One of the coolest things about living in Japan is that there are child playgrounds EVERYWHERE. Most people live in apartments and those wealthy enough to own a house do not have much of a yard so the Japanese address this issue by creating countless public parks, places and spaces.
I find the parks fascinating because they help show me what Gabriel is capable of on his own- not what he is capable of doing with my assistance. When we go play I try really hard to stand back and let him discovered his boundaries and limitation. Does this mean that I sit back, check out and let whatever may happen to him happen? Absolutely not, but sorta- the natural consequence part that is. Of course we avoid life threatening situations but I hope that was a given and wasn't necessary for me to clarify.
When Gabriel was a lot younger we decided that we wanted to really try to focus in on Gabriel and less on what the books say. This meant that we skipped rice cereal, Solids began before 6 months, he ate peanut butter and eggs before a year old and even started using the toilet at 4 months. It's really important to us that Gabriel is a confident kid with a healthy amount of self esteem who grows in to a confident, self motivating man. If he demonstrates that he's ready for the next step even though books say he isn't, by no means are we as parents affirming him in his ability to know himself if we put the kibosh on it. One of the ways we are trying to develop this in him is by allowing him to discover his own limits of ability.
It's not always easy to turn down a pouty face and the signing of please with wanting help onto a couch or with a toy but when we know he has demonstrated his capabilities in the passed we do him no good by taking the struggle or effort out of it for him. It's also hard sometimes to tell friends and family to stop midway to helping him, talk about making things awkward.
Back to the Japanese parks... I have been wanting Gabriel to experience going down a slide but as easy as it could have been for me to pick him up and set him part way up the slide to go down, I knew it wouldn't do either of us any good- he would think I was the only one capable of making that happen until who knows when and I would also be stuck with picking him up and placing him on the slide over and over again. And why put us in this position when he was perfectly content playing on the playground without the slide? Well, a couple days ago he decided to climb up a ladder to an 8 foot high closed-in platform with a tall slide on the other end and you know what I did, I let him.
*** I should note that the young girl who "helped" him at the bottom was a stranger. Because of the language barrier I couldn't really tell her thanks but no thanks. She was pretty nervous about how adventurous Gabriel was being.
You can probably imagine how excited and joyful he was over his accomplishment- he projected confidence. And I bet you could also guess what he continued to do for the next half an hour.
We're no parenting experts but we are the only Gabriel experts in the world and even we don't know him as well as he eventually will. He's by no means a perfect child (watching him at lunch today throwing all his ramen on the floor is proof of that) but we hope that through this parenting journey we'll help him learn who he is and become the best version of whoever that might be.