food might bring on convulsions.” It’s hard to imagine that over-feeding my child would make him stupid, but I’ve thought lesser things I’ve done would cause far more damage, so I guess anything’s possible.

Having him wear a vessel on his bottom works better.

Potty train by putting a vessel under his lap.

“Don’t put glaring colors, a lighted candle or anything that glitters opposite the infant’s bed.” Well, I guess there goes the snowman night light that he asks for every night – as well as the glow-in-the-dark stars I just pasted on his ceiling.

Under “Health,” it says, “Don’t use a pacifier. Its prolonged use is harmful, and is apt to be followed by thick, misshapen lips, irregular teeth, and a deformed palate.” Eddie still uses a pacifier at night, and he’s now two. For now, it soothes him in a way I cannot, lest I stand next to him every night for half an hour until he falls asleep. I’m probably more addicted to it at this point than he is.

“Don’t kiss your infant on the mouth. Diphtheria, tuberculosis and syphilis have often been communicated in this manner.” While it’s hard to imagine giving my child syphilis, I’ve found other good reasons not to kiss him on the mouth.

As I continued to read this little book – which started to feel like it had a bossiness that far exceeded its size – I began to notice a pattern: whatever the book told me not to do, I had invariably been doing.

“Don’t put a carpet down in the nursery as it harbors dirt and dust.” Too late.

“Don’t allow children to wear tight bands round their waists. It is truly a reprehensible practice.” How else am I supposed to know when he’s outgrown his clothes!

“Don’t suppress noise. If he chooses to blow a whistle, or to spring a rattle, or make any other hideous noise which to him is sweet music, he should be allowed to do so.” God, I hate when he yells in my ear.

Over-feeding a child can cause stupidity.

Over-feeding a child can cause stupidity.

“Don’t allow your nursery walls to be covered with green paper-hangings.” I don’t know what that is, but I’m sure we have it.

But even if I wanted to dismiss the book’s advice as outdated, I had my own list of right and wrong that I seemed to violate. My pediatrician said I shouldn’t let Eddie nap more than two-and-a-half hours, and yet there are days when his nap reaches that limit, and instead of waking him, I sometimes continue to work for another half an hour.

I’m not supposed to yell at him, and yet when he fights me on getting into the bath, and then getting out of the bath, and then putting on his socks, and then his diaper, I’ve raised my voice to the point where he’s cried.

I’m supposed to bathe him every day, and yet on weekends, we’ll sometimes skip the bath on both Saturday and Sunday, even when I’ve noticed his hair is so sticky, it adheres to my hand.

He’s not supposed to watch too much TV, and yet now and again, I’ll have a story due and then dinner to make, and he might sit on the couch watching Curious George and Thomas the Train episodes for an hour-and-a-half.

It’s hard to mother perfectly, and I always thought I would have been better at it, but so far, my son seems relatively healthy and relatively happy – even if when his classmates are all building towers out of Lego’s, he’s the one who walks by and knocks them down. I guess the one rule I’d add to the book, “Don’ts for Mothers,” is “Don’t be too hard on yourself.”

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I pick my two-year old son, Eddie, up from daycare every day at noon, and we have about an hour-and-a-half to fill before he goes down for his nap. It’s a funny amount of time because it’s too short to do something fun, like go to a movie, but too long to just go in the house and read a book or play with a toy. So we usually break it up, doing a bit of this and a bit of that, and invariably end up at the park just near my house that is affectionately called “Pooper’s Park” because so many people take their dogs there to do their business.

How do you lose a ball this size?

How do you lose a ball this size?

We were about to head over to the park yesterday when I remembered our neighbor, Sheila, had given us a large blue ball. It was an exercise ball, though the smaller version, and it made the perfect child’s toy. We took it with us to the park.

Eddie and I rolled it back and forth, and kicked it around for a couple of minutes, but when it rolled off and Eddie became interested in a nearby tree, I pulled out my phone to check my email. I’m a compulsive person by nature, so checking my email is not just a convenience but a psychological fixation. Smart phones have only made my preoccupation worse.

