Yesterday we had our first day that felt truly pleasant: Sunny and mid-60s, which naturally draws everyone outside. Benji and I went to the park, a natural urge on such a day, and met our next-door neighbors there. Their son, Jace, is about 3 months older than Benji, so when they have play dates, I get to see my future. We also have fun having somebody close to Benji’s age to play with right next door.

After exhausting the possibilities of the red wagon, we went to the play structure, where a number of other kids were already playing. This structure has a couple of slides, one straight and steep, the other spiraling down. The spiral slide was quite popular with most of the kids, a fact Benji didn’t fail to observe. Jace slid down screaming with excitement. I could see Benji watching and thinking, “There must be something to this slide thing,” so I slid with him down the straight steep slide. SCARY! CRYING! GAAAH!

OK, so maybe sliding isn’t on the docket.

Imagine my surprise, then, when Benji went up to the spiral slide himself. After quite a bit of working up to it (during which time several other kids went past him and slid down), he sat down and, much to my astonishment, slid down. Unfortunately, he didn’t stay upright, and ended up sliding down at a very awkward-looking sideways angle. When I scooped him up from the bottom of the slide, he grabbed me and started wailing. SCARY! CRYING! GAAAH!

At the same time, though, we watched as Jace yet again went down the slide. Other big kids went down, too, and appeared to have fun. What’s the deal? Maybe he did it wrong. Hmm. OK, up he goes again. I spend many minutes standing, craning my neck to look up as Benji dithers at the top of the slide. Working himself up to it… Much to my astonishment, he actually slides again! This time, he goes down feet-first, on his tummy. I scoop him up and… SCARY! CRYING! GAAAH! Apparently the alternative sliding position didn’t help.

Yet up he went a third time, spending even more time looking down at me and the other kids and grown-ups below; watching other kids go down the slide; sometimes sitting down, then standing up again, not quite ready. My brave boy apparently ran out of brave juice, because after probably 10 or 15 minutes up there, he decided to play elsewhere on the play toy. Eventually, he came back down the stairs.

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