The other day, just one day before our dramatic trip to the ER in an ambulance, we went to a Kite Festival.
For the second year in a row, we had a fantastic if windy time. We got to experience much sibling love, funnel cake, and a Kite Liberator.
This year, we added to the mix a good old-fashioned Parent Experience.
Our 3.5-year-old daughter is not what you would call a risk-taker. She doesn’t like swings, or slides, and although we haven’t tried it, I’m sure she’d avoid even the Teacup ride at the county fair. I won’t tell you which parent she inherited this from, but I will tell you that Andy is especially bothered by this trait. It bothers me, too.
Despite being “bothered,” we know we shouldn’t push Rachel. And we don’t. We encourage her, stand by her, and let her move at her own (snail’s) pace in trying new things. So at the Kite Festival, we were very happy to wait in a 45-minute-long line for her to go through the Pirate Bounce House (or boat. Whatever.)
The boat is set up for kids to go in one side, climb up a slide and walk in a half circle to go out the other side. When Rachel first went in, she sat in a corner by the front door letting all the other kids go by her. I stood leaning over the side of the slide, waiting to snap a picture of her going up. I waited. And waited. But she never came. Instead, Rachel remained in the corner, smiling, watching the kids go by. My husband and I verbally encouraged her to go up, but still she sat. Andy asked if he could go in and help her, but the ticket-taker said “no, what if every parent wanted to go in?” Duh. So then Andy asked for our ticket back. Just as the guy handed it back to him, Rachel decided to venture up the slide and head around the half circle.
Andy and I high-fived, congratulated ourselves for our gentle encouragement, and waited for Rachel to emerge happily from the exit door. We waited. And waited. And waited some more. Finally Andy said, “I’m going to go around the other side to see her.”
I stood with the stroller, kite, and bags, metaphorically twiddling my thumbs. After several minutes, I said aloud to no one in particular, “my daughter is stuck. She is the stuck kid.”
I didn’t really know what to do. I knew Andy was watching her from the back of the bounce house, and I thought maybe I was wrong. Surely he would let me know if she were stuck.
And he did, just seconds before a little girl told the ticket-taker the same thing. The ticket guy dramatically threw himself into the exit door (he was probably all of 14-years-old) and carried out a sniffling and red-faced Rachel. We promptly enveloped her in hugs, asked her cheerily if she’d had fun, and handed her funnel cake. Because if powdered sugar on fried dough can’t make a girl feel better, what can?
Thankfully, Rachel didn’t seem to realize it was a big deal to be the kid who’s too scared to make it through the bounce house. She was a bit upset, but not overly so, and she quickly moved on to the next item on the must-do list: face painting and a pony ride.
So what’s the take-home message here? I dunno. We already knew how to handle Rachel’s fears, so we didn’t learn any sort of lesson. We didn’t have an epiphanal moment, nor did Rachel. We just kept going and enjoyed the rest of our day.
Maybe that’s the take-home message: the fears and weaknesses of our children aren’t anything to obsess over. The world won’t end if Rachel gets stuck in a million bounce houses, and we aren’t bad parents because she was born a little risk-adverse. She is what she is, which, in our opinion, is nothing short of perfect.
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