Friday, November 04, 2016

Another Story From The Trapeze Bar

Yesterday, I wrote about a two-year-old, her struggles, and our swing set trapeze bar. Today's post is about four and five year olds and that very same trapeze bar.

R is fond of sitting atop the trapeze bar to swing. I've seen her there several times this year, almost daily, but yesterday she was standing on a low stool, holding the bar, but unable to mount it. I was sitting on a table near her. She said, "Help me."

I answered, "I won't help you. What do I look like, your Mom?" It's a joke I've used with kids for years. Sometimes, I'll say, "What do I look like, a kid?" They always laugh and say, "No, you're not my Mom!" or "You're not a kid!" R responded that way, then said, "I can't get up here."

I asked, "I've seen you up there before. How did you get up there then?"

She said, "I think I put my leg over, but I can't get my leg over." She showed me that she couldn't do it.

I answered, "Maybe you used a taller stool last time."

"Maybe." Moments later she was back with one of the short step ladders we keep around the place. It took her a few minutes to position it to her satisfaction. This time she was able to hook a leg over the bar. She used the chains to hoist her body up, then threw her second leg over the way she'd been doing it all year, smoothly.

She's proud of her ability to "pump" and loves to get that trapeze bar going, which she did. She chatted with me as she swung, perfectly comfortable with the height and motion. Then L approached her, "Can I have a turn?"

R paused for a couple to-and-fro arcs, thinking it over, then answered, "I have to finish first, but you're next!" Then two more swings later added, "Could you move the ladder away for me? I keep bumping it."

L answered without hesitation, "Sure," ducking under her feet as she swung back and forth overhead. At one point she teasingly reached out a foot as if to kick him. She telegraphed it just right and he was able to duck under it. They both giggled, an acknowledgement between them that they were taking their risk together.

A couple minutes later R said to me, "Teacher Tom, I can't stop!" She was swinging high and fast, apparently out of control. Try as she might to use her body weight to slow herself, her efforts were failing. In fact, it seemed that her attempts were only making the bar swing faster. She wasn't panicked, just making me aware of the situation, not asking for help, although I offered it nevertheless, "Did you try just leaning back?"

She tried it to no effect. L was still standing with us, hands on the ladder. He had been studying the situation. "I know, I could give you the ladder and you could grab it with your feet!"


L wrestled the step ladder into place, ducking under R's feet in rhythm with her swinging. She was going so fast that she simply kicked the ladder over as L dove out of the way, her momentum hardly affected at all. They both laughed wildly. Wordlessly, L then reasserted himself with the ladder, this time, firmly holding it, while remaining crouched to avoid getting his head bonked. Her first impact with the top of the ladder slowed her slightly, jarringly: more wild laughing. On her second pass over the ladder, she tried to grab it with her toes in a kind of pincher motion, almost succeeding. Now both of them were fully concentrating, L holding that ladder and R determined to stop herself.

On her third pass, both kids held. She didn't fully stop, but was now back under her own control. The coolest thing about this was that I was mere feet away in a somewhat chaotic circumstance and neither even bothered to consult with me as they figured it out together.

Then, as if nothing at all had just happened, R said from atop the now gently swinging trapeze bar, "Okay, it's your turn now." She first tried to land herself atop of the ladder before just grabbing the trapeze bar chains and dropping herself to the ground.

"Okay, now I'll hold the ladder for you," she declared, grabbing the ladder and authoritatively positioning it under the trapeze bar. They were both by now in full-on you-and-me mode, wide open faces, the sort of connection we make with one another when life is going just right. L climbed the ladder. At first he couldn't figure out how to mount the bar. It looked like he could manage it physically, but couldn't quite summon the confidence. R, the veteran, advised, "Just hook your leg over, then the other one, then I'll move the ladder away so you don't hit it."

L was cautious, but once he got his first leg over, he seemed to intuitively know what to do. R encouraged him, "That's it! Now I'm going to move the ladder so it's not in your way." L began swinging, although not as fast as R had before, perhaps having taken the lesson to keep it under control. The two of them communed for several back-and-forths, before R retired to one of the regular swings which had just become available.

That's when K arrived on the scene, saying, "I want a turn."

L replied, "I'm almost finished." He swung for bit longer, then called out, "Get me the ladder! I'm going to get down!"

From her swing, R had been paying attention to her protege. She called back, "Okay!" She then positioned the ladder for his dismount before helping K with his turn atop the trapeze bar.

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