Among the many admissions I would have to make in court if this child had fallen and broken his neck was that I was the one who took the picture. However, my co-defendant can be seen watching from the porch.
This is our son balancing on a 12-foot ladder. One would think I’d have destroyed the evidence years ago, committed as I am to the total reframing of my parenting experience as mindful and protective.
He wasn’t taught to do this. We didn’t send him to a ladder camp. His father wasn’t the Philadelphia Ladder Champ of 1962. At the time, my son joked about honing an act that he could perform for the sunset celebration at Mallory Square in Key West. He saw hanging out with the trapeze artists and the Tin Man painted in silver paint as a good career option. The tips were good, it was always sunny and there was applause. A lot of applause.
He was fascinated by The Great Rondini, a slightly strange and very intense guy who worked Mallory Square, who had tourists strap him into a straitjacket, wrap him in chains, and then hoist him upside down where, swinging in the breeze, he would gradually free himself, all the while snarling off little insults to audience members, too intimidated to move on to the lady juggling the burning rings.
Alas, my son’s dream didn’t really go anywhere. It was like once he was on top of the ladder, there wasn’t much else to do. I suppose he could have done a hand stand or taken one of our dogs up there with him but it didn’t occur to him and it wasn’t my place to try to enhance his act. After all, how would it look if I had been the one to tell him that he needed to start twirling or maybe come down the rungs upside down? I thought of these embellishments but kept them to myself. Kids have to own their own fun, you know?
When my kids were young, I worried about so many things. I worried about them being happy. My husband used to say all the time, “You only care if they’re happy.” It had an accusing tone I didn’t like. When I retorted that he only cared if they had jobs with health insurance, he’d roll his eyes and go back to the paper. I did worry about them being happy, about them doing okay in school, about them having friends, about them getting into trouble, doing drugs, running with the wrong crowd, getting hassled by the police. I worried about them fighting with each other, about them being depressed, about them hating being adopted, about them not loving us, about them not knowing how much we loved them. I worried about all of that.
But I never worried about one of them falling off a ladder. Not once. Not a single time.