It happened at the gym. Thirty minutes into my work out I found myself near the one-way glass windows of the daycare room. Like always, I paused to look inside. This morning they were engrossed in parachute time. I smiled, seeing the excitement on the faces of the children. I looked from kid to kid around the parachute circle, all the while the colorful chute went up and down. I didn't see Alice anywhere. I looked towards the corner she usually plays dolls in, she wasn't there either. Thinking she must have been underneath the parachute, I scanned all the little bodies again until finally I found her. She stood a foot behind the parachute, just watching. A smile on her face, not touching the chute, merely watching the fun taking place.
I was so torn with emotion. My heart broke for her. I knew the fun she would have if she allowed herself to participate. I knew if I was by her side as her security, she could have joined in. And at the same time I was proud of her for knowing her limits, knowing how much she could handle and still feel comfortable and safe. Proud that she was not holed up in a little corner playing alone. She had gotten as close to the action as she could handle, I'm sure. I watched her face as the other kids took turns, obviously having fun, running onto the middle of the parachute as the group continued to raise and lower it. I saw the longing in her smile, though unable to conjure enough bravery to take her turn. One time the parachute brushed her hand, I thought for sure she would take it as a sign and hold on. She didn't, she simply took two steps backwards to ensure it wouldn't happen again.
No mother hopes her child will be the one standing on the sidelines watching life, and the excitement it brings, pass her by. I quote a popular lyric by Lee Ann Womack*, "And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance. I hope you dance."
I hope that for Alice. I watched her through the window having a good time, but not entirely. The rest of the children laughing and squealing with delight at the activity, I couldn't help but wish Alice could experience it the same as them. All chidren are different, though. And this was too far outside of Alice's comfort. I can only hope that I teach her to be brave and step outside her comfort zone every once in a while to experience something exhilarating. It's always worth it.
* Let it be known, this will likely be the only time I quote country music. Growing up on a farm, I was surrounded by country, but proudly my iPod is practically void of it today.