Yesterday was the first day of Spring Break. And the last day of sunny weather for this Spring Break. So Ricky and I took the opportunity to let the kids have some fun on the swing Ricky made the day before. The swing that takes them, feet dangling, over Hess Creek, hovering the grass on the other side and then back to a slippery hillside where, with wide smiles, they hope to gain their balance once again. This day, in an effort to share the adventure, we invited the neighbor kids, T & E to join in. E went first with excitement in her eyes. She adjusted the rope-length and went for it – no issues. Then my two had their turns, while T stood by on the launching spot and watched. At first, he politely declined, but his sister E kept asking and encouraging him to try. I understand his hesitancy though. Although younger, he is on the bigger side. So the rest of us didn’t pressure him. He was just so unsure. But we all watched him as he gathered the courage to just go for it, and thought he’d get the idea after watching the rest of the kids give it a-go, that you need to run down the hill as fast as you can to build up the momentum needed to soar across. But something was missed there. He kept bending his knees and calculating the risks, and then before we knew it, he was walking nervously down the hillside, and pushed off.
He made it across, reached the other side, and started to come back, but hadn’t the momentum to get back to the launch hill and stay there. So he drifted back over the creek and just hung there. Ricky was close by (thank God!) and grabbed a rake to pull the rope above T closer to the bank…just close enough for for him to reach his legs and find his footing again. He was pretty worried as he hung vulnerably over that 12′ wide creek. Even though it was just waist deep water, it was muddy and cold. His hands gripped that pair of handle bars that Ricky had disassembled from his old bike, as he yelled out, “I’m gonna fall!” So when he made it back, we were all pretty relieved. Especially T. As the sun warmed us through hundreds of branches, Braylon, Angel and E had several more turns and then an unexpected “I want to go again!” came from T. We all looked to him to see if he was serious, but didn’t want to discourage his burst of risk-taking in action. He just wanted to have the same fun as everyone else. All we could do was stand there and watch. And of course cheer. And clap…until about 2 seconds later when he lost his grip…directly over the creek.
Our eyes all widened, I covered my mouth, then yelled out to him, “Are you ok?!” with near certainty that the only thing hurting was the sense of pride he had upon jumping. My heart was thankful and sinking at the same time as I watched him struggle to get his footing on the slippery mud that only added insult to emotional injury. Those couple minutes seemed to morph into an hour as my mind recalled when I was about his age, struggling with my own weight, and dreading all water activities for this very reason – for fear I would be left to flounder as I tried desperately to retain an ounce of grace as I found my way to solid ground. As I stood watching by the big tree, I was glad T was facing the opposite bank and didn’t see the inadvertent smirks that I saw. In an attempt to redirect those initial muffled outbursts of giggles, I solicited Bray’s help in going inside to get some towels. Once inside, I muttered a quick prayer for T as I ran upstairs to grab him a soft, dry shirt he could use our garage to change into. After he took me up on the offer, he came out sportin’ the clean shirt -backwards- and these few remarkable statements of gratitude,
“Thanks for the Tee shirt. Hey, at least I didn’t get my hair wet!”
…he said with the cutest half-smile ever. And that was the exclamation mark on our swing-time fun, the first day of Spring Break, 2014. I’m determined to get him a gift this week from all of us, to honor him for overcoming his fear. When he looks back at this day, I want it to be marked with a sense of pride and courage more than just an embarrassing moment. I want him to feel accepted, even celebrated.