Stepping off the edge

More than a decade ago, as my first baby curled his teeny fingers around my forefinger, I marvelled at his trust in me – an all-powerful giant in his curious new world.

In the years that followed, I was his “secure base” from which to venture and explore.

Now this child is 12. He’s smart and funny and loving. And taciturn and sulky and easily embarrassed by his mum.

As adolescence reshapes his body and his mind, so it reshapes our relationship. He can navigate this world without me; can and must trust himself.

I made a special arrangement to “Go Ape” (http://goape.co.uk/) with him at half term; mother and son time unleashing our “inner Tarzan” together.

Neither of us had done it before. We knew in theory what to expect, but what I hadn’t bargained for was a heart-stopping maternal moment in a treetop as I realised those tiny fingers never really let go.

We had climbed to our first platform and – more than 10 metres up – were poised to step off the platform clinging to a Tarzan swing.

Normally if I’m trying something tricky for the first time with one of my children, I go first, to show it can be done. But the rules of this place mean that for a 12 year old, the supervising adult must make sure their fixings are secure, so the child has to take that step into space and swing first.

So we stood side by side, I checking his fixings and he contemplating the drop. And contemplating it some more.

Then I told him he was good to go. He looked at the drop, and he looked at me, quailing slightly, and said:

“Mum?”

I looked back at him, full of a confidence I didn’t feel and said:

“It’s fine.”

And he didn’t hesitate, or even blink. He just stepped off the edge. Smiling. Trusting.

As he swung away from me I could feel my heart crack, and imagine his teeny fingers peel away.

Oh the trust! Oh the power! Oh the responsibility!

After he’d scrambled up the cargo net to the next platform he sent the rope back for me.

Once I was clipped on I spent a moment considering the drop. I looked across at him and he grinned a huge grin, stuck his thumbs up and yelled:

“It’s fine.”

I didn’t blink. I stepped off the edge. What else would I do?

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