Ryan Trares: Climb to safety

Ryan Trares

Every parental warning siren was going off in my brain.

But I stayed put.

On a gorgeous afternoon earlier this week, as temperatures rocketed into the un-March-like upper 70s, Anthony and I made a pledge not to waste it. After he was done with school, and I was done with work, we decided to take advantage of False Spring.

We could have gone out to the backyard and kicked the soccer ball around, or joined the army of kids and adults riding bikes on the nearby trails and sidewalks.

Instead, I wanted to do something special, something we hadn’t done since way back in the fall. I wanted to go to Anthony’s favorite playground.

There were lots of playgrounds around our neighborhood we could go to — brightly colored behemoths with twisty slides, spinny stations and faux tire swings. Anthony liked them all, but there was one play space that he loved more than anything.

He called it the “fire truck playground,” a name stemming from the equipment’s bright red color; he came up with that as a toddler, and it’s stuck ever since.

The playground is a little bit of a drive from our house, meaning it’s a special treat whenever we get to go. So on this beautiful day, we loaded up the car and hit the road.

When we pulled up, Anthony couldn’t contain himself. He started running toward the play equipment, leaving me trying to catch up. There was almost a case of sensory overload, as Anthony couldn’t decide what to do first — the obstacle course? The elevated catwalk? The metal chute slide?

With an exuberance only kids can have, he moved from station to station. He jumped on the tire swing, went head-first down a roller slide, and spun around on a gliding ring that passes for a modern merry-go-round. After four or five trips down the metal slide (and one bumped head, requiring a short break), Anthony decided he was ready for something different.

He eyed the rope climbing course, with anchored rope bridges, cargo nets, swings and more. Starting on a short climbing wall, he carefully shimmied across the rope netting from one obstacle to the next.

At first, Anthony was just a few inches off the ground. But as he became more sure of his footing, he scooted up into the play structure.

As a dad, my protective instinct kicked in. I wanted to stand right by him in case he slipped. But I held back, smiling and encouraging even as worry clouded my eyes.

When he got stuck between obstacles, the urge was to go and help him. Again, I waited to see what he’d do. Anthony would test one foothold then another, switching up his hand grips until he could cross whatever place he was stuck at.

For about 30 minutes, Anthony crisscrossed the entire structure. His confidence grew with each problem solved. If there was something he couldn’t figure out, he’d back up and try a different route.

At no point did he ask for my help. At no point did I barge in to give it.

When he was finally done, Anthony jumped down, grinning at his accomplishments. I gave him a high five and told him how awesome he had done as we trudged back to the car, tired but content.

There are going to be many more instances where Anthony is stuck with a problem, and my first thought is going to be doing whatever I can to solve it for him. And I’ll always be available to lend him a hand or give him advice when things get difficult.

But I also hope I’ll remember times like this — when I stepped back and let him work it out on his own. I think it’ll serve us both well.

Ryan Trares is a senior reporter and columnist for the Daily Journal. Send comments to [email protected].