When I looked up from my phone, Eddie said, “Ball?” I looked around the park and it was nowhere to be found. I had been derelict in my duties and now the ball was gone. I feared the next time it might be my son.

It wasn’t the first time I “left the room” as they say, while playing with Eddie. Last summer, Eddie and I were at the beach, and he found a little plastic yellow ring. It had a big circle on it with a little dot in the center, reminiscent of Underdog’s ring. Eddie didn’t want to wear the ring. He found a place on the tidal flats where the water gathered, like a river, and he wanted to keep putting the ring in the water to watch it float. I showed him how to move the ring by making waves behind it, creating a current. We did that over and over again until Eddie decided to bury the ring. He dug in the sand and found it but then promptly buried it again. We played this game over and over again until he buried it too well, and he couldn’t find it. I dug into the sand and found it and gave it to him. He buried it again, and again I found it. But after a minute or two, I began to daydream, and this time he buried the ring so well I couldn’t find it because I didn’t see where he’d buried it.

I began to frantically fish my hands under the sand, to no avail. I chastised myself for having daydreamed when I was on duty. What if he was in the ocean one day, and I began to day dream, I thought. I continued to feel around under the sand, from one end of the pool of water to the other, and finally, after a few minutes, I felt something in the sand and yanked it out. I was so relieved to find this object that had quickly become precious.

And now I’d done it again. I scanned the perimeter of the Pooper’s Park, but there was no sign of the ball. As I looked around the park, it was hard to imagine how one loses a ball of this size. If balls were boats, this would be a 10-story cruise ship.

It was windy out, so I determined which way the wind was blowing and walked over to the houses along that side of the park. I peaked in all the yards and under trees along that side, reasoning that the ball could not have disappeared. The wind must have moved it somewhere.

There are times in a parent’s life when you feel like your kid is counting on you. The only thing between them and the horrors of the world is you. This was probably not one of those times, but having fallen asleep on the job, I felt like it was. I was determined to find the ball.

“C’mon. We’re getting in the car,” I told Eddie. “We’re going to find this ball.”

We got in the car and drove down the block slowly.

“You look on that side of the street. I’ll look on this side,” I told my son, pointing to the houses he was supposed to survey. I thought he was too young to understand my instructions, but when I looked over at him, I saw him looking out the window on his appointed side.

“Wait, is that it?” I said and stopped the car and hopped out. I peered down an alley, but it was just a planter.

The ball, in earlier days.

The day our neighbor gave Eddie the ball.

We drove about five blocks and when I got as far as our little grocery market, I knew the ball couldn’t possibly have gone this far. I had failed. I took a right turn, and then another right, and started heading home on a parallel street. I was disappointed. I didn’t just want to find the ball. I needed to, for my son’s sake. And for my own. I wanted to make up for all the times I’d wronged him by spacing out, or checking my email or talking on the phone, or wandering off to weed some garden bed while he waited for me to come over to him.

“Come, mommy, come. Mommy, come, mommy. Come,” he’ll say over and over again some days, and sometimes, I don’t come right away.

As we headed home, I spotted something on the sidewalk in front of our local realtor. It was a big blue ball, just sitting there, as if it had been waiting for us.

“There it is!” I shrieked and jumped out of the car.

I grabbed the ball and handed it to my son. “Your ball, buddy. It’s your ball. Mommy found your ball!” I said, as I slid back into the driver’s seat. As I put the car in gear, I looked at my son in the rear view mirror and saw that I was more excited than he was. But then for him it was just a ball. For me, it was salvation.

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I took my two-year old son, Eddie, to a nearby playground. The last time we were here, he was enamored with one particular slide. It was a plastic yellow slide that had a little ripple in it, but I’m sure it was the steep climb up about 10 large metal steps that attracted him. Eddie likes a challenge, and while a playground usually has two different sections — one with small slides and monkey bars for little children and another with larger slides and bars for older children — Eddie has always gravitated toward the big kids’ equipment.

