I mentioned before that while Allie was (IS) in love with her camera and taking pictures of EVERYTHING, Ryan really cared more about his bike. The truth it, it took a little while. An afternoon really. I encouraged them to try the bikes (on the carpet, in the basement), and it quickly became apparent that 1) they had trouble getting enough momentum to keep going and not get stuck every 30 seconds and 2) they had always had the option of pedaling backwards to go backwards and now that pedaling backwards applied the brakes it was really confusing and frustrating. So I worked with him (them, but Allie quickly gave up and went to take some pictures instead), and showed him tricks for getting going when stuck. By the end of the afternoon he would get stuck and immediately stick his hand out and say, "Don't help, mommy. I can do it myself." And he did. By the next day he was a pro. So much so that my neighbor's mom (who is in a bike club and goes on a two week bike trip for fun every summer) couldn't believe he had only been riding a bike for 24 hours. His favorite thing to do, now that he has mastered riding, is find ways to get himself stuck. And when he succeeds, that hand comes out and I hear, "No, mommy. I can do it myself." And he does.
I have seen that same determination in other areas, but today was exceptional. We went to this incredible place called the TreeHouse. It basically a gigantic play structure with all kinds of places to climb and slide and crawl through tunnels. The only problem is that the only way to get to the tunnel slides (Ryan's favorite) are to climb up these alternating shelves. Have you seen this on kids' play structures? The shelves alternate back and forth- overlapping a little - and the kids climb from level to level. The twins have always had trouble with these. Once Ryan got stuck in a Chik-Fil-A playplace because he was too terrified to come down after he was up, and we couldn't fit in. We had to enlist an older girl to help him down. These climbing structures are designed for fun, but they are our nemesis. So Ryan is desperate to go up, and asks me to help him. He gets to the second level fine, but panics when he tries to go any higher. Even with my help he couldn't get to the top before he dropped down - flat on his stomach - and begged for me to get him down. So I talked to him about why he was afraid. I showed him all of the things that were there to protect him from falling (the netting on the sides for example). I talked about how it wasn't any different than climbing on the couch. I told him that he was strong and brave and could do anything. He tried again, panicked, and ended up on his stomach on the third level. I told him it was okay to be scared, that I knew he could do it if he wanted, but it was okay to stick to playing on the other things that didn't require him to climb those shelves.
A little later I was sitting at the booth with the other moms. I realized that I didn't see Ryan with the other kids. I scanned the massive play structure and caught sight of him standing in one of the shelf climbing towers. He is on the second level, contemplating climbing to the third. He stands still for a moment and then drops to his stomach...and then climbs down and out. Pretty soon he is back. He stands ready to climb to the third level. He kicks his leg up to take the giant step. And then he drops to his stomach. And then he climbs out. I watch this play over and over - both aching because my son is struggling so much with his fear and proud because he just wouldn't give up. I turned to answer a question and turn back just in time to see a flash of black pants with a white stripe down the side fly over the 4th level. I grab my friend's arm. "I think he made it to the top!" Sure enough, he soon appears at the bottom of the tunnel slide, loops right back to the climbing tower, and goes up again! And again! In fact, I don't think he went back to the other slides after his triumph. It was such a big moment. I was so proud. I wanted to let him know I saw, and affirm his courage and triumph, so when he came over to me I bent down and said, "Buddy, I'm so proud of you. I saw you climb all the way up. You were scared, but you didn't give up! I knew you could do it! You are a brave and strong boy." He looked at me with a confused look and then said, "Mommy, I just have to go potty."
Maybe he didn't think his moment was that big. Maybe he did and he was just playing it cool. It doesn't matter. I thought it was big, and I'm so proud of my little man.