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Life Lessons Learned On The Big-Girl Swings

Maddie’s a big swinger at the park
– some days she’ll get in the toddler swing and fall
into a near-trance, staying on it as long as I’ll let her.
For some time now, she’s been casting her eye towards the
“big-girl” swings – the regular seats as opposed
to the higher, hard-plastic toddler seats – and I see how
it’s teaching her some valuable lessons.

When Maddie first wanted to try the
big-girl swing, she was less than 18 months old. She could barely
figure out how to hold on and stay seated, and as a Paranoid New
Mommy I was sure she’d fall off and crack her head open like
an egg. So we spent several months swinging a grand distance of,
oh, six inches or so, with Mommy firmly holding on to her the whole
time. I could tell other mommies thought this was overkill, but my
fear that she was too young to understand the need to hold on was
confirmed one cold day: I let go of her for ten seconds and her
snowsuit simply slipped off the seat on the upswing. Maddie went
sailing, flipped face-up in mid-air, and landed smack on her entire
back. Of course, she wasn’t going high and didn’t have
far to fall, but it scared the crap out of me. She lay there,
stunned, a few minutes, eyes wide, then rolled to her side and got
up. And that day, Maddie learned that there are worse things
than falling, and life will go on

A couple months later Maddie saw her best friend Naomi lying on her
stomach while Naomi’s mom “flew” Naomi on the
swing like an airplane. You could see the synapses firing in
Maddie’s brain until she turned to me, eyes shining, and
said, “I want to do that!” Tummy down, the swing was a
whole new toy, and Maddie understood that a different point of
view makes all the difference sometimes.

Over the summer Madeleine’s been increasingly drawn to the
big-girl swings; she’s finally growing into it and feeling
comfortable in the seat. Unfortunately, there are only two of them
at our park and so there can be quite a line for them. Just last
week Maddie decided to swing and headed over, only to see a line of
five kids all waiting for the two swings. Madeleine had stood
patiently for a few minutes when a toddler swing opened up.
“Maddie, do you want to swing now on a high swing, or do you
want to wait for the big-girl swing?” Maddie thought for a
moment and decided, “I want to wait.” I deliberately
didn’t entertain her as she waited, and to her credit,
Madeleine sat down at the fence and waited patiently for almost
fifteen minutes before her turn arrived. Not only did she
demonstrate a good amount of patience, but she proved she
understands that some things are worth waiting for.

That same day Maddie had a wonderful time on her big-girl swing,
and enjoyed it so much she wanted to turn around and talk to me
about it. She let go with one hand and tried to pivot in the seat,
sending the swing arcing wildly to one side and causing her to lose
her balance. Startled, she grabbed back on quickly and didn’t
fall out, but my daughter learned in a concrete way that actions
have consequences

I can practically see her growing up before my eyes on the big-girl
swing as she becomes more independent, more skillful and
self-sufficient at entertaining herself. She’s been working
hard on the whole kicking thing, learning to self-propel instead of
relying on Mommy to push, and she finally figured out the rhythm of
it. And just recently she began leaning back as she kicks her legs
forward so she can go even higher; she was apprehensive at first
but holds securely with her hands and trusts that she won’t
fall, understanding that greater risk can bring greater

Can you tell I’ve got time to philosophize while she swings
now? Yes, I’m still hovering and yes, I’m still pushing
and yes, I wish she’d stay on the toddler swings. But
she’s moving up in the playground hierarchy, and I’m
learning that you can’t keep your baby forever.

I guess we’ve both learned something on the big-girl


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