“Is it okay for me to jump?” he yelled.
I watched him pump his legs back and forth, swinging higher and higher until he was holding steady at a significant height. He and his brother had formed their own sort of Olympic game, gaining momentum and then jumping from their swings to see who could fly the furthest and “stick the landing.” Up until now, he’d been playing it safe, never risking too much, choosing to jump only from a reasonable altitude.
But now, I could see him wanting to push the boundaries, to go even higher, to let go even when it might feel crazy – and he wanted me to tell him if it was okay.
I watched him, wild eyed and wild haired, 7-years old and still so innocent. School has brought some exposure to the real world, with all of its ugliness and injustice – but mostly, he is unmarked. The thought of anything bad happening to him wrings my heart down the middle like a dishrag.
“I don’t know, buddy. How do you feel about it?”
He kept pumping his legs; he hadn’t lost any height. He looked at his brother swinging next to him, and then back at me. “Is this too high?”
I thought back to that feeling, swinging high, waiting for the perfect moment to leap. How do you ever know when the time is right? And how do you explain that feeling to someone else – all of the little confirmations that lead to the confident risk? I realized that I couldn’t answer the question for him.
“If you feel like you can jump from that high, then you probably can.”
His face flashed fear, courage, and a beautiful maybe. And with one more pump, he let go of the chains and sailed through the air, landing solidly on both feet, fists in the air.
I’ve never seen a smile so big.