The yellow slide with the ripple

The yellow slide with the ripple

In fact, the last time we were at this playground, I couldn’t get Eddie off of this one particular slide. It was sort of annoying, actually. The metal steps were so steep, I kept fearing he would slip off of them and so every time he begin to climb them, I’d climb up behind him. As we’d near the top, I’d run back down the steps so I could be at the bottom of the slide by the time he slid down, lest he shoot off the end and into the dirt. It was frightening because several times, he’d hesitate at the top of the steps and instead of sitting down on the slide, he’d start to climb back down the steps, and by that time, I was too far to run up the steps behind him and catch him if he fell. But whether he went forward or backward, he so enjoyed this slide last time we were here that I had to carry him out of the playground and to the car kicking and crying because he didn’t want to leave it.

This time at the playground was no different. As soon as we arrived, Eddie headed straight for the yellow slide with the ripple and began to ascend the steep stairs. I was surprised to see how much he’d grown. He climbed up the stairs with such vigor. He was much bigger and more capable. He launched up the steps and held onto the railings with each step with such firmness that his hands seem to be propelling him upward almost as much as his feet. He seemed so steady, I didn’t even bother to follow him up the stairs. What a difference several months makes, I thought.

The stairs were suddenly too scary.

The stairs were suddenly too scary.

But about halfway up the ladder, he stopped. He looked up the ladder toward the top of the slide and then back down toward the ground, and he started to climb back down.

“What’s the matter, pal? Keep going!”

“No want to,” he said.

“Oh, c’mon. You loved this slide last time,” I said.

“No want to,” he said and continued to climb down the ladder.

“Okay, you don’t have to go,” I said. “But I know you can do it. You did it when you were just a baby, and you’re even bigger now.”

He ignored me and kept climbing down the stairs. When he reached the bottom, he didn’t say anything. He just walked off in the direction of something smaller and more manageable.

Even the smaller slide seemed intimidating

Even the smaller slide seemed intimidating

It made me sad to see that fear had grown inside him, like one might grow a molar or facial hair. It was something that wasn’t there but had somehow developed, and I hoped it wasn’t on account of something my husband or I had done.

I walked over with him to a little piece of equipment in a patch of sand in the far corner of the playground that simulated a digger truck. You sit on what looks like the seat of a see-saw and pull back on two levers, which operate the scoop. Eddie played on the sand digger for about five minutes, scooping up so much sand that he created a little hole. I kept having to push more dirt into the path of the digger so that he’d have some soil to pick up.

Apparently, the digger belonged to Eddie.

Apparently, the digger belonged to Eddie.

He eventually tired of the digger and wandered over to the side of the playground meant for young children. There was a short slide, which had a small ladder that led up to a tube, and on the other side of the tube was a large metal dinosaur. Eddie started to crawl through the tube but when he saw the dinosaur, he began to back out of the tube like a cat backing away from a predator. He made a face like he was scared, though it looked fake. And yet every time he started down the tube toward the dinosaur, he’d retreat again and back out of the tube. I had to stand at the front of the tube and coax him forward to make him go through.

Once through, he walked over to the small slide, and he stood at the top of it for about 45 seconds before getting up the nerve to come down. But after doing it once, he seemed more confident and ran back up a small set of stairs to do it again. And yet again when he reached the top of the slide, he hesitated. It was only when he saw another young boy go over to the sand digger he’d been playing with earlier that he practically dove down the slide.

“Mine!” he yelled from the top of the slide and barreled down toward the ground, propelled by the power of possessiveness.

He ran over to the digger with such conviction, the young boy sitting on it and his grandmother, who was standing next to him, thought it best to just give my son a wide berth. They scurried off to find something else to play with.

The calming motion of a swing.

The calming motion of a swing.

Eddie played with the digger for several minutes, but after a while, even he grew bored. I suggested we try the swing, and he agreed. As he swung back and forth like a pendulum finding balance, his face grew more relaxed, and he returned to a place more familiar.

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