I recognized something yesterday that I didn't really consider before. Jari is a very cautious kid. Yesterday he had a friend come to play and we went to the playground where they could also ride their bikes up, down, all around. Another classmate joined them on the playground with her little brother, and the four of them started tearing up the playground and surrounding area. By tearing up, I don't mean demolishing, but rather just getting busy having a good time.
The girl climbed on top of the swingset, making her way across the high pole. Jari's friend joined her, and even little brother tried unsuccessfully to do so, being too small. The whole time I tried to keep my mouth closed about it being dangerous and to get down, but I refrained. Jari didn't follow suit. Instead, he slid down the slide and started digging in the sand.
Later, the kids were chasing each other around on their bikes. Jari's friend came and asked if he could go on the hills, which were housed between a very small pond and the stream, which was not deep. I told him he could, and he happily set off riding along the ditches, up and down the hills, through the edge of the pond. Jari stayed on the pathways, riding along the edge of all the action, his helmet covering his little head.
As the races started, and they started playing a form of Simon Sez, I was wondering how Jari would react. In the beginning, he was very cautious about it, riding with precision following his friends, but more on a gentle slope than right down the middle. Eventually, as he started feeling more brave, he ventured after his friends down the middle of the hill, onto the edges of the ditches, and around the pond. When it was his turn to choose, he still followed the pathways in the distance.
As the kdis went back to the playground and started jumping from the steps, seeing who could jump the furthest, Jari once again turned away from the game, settling instead on the swings. As the other kids jumped first from the lower steps, and then higher and higher, I was wondering what he was thinking and feeling. Wondering if he recognized his fears. Wondering if he was disappointed he didn't feel safe enough to join in.
As I tucked him into bed last night, I carefully posed the question. "So, did you have fun with your friends today?" I asked. "Yes, but mama, I didn't wanna go riding on that ditch. What if my bike tire went too far and I fell in?" he asked. I responded by telling him that if he had fallen in it was very shallow and he'd be okay, but that if he didn't feel comfortable doing it, that was okay too. He went on to discuss every of the above mentioned dare-devil feats, telling me why each was dangerous and why he didn't want to do it. "I could fall and break my ankle and then I couldnm't play soccer. I could crash, and I have a helmet so I would be okay, but they don't have a helmet so they could be dead. (Even though he always begrudgingly puts on his helmet, he still does it, under mama's watchful eye...and he's only one of the handful of kids who do wear one, unfortunately) And I just like to ride around and not do that crazy stuff, he continued.
Hmmm, I wonder where that comes from? Does it stem from me always saying Be Careful, and him always being under my watchful eye (I am more present in his play than the majority of the other parents), or is it a personality trait? Or maybe a combination?
In any case, though I hope he doesn't feel like the odd man out when playing with his friends, I am glad he has the sense to be cautious. Being a daredevil has it's time and place, but knowing he is cautious and seeing him choose his own road was a good sign for me. He doesn't have to be a follower, but can lead on the easy pathways life's road will take him.