Monday, January 6th, 2014...9:30 pm

Crossing The Monkey Bars

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January. She’s five. She stares up at the monkey bars and wonders what they are for. Hangs from one and drops down. I tell her that she can cross them, power herself from one to the next, propel her body forward and reach on to the next bar. She doesn’t want to try.

February. She climbs up and looks at the monkey bars. Hangs onto one and asks me to hold her tightly as she tries to reach from one to the next. I support her weight as she reaches hand in front of hand in front of hand.

March. She takes to one bar at a time. Pulling up. Hanging upside down. Flipping her body over. Panicking me a bit. Growing in confidence. Trying out new tricks. Getting stronger. Asking less for help.

April. She reaches out in front of her, the bar just close enough that her small fingers can grab on. She holds on tight, but when she tries to push herself forward she cannot, dropping instead to the ground and deciding not to try again for a while.

May. She crosses the bars with some assistance, her hands moving fluidly from one bright yellow rung to the next. She can’t fall because I am holding her up.

July. She wants to try to cross without me. I stand under her, pretending I’m strong enough to catch her if she starts to fall. She does one and drops. She tries again. Two and drops. Again. Three and drops. Again and she’s all the way across. She drops to the ground and runs immediately to do it again.

August. She can do the bars a few at a time. I watch her, my eyes her security blanket in case she loses her confidence or her grip. She crosses from one side to the other and turns around to do it all over again. She won’t let me close enough to even seem like I’m helping. She is strong enough to do it herself.

September. The other bars on the playground rotate, spin you around to reach the next circular bar. The first time she grabs on tentatively to the cold bars and as soon as she lets her feet begin to dangle in the air, the bar swivels and she falls to the ground. The movement took her by surprise and she’s happy to move back to the other bars. The ones she’s conquered.

October. She watches carefully as other kids cross the bars, memorizing their movements and momentums, committing their shifts and rhythms to her muscle memory. I’m not there at all during recess to help her. She tries and tries and tries again until she comes home, running through the door, to tell me that she’s done it. She crossed the difficult monkey bars without me. All on her own.

November. She suspends herself from the bar, showing me her tricks. She can go forwards and backwards, right handed and left handed, reaching, spinning, powering herself along a path she couldn’t imagine just a few months before.

December. She has callouses. The monkey bars are her home.

January. She’s six. She crosses the monkey bars on her own, like so many other things. She is six and I don’t have to hold her up or urge her forward. I don’t have to watch her or catch her. She was five and she learned and grew and became so much more her own person and so much less dependent on me. I see it most as she hangs in mid-air, as she crosses the monkey bars like it’s no big deal. A year ago it was.

“Is she yours?” they ask as she shows off her skill. Yes, I nod. Yes she is.

Crossing the Monkey Bars

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