Ruby and I went to the park yesterday. The sun shone, a fresh warm breeze blew, and we needed to get out and let her burn off some energy.
We played at her grade school playground. The welcome shade shrouded most of it. Ruby burrowed through tunnels and went down slides. She climbed on the monkey bars and swung from high bars. She enjoys being with other kids more, but that afternoon we were alone.
For a few minutes. Then a young mom showed up with her toddler, a little boy. A small blonde boy in T-shirt and shorts, his grin and excited gait gave him away. He gamboled towards the play structure. Mom followed behind. A friend of Mom’s showed up soon after.
Ruby continued to be part-monkey, part contortionist. She rode down the twisty slide (slim hips only, please!). The lower, shorter twin blue slides saw some use, too. One, with bumps, she rode down backwards.
The little boy, T., observed Ruby carefully. Every time Ruby did something, he did it, too. If Ruby rode down the slide backwards, he angled his smaller, chubbier body to do the same. If she went down the slide face first, so did he. His smile lit up his face.
During a break in the action, T. picked up some rocks. He ran over to show me. His blue eyes gleamed with delight.
“Rocks?” he said, holding out a smooth round rock, a jagged medium-size rock and a tiny pebble. I took each one and exclaimed over them.
“Maybe this one is the baby rock,” I thought out loud as I held the pebble.
“Ba-by rock”, he intoned sagely.
T.’s mom and I exchanged a few details. T. is two-and-a-half. I told her when my son was his age, we frequented the park (in Portland) twice a day during the summer. So much energy in a compact body!
Mom and her girlfriend kept an eye on T. At this age, it seems all you do is say, “No! Put that down! Not in your mouth.” Or my personal favorite, “Don’t throw rocks at the cat!” By being in this “safety” mode, you keep your kid safe, but miss the joy of this era, which is all about discovery and mobility. I felt for T.’s young mom. She seemed to be raising him alone, a daunting task in itself.
Ruby and I took some time to lie in the grass and look at cloud shapes. She slurped water from the fountain. I held her a bit. We talked about important things like cats, that inexhaustible subject.
T. spied us. He raced out of the playground’s protective cage and up the short hill. He laid his short body in the grass. His mom chased after him.
“No, T.!” she remonstrated. “If you want to keep playing, you have to stay on the playground. Otherwise, we go home.”
“Go home,” T. echoed, holding onto his mom’s hand. Mom took this as their cue to leave.
T. imitated Ruby because she was a big kid. She can do those cool things T. can’t yet manage. Sure, he’s little now, but give him a couple years. He will be peeing in barrels to make potions and riding his bike off jumps to see if he can fly. He will ape the things he sees others, the ones he looks up to, doing. It’s a heady thought, the influence we hold over people. Ruby imitates Zac, who imitates Jonathon. Just something to consider when we speak or act.
Whom do you look up to? Who looks up to you?