Three might be the best age ever. Gavin can be trusted to do so much on his own. He climbs the steep subway steps all by himself. He walks the sidewalks in front of me, but waits without fail at least 5 feet before the crosswalk.
“Hode my hand, mommy.”
One of our favorite things to do is spend time at the local playground. He’s been playing here since he first learned to walk and he knows every inch. Now that Chloe is walking, she’s beginning to investigate the steps, the slides and the scene herself. I spend a lot of time shadowing her. That leaves Gavin with free reign as I keep one hand on her, one eye on him.
There were a lot of bigger kids at the park on Saturday which instantly makes me queasy. Gavin loves to run behind the older kids as they run and roughhouse. On this day, I noticed two 8-year-old boys that he was trailing. They clearly didn’t enjoy the presence of this “baby” and had told him to get lost as they ran away repeatedly.
He chased after them as fast as his tiny legs could carry him until the boys stopped suddenly. Together they backed him against the slide and one boy screamed some awful things just inches from his face.
I was behind Gavin at the time this happened, on the other side of the slide. I couldn’t hear what the older boy said but I could see the menacing look on his face. When they ran away I quickly circled over to see my boy. His face was contorted in that way when you are trying with all your might not to cry but all you want to do is bust up and sob.
I was so proud of him for holding it in until the boys left. I was so relieved that he cried (and let me console him) when I arrived. It was time to go anyhow and after this incident I hauled both kids over to the stroller. I strapped Chloe in and handed her some snacks. But Gavin suddenly stopped the waterworks.
“I need one more minute mommy,” he said.
Somehow I knew he was right. Intent on leaving on a high note, he ran another loop around the
shark infested waters playground.
Collision! The boys were back. Gavin stood shocked when he spotted them but I caught his eye and smiled – letting him know I was there. Suddenly his demeanor changed. As the boys charged over, he met their pace. When they were all face to face he yelled to them “hey, you’re not gonna follow me!” and resumed his stride.
But the boys were bored and content on breaking him down so they chased after him. He stopped and faced them. “Leave me alone!” he boldly announced. And they did.
How my heart leaped! He was cautious, but not afraid. He was assertive but not aggressive. I couldn’t have asked for a more positive result from what could have been a mother’s nightmare.
My heart pounded out of my chest for the entire walk home. I was sad at what happened, proud of his reaction, assuaged I was there to witness it all, troubled by the fact that this is just the beginning.
Frankly, it was too damn much for a Saturday afternoon.
Who said this parenting thing was easy???