I watched the swings going round and round, the orange and red metal seats filled with preschoolers and even gradeschoolers. These were kids, their legs and arms long and lean, their hands strong and steady as they held onto the sides of the swings. I looked at my daughter: a toddler, not even two. Her arms and legs getting longer, but still retaining some of the pudginess of babyhood. Her hands not exactly steady.
Her body arched out of my arms, her little fingers reaching for the swings. I approached the carnival worker, hoping she would solve this for me.
“She’s too small to ride, right?” This is what they call a leading question in a courtroom. She didn’t follow my lead.
“I don’t think so. I’ll just make sure she’s strapped in tight. Should be fine.” She shrugged and smiled at me. I managed a weak smile as my thoughts raced: obviously you don’t have kids. Should be fine? She’s going to shimmy herself right out of that swing. It’s going to be whipping around and next thing I know she’s going to fly out and crack her head on the cement. Her father will never forgive me for letting our baby ride on what was clearly a ride intended for bigger kids. Should be fine? What are you trying to do? Kill my baby and break up my marriage?
The swings started to slow. Adeline could ride next. She started bouncing in my arms, the excitement almost too much to bear. The swings stopped and the kids started to file out of the ring. I looked around, trying to make eye contact with anyone that would tell me I was crazy to let her ride. Or anyone that would tell me it was going to be perfectly fine. I found neither.
I looked at Adeline again. Adeline, my fearless daughter. The girl who was running at 10 months. The girl who climbs the ladder up to the highest slide and slides down by herself. The girl who I know is smart and strong and capable.
I walked into the ring and found an empty swing next to a bigger girl. I managed to make eye contact with the other mom as I strapped Adeline in.
“I’m worried she’s going to start screaming or something.”
“Meh, maybe she will, but it won’t be the first time.” She gave me an understanding smile. I felt my confidence rise. I knelt down to Adeline and told her I’d be right outside and I’d come get her as soon as it was over.
“Mama go!” She pushed me away and shot me a huge smile.
The swings started up. Slow at first, then faster and faster. Each time she swung around to me I looked anxiously at her face. She laughed and screeched with glee and hung on tight. She loved it.
I put her in that swing as my baby. I took her out as my little girl.