She’s coming 20 months soon, with all the signs of a terrible two but still the sweetness of a baby. It hurts to discipline her, but parents do what they gotta do.
Last weekend something struck me. It took 3 days to completely sink in, and will probably be a recurring thought in the next 20 years at least.
It was in a pool. A children’s pool with a giant playground-like structure in the middle, capable of holding adults, in a neighbourhood country club that we occasionally swim and have dinner at together with our college friends.
Since my wife didn’t swim that day, I was shadowing miss adventure on her quest to do what every 5 year-old was doing in the pool, climbing up and down, playing with every water sprout and every wheel that turns.
And there was this slide in the middle of the huge contraption. A very popular, spiralling slide, with children (and occasional adults) streaming through over and over. The pool was only 1 foot deep, which provides for pretty lousy landing at the end. But it did not hinder these 5-8 year olds from mastering the technique of straightening their bodies and trying to land with their feet down first.
We watched in awe for a while, and before I could interest her in the tyre swing, she was climbing up the structure and joining the queue. You see, in the last month she had been trying to slide down every slide in sight, after figuring out how to slide properly thanks to great guidance from her grandparents.
I was very concerned. It was clear that she could not handle this slide and she might hurt herself by slamming herself into the shallow pool.
But her determination (and the politeness of the other children who waited for her to settle) encouraged me. Once seated, I flee to the bottom of the slide to position myself to catch her. When she saw me, she was still reluctant, but eventually, she came down.
At what seemed like 100mph.
Body spinning as the slide spirals.
And came head down first towards the end.
I dived to catch her. I did. She had a mild splash and I could quickly restore her balance upright, hugged her and quickly carried her away from the dangerous landing zone where other kids came.
And then my heart sank.
She was in total shock. Her eyes were wide open and her face was pale. She didn’t move when I held her and soothe her.
She wasn’t ready but her ambition and my carelessness had shaken her so much that for the rest of the evening she hardly smiled and simply looked dazed.
Still, that wasn’t the main story I wanted to tell you. It’s what happened next.
After that we went to the swing – and she was too afraid to even swing mildly, so we continued to wander around the pool as she recomposed herself.
She went up the structure again, I joined her.
I discouraged her from the slide, and I brought her down.
She went up the structure again, climbing to higher ground, looked afar for mum, and then followed my lead to climb down again.
It was clear – she’s not giving up.
She was reassessing the situation.
She went up again, and this time… she stood firm at the entrance of the slide. The other kids had went away and she stared at the slide for a long time.
I asked her, “Do you want to take the slide?”
She mumbled carefully, “slide…”, by that she means affirmative but still concerned.
And it was at that point the epiphany hit me.
I’m her god damn dad. Slide down with her.
I must first clarify that I have had my fair share of bad roller coaster rides and phobia for fast uncontrollable means of transportation, something my wife still chides me for. Heights, water etc had been lifelong challenges I try to overcome but it doesn’t just go away. I have successfully stayed away from most activities I deem “harmful to health” or “risk of death” like sky-diving or scuba-diving. Officially I cherish my life and my safety over adrenaline rush, privately I just deal with the ghost in me.
And I have a daughter with more determination than her mum.
“I’m her god damn dad, if I don’t bring her down am I going to let her do the 180 degrees upside down ride again?”
But there was no time to lose. She already sat down at the tipping point, ready to make that journey again. I almost cried, sat down and grabbed her, and went down the double spiral.
And a painful *THUD*.
My ass hurt with joy. So did some other joints.
The mum was standing by, giving her approval. I was more concerned about the little one at that point – Did she enjoy it? Was it scary? Was she satisfied with a joint ride?
And she emerged looking so proud at me, but without the cheerfulness or silliness when we were playing. To her, that slide had just became the pinnacle of her life, her greatest achievement, the mountain she must conquer.
She pondered around the pool for a while, regained her footing, and went up the structure again.
I’m her god damn dad.
I guess it got easier after the first time, but old bones hurt real bad and I had to curl to protect her towards the end. Sorry, ass.
And then a 3rd time.
By then it was late and I happily accepted my wife’s suggestion that we clean up and bath.
* * *
On my own, I would never go down that slide. After this episode, I would still not go down that slide. That’s me, and people around me respect that, to which I appreciate greatly.
And I accepted this challenge to raise our girl into a fearless lady in this brave new world.
And thus, before I even know it, I just had my first taste of being push way, way out of my comfort zone by my 19 month old.
Love you, Yenn <3