She's older this year -- a completely new person, really. It's amazing the difference six months makes in one so young. Last year I had to help her with everything and this year she wants to do things on her own.
In the two weeks since the snow has melted and we've been able to use the play set, she's mastered the ladder steps. After the first couple of trips up, I realized I could step back, remove my hand from her back, even be across the yard, and she could make it to the top on her own.
The slide has been another story. She sits down and inches herself to the edge, but her hands grip the sides and she stares nervously at the wood chips below. It must look quite steep and forbidding from her vantage point up there.
I wait to see how she'll proceed and every time it's been the same. "Mummy!" A look at me that says, "Help! I can't do this alone."
"Do you want me to hold your hand?" I ask. A nod and little fingers spread wide as they reach for me. At first my grasp helps slow her down, makes the ride less scary, more manageable. But after several days of this I know she's nearly ready.
She waits longer before calling for me. I can almost see her working up her nerve. Her little bottom starts to slide forward, but she quickly changes her mind and pulls herself back to her starting position. "Mummy!"
I take her hand, but this time I offer no resistance. She flies down, fingers gripped tightly to mine, and lands with a bump in the wood chips. She jumps up and smiles big. "You can do this, you know," I tell her. "You don't need my hand."
She climbs back up, gets into position. She looks nervous and excited, uncertain and eager. Exactly the way I'm feeling. Slowly her bottom half slides forward until -- finally -- she lets go.
I stand to the side and watch her, at once proud and sad. She is growing up. Learning that letting go can be scary and exciting, but most of all, necessary. And I realize as I watch her rush back to the ladder, it's a lesson I am learning too.