yesterday my sister and i took our little ones to smith memorial playground. if you are searching for a playground in philadelphia, this is the place to be. there is even a mansion full of beautiful rooms, with tons of activities, toys, and books for children. we stayed outside as it was pretty nice out, and there is tons to do outside.

swings, jungle gyms, a crazy looking rope net to climb in, an entire area devoted to toddlers, and a huge wooden indoor slide. chloe immediately went for the toddler area, while my niece, who is now a very grown-up five year old, headed to the slide. 

the slide really is the main attraction of the playground. i can remember it from when i was a kid... and one of the other parents at the playground informed me that it was one inside the mansion, and was moved outside of it. i wanted chloe to experience the slide.

so once i could pull her away from the wood choo-choo and swings in the toddler play area, i took her to the slide. at first we watched the other kids coming down. you grab a burlap sac and walk up a large winding series of platforms and steps until you get to the top of the slide, and then sit on the sac and slide down. chloe watched the other kids flying down the slide. yelling. laughing. belly down. face first. sideways. two at a time. racing each other. cheering. hooting.

i grabbed us a  burlap bag and took off with chloe towards the top. she seemed excited and curious. once we got to the top she watched the other kids going down again. the slide is not very steep at all, and there is padding along the side walls. she seemed up for it. i arranged the burlap bag and sat down with her on my lap. i counted to three and we slid. fast.

she loved it. she clapped at the end, and took off towards the stairs again. we slid again together. and again together. then she got distracted and took a break, and we came back a bit later. i had taken notice of how many young children were going down the slide by themselves. the slide is long, and sleek, but not very steep. many parents were sitting at the bottom of the slide watching their children and cheering them on. the children weren't too much bigger than chloe.

so, the next time she headed for the steps to the slide, i grabbed us two burlap sacs. once we got to the top of the slide i placed the sacs next to one another. i looked at her face. i sat on one and put chloe on the other. i asked her if she was ready. she looked down the slide. i felt a tiny bit of fear run through me, but she did not seem afraid. she seemed ready. she looked very small on the big slide. did i want to go first and make her follow? do we go at the same time? what if we bumped into each other and i sent her flying from the impact? i finally decided to send her first so she wouldn't be stuck at the top without me to send her down, and i could follow quickly if needed... so, i looked at her, and asked if she was ready... i told her she was going to go all by herself, and i counted aloud....




and she flew! the whole trip from top to bottom lasted perhaps three seconds at the most, but it seemed like an eternity. at the bottom she fumbled a little bit - her rain boot skid against the wood of the slide and turned her around. i cringed as i heard gasps from other parents. she got right up. i could tell she was okay immediately. a little shaken perhaps, but no crying, just a searching look. she was searching for my reaction. i wiped the worry off my face, smiled big and clapped my hands as i followed her down. she had done really well, especially since she was probably the smallest kid on the slide. and it was her first time.i was proud of her. she was brave.

but, do i send her down by herself again? with all those gasping and gawking parents looking at us now? she did fumble at the end... although she was perfectly fine. would she fumble again and get hurt? or would she slide like a pro this time? do i hold her back because of what others may think of me as a parent? would someone actually say something to me about sending her down the slide alone again? but most concerning: do i not allow her to fly because i am scared she may fall? do i tell her she is not quite big enough yet, and i don't want her to get hurt, and why don't we just go back to the swings, or the choo-choo?

or do i cheer her on and tell her she did great and will do even better this time. do i march her right back up that slide and even though she may fall, let her do again? do i encourage her to try, every time? even if it looks like she cannot do it, even if she thinks she cannot do it, do i tell her she can? 

yes. i cheer her on. i believe when she might not yet. i see what she can do, know deep down that she is capable of so much more, and i let her go... while standing close by... hoping she will fly, but ready hold her if she doesn't. i am there if she gets hurt. i might not always be able to catch her. she might get hurt. in fact, she will get hurt. but she will not be told that she failed. she cannot fail unless she doesn't try again. she will do better next time. that's what i will tell her. not "did you get hurt?", no "do you want to do it again?", never  "want to try it another time?" 

i am going to say "you are amazing. you are going to do even better next time - let's go again!" 

and with everyone watching, some with bated breath, and me watching very closely, my little girl flies.


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