Everyone’s feeling a bit better around here these days. Not sure if the bugs ran their course, if the doc’s Rx worked, or if all we needed was a little sun and fresh air. We got plenty of the latter this past weekend. Loaded up the all-terrain BOB stroller and went for a hike, had a picnic lunch outside, and took the Z Monster to my favorite store slash playground, the big REI in downtown Denver.
As we’ve mentioned before, Z Man is a climber. And he’s become quite scientific about it. He sees every chair, ottoman, bench, or step as his own personal mini-Everest, awaiting his conquest. Most kid’s first words are along the lines of dad, ball, mom, juice, or the like, but I’m pretty sure that Z’s first sentence, upon getting to the top of a bookcase, will be a proud and defiant “Because it was there.”
The funny thing is watching him think about his next move, like an alpinist laying out the pitches that it will take to reach a summit. He plays with hand-holds, foot-holds, leverage, and friction, testing out a hold by applying a little bit more weight on it before he goes for it. And then sometimes, when he can’t figure out a move, he just grabs as high as he can and pulls, grunts, strains with all his might to get up.
On Saturday we took him to REI (dividend time!), and the first thing we did was show him the little kiddie play area. Not really interested in that. He looked at it a bit but lost interest quickly, preferring to run free amongst the racks and shelves and aisles. (Yes, he’s running now. Not just walking too fast in that out-of-control way that little kids run, but a legitimate run. Took him about two weeks of walking before he started picking up his knees and sprinting.)
He’s too small for the climbing wall, but up in the hiking boot department, REI has a fake boulder pile, designed so one can test out a pair of hiking boots on undulating terrain to make sure they are going to fit just right. At most stores, this sizing tool is a three or four feet across, but at the flagship REI, it’s about 12′ x 12′. And Z. ran all over that thing like a little monkey. Up one side, down the other, over the steps, down the ledge, all over the place.
But what really scared us was when he walked up to a bay window with a sill about chest-high to him. The window had a little bench under it, and he needed to get up there to look out at the park. So he looked at it for a second, centered himself, and then placed both hands on the ledge and leaned forward. It didn’t look like he had a prayer of mantling up this obstacle, but as he leaned forward, he piked in the middle and started searching the wall with his toe. Somehow he found a crack in the tile, and he got enough of his toe in there to inch up, just barely enough to throw his center of gravity over the top, allowing him to push up onto the bench. His move reminded me of the shelf on the Indoor Obstacle Course, a memory which causes an involuntary hack and brings back images of me falling off the balance beam over and over. (See the 1:52 mark here.)
Once he was on the bench, you could see the pride in his accomplishment. He ran around on this three-foot long space like Rocky at the top of the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. But then he quickly got back to business, looking out the window, pointing at cars and making the vroom vroom noise that little boys instinctively make, and laughing like a hyena. After a couple of minutes, I picked him up and returned him to terra firma, but flat ground obviously doesn’t appeal to him. Up he went, using the exact same move as the last time, only this time without having to think about it or test out any of the holds. Hands on the bench, lean forward, plant toe, lift, mantle, and then up on his feet.
I guess if you have a little climber in the family, there are worst places to live than a state with some 50-odd 14ers. There’s a rock climbing club in our high school, so he will have sufficient opportunities to channel this enthusiasm as he gets older. I was just hoping to have a few more years before I had to worry about yet another way he can fall down and go boom.