Monday, March 5, 2012
One of the genetic flaws I’ve passed onto Luca is timidity. Every time he hides behind my legs in public or weeps, “I scarrrred,” I damn my rickety double helix. Every time I see Elijah spread his arms and bray, “The sun will come out tomorrrrrow!” I thank Diana’s stronger genes.
On Saturday, I took both boys to the Skokie Exploratorium. For those of you new to HamannEggs, the Exploratorium is a kid’s play area in the basement of the Skokie community center. It contains lots of easily breakable toys, a completely unnecessary water area, and around 40 parents who take this chance to catch up on “Angry Birds” on their iPods.
The centerpiece is a massive jungle gym with a network of slides, tunnels and catwalks hung surprisingly precariously 15 feet off the ground. From the moment his coat was off, Elijah scampered up to claim his rightful places as King of the Plastic.
After a ten minutes playing with a broken choo choo train, I suggested to Luca that we climb the jungle gym.
“No…I scared,” he said and a little piece of my heart broke off.
I tried not to push it, but I said, “Here’s the deal. I’ll be right behind you the whole time. You won’t fall. It will be awesome and fun and cool and we’ll get to see the other kids worship Eli up there.”
He reluctantly agreed and we started up the foam and plastic ladder.
After one rung, he gave up. “I can’t doooo it!”
A steady stream of children literally climbed over his body on their way up the ladder. I swatted a couple away like flies.
“You can do it. You can do it, pal,” I said. “Don’t be me,” I thought.
I gently pushed his diapered bottom up to the next rung. “I scared! I can’t do it, dada!”
I fought the urge to scold him with all my might. One-year-olds were using his face as a foothold. I simply repeated my mantra, “You. Can. Do. It. You. Can. Do. It. You. Can. Do. It.”
Eventually, we made it to the top of the steps to the awesome, winding slide. We found a mom talking to a clearly terrified 4 year old.
She pointed to Luca, who had positioned himself on my lap and said, “Look at that little boy. He’s going to slide down the slide. See how brave he is?”
Luca said to me, quiet enough that the mom couldn’t hear him, “I scared, dada.” And we launched down the slide.