Eric was right.
That evening when Eric got home from work, he made a few comments that indicated that he'd read the blog before coming home. I wasn't sure where our post-kid-bedtime conversation would take us: would he spin around in circles doing a happy dance? Would he sing-songy say, "You were wrooonnnnngggg" over and over again? Or would he just say, "So... I read your blog today."
As we sat down to watch The Big Bang Theory, drink wine and have a cheese and chocolate snack, he said, "So, why did you say 'no' to Henrik at the gym today?" I still didn't have an answer, I admitted that I didn't, but I knew that there was a pretty darn good chance that I was trying to protect him. We kind of left it at that when I told him that I still needed to do some soul searching to find out if I was over parenting or not.
We left it quiet until Monday, Labor Day, when I announced in bed with the boys climbing all over me, that we still hadn't take our Colorado Adventure Day for the weekend. Eric acknowledged and since we had just bought the boys bike helmets, I suggested we go mountain biking. Eric looked at me, kind of shocked, "Really?" "Yeah," I replied. There was nothing more, nothing less. We got the boys dressed and were on our way out the door in a matter of minutes. Henrik was thrilled that we were actually MOUNTAIN BIKING! I think Eric was too and I, well, I was nervous.
As we sat on a rock and ate breakfast, it was all we could do to keep the boys off the rocks. Henrik had this grown up, giddy, glow about him that just broke my heart. Not in a bad way, but in a way that I knew that he was ready for bigger and better things and I was actually holding him back when it came to adventuring and discovering the world around him and what his body was capable of doing.
I'm timid. I'm reserved. I don't like to increase my heart rate through terror, fear or thrill. I pass on Haunted Houses and scary movies. I decline when it comes to skydiving or even things like white water rafting (though I know that one I have to do with my boys per Eric's request). I don't like roller coasters anymore, and I'm not really big on doing things where I know pain could be an option. But Henirk, he's not there yet. He hasn't ever been in pain beyond a scraped knee or a bloody lip (and we've taught him that it just happens), he's full of wonder and discovery and he's on this kick where he's a "big boy" all the time. He's made for adventure. He will sit back and study something forever, but he's also got this active personality that, honestly, I love seeing. I don't want him to be like me. I want him to try everything one time. I want him to learn how to pick himself back up and I want him to have his own experiences, even if it means I have to stand there with a smile on my face, an encouraging voice and butterflies in my stomach. I don't want him to be a dare devil, but an excited outdoors man, absolutely.
When we finally suited up the boys, Eric showed Henrik how to stop on dirt and how to control the bike on the rocks. Henrik loved it. "I'm drifting, I'M DRIFT-TING!" he yelled at the top of his lungs. He scooted ahead of us and went up and down, the trail with confidence, something I've never seen in him before. It was absolutely an eye opener for me. I was proud. I was happy. I was thrilled that he was doing it all by himself and I was in disbelief that this three year old could do something that I never thought was possible.
There it is. I didn't believe in him. I didn't think it was age appropriate for a three year old to be doing things like this and therefore I didn't like it. But I was Flat. Out. Wrong. It IS age appropriate. It's not like we were setting him free at the X Games, and we weren't saying, "Here's a cliff and a bungee cord... GO". We gave him safety tools and taught him what to do. We told him to stay on the trail, where he could see us, to avoid all snakes if he saw one, and to absolutely stay away from a cactus. We taught him to to get out from under his bike, how to check and see if the ground or rocks were safe and how to be aware of his surroundings. Henrik had been telling me for months that he was getting bigger, I just didn't hear it. I didn't understand that he was telling me he WAS capable of doing things like this because I don't like to do them and I don't particularly care for adventure like that. But I have a son who does.
There are no words to describe how happy Henrik was that day. I'm pretty sure it was better than Christmas for him. For me, it was one of the best days in my life. It was humbling, it was so joyful and nerve wrecking. Eric was happy. Really, really happy. I've only seen Eric cry a few times, and I've seen tears in his eyes only three times. Today was the fourth time in almost 12 years he's welled up. He was so proud of his son, so proud of himself for teaching his son how to do something, and, I'd like to believe proud of me for acknowledging that he was right, that Henrik could do it and I have a son, not a baby.
In the past few days, my boys have done things that I'm not wild about, like climbing on ledges (by ramps or retaining walls) at parks and in our neighborhood between the houses. Typically, I would have said to stop it as soon as I saw it happen, but instead, I let it go. They weren't high ledges (three feet or less), they weren't in danger, they weren't being silly or dangerous as they walked them, and they balanced just fine. Theo fell off today and scraped his body up pretty good, but he didn't cry about it. Instead, he picked himself right back up and started doing it again. I had to catch myself though. I wanted to jump up from my seat and run to him as fast as it happened, but I stopped. I didn't flinch and I bit the inside of my cheek as he dusted himself off. He looked at me like he was OK, and I smiled back at him.
I had two sisters, we didn't do things like that as pre-school children. We preferred to play quite imagination games outdoors, we liked "house" and "Pilgrims". We preferred to collect butterflies and color. This very active stage that my boys are in is well before my sisters and I discovered the joys of a bike. I just have to get used to it. Maybe boys are different than girls. Maybe it's just that my boys are different than me.
The point of this isn't to say, "let your kids run wild and do dangerous things" it's an open message to mom's like me. It's a message to myself: Kids are kids. As parents, we are supposed to teach them how to succeed and how to fail. We are supposed to let them get hurt. They should cry and self soothe. We should celebrate them when we are proud, hug them when they need it and kiss them until they push us away. They should see our confidence in them, they should see our pride. They should learn to observe our cautions, but not see our fears. In order for them to grow and become the adults that we want them to be, or actually, the adults that we aspire to be, we have to let them live... even if it's the hardest thing we'll ever have to do.