After spending two weeks with our this-side-of-the-Atlantic grandchildren, I find myself puzzled. I've researched the genealogies of both sides of the family pretty far back, and have yet to discover where the mountain goat line comes in.
I've written about this before, when a park maintenance man berated us for allowing a 14-month-old to climb freely over the playground equipment. Now that toddler is four-and-a-half, and correspondingly even more sure of foot. Nor are her siblings any less coordinated.
One of our favorite Maggie P. activities (besides eating M&M's) is to walk to the Outer Light. This includes traversing a half-mile-long stone breakwater, which of course is the most fun part of the trip for the kids. Most of the huge granite rocks are flat enough for easy hiking, but there are good-sized gaps, and some tricky spots, particularly where unfortunate ships have shoved the rocks askew.
On this particular day, the five oldest children—Jonathan (11.75), Noah (9), Faith (nearly 7), Joy (4.5) and Jeremiah (2.5)—made the trek, along with Grandma (old enough) and Dad-o (ditto). The three oldest had no intention of walking sedately and carefully across the rocks. Oh, they were careful enough—but at a running pace. I walked with Joy, while Porter and Jeremiah brought up the rear. Jonathan had time to run out, back, and out again well before the four of us arrived at the lighthouse, but it was only short legs that held us back. Or so I thought, until the trip back. Jeremiah kept a grip on Porter's hand, but leapt over foot-wide fissures with ease and confidence. Joy was completely reliable, and I only reminded her a couple of times (probably unnecessarily) that the danger was not in the rocks, nor the speed, but in not paying attention to where her feet were landing.
As we neared the lighthouse itself, Faith, who had waited there for us, informed Joy that the final stretch was a bit difficult (true). Joy drew herself up to her full height and proclaimed "I'm four! Last year I was only three!"—with all the indignation of a teenager's, "But Mom, I'm almost an adult!" And proceeded to climb all over the area of jagged, randomly placed and spaced stones—with a lot more agility than her grandmother, I can assure you. Even Jeremiah insisted on going wherever his siblings went, dragging Dad-o with him.
On the return trip, only Jeremiah consented to stay with an adult, and his slower pace was due more to his two-year-old desire to stop and examine everything (Porter steered him deftly around the dead and decaying cormorant) than to his size. Joy threw off all fetters and flew (safely) across the rocks, behind but no less carefree than her siblings. I thought I might catch up with her at one of the tricky spots, but she maneuvered through them with no hesitation.
I confess that I was relieved to have everyone's feet back on solid sand, but it was a great trip, and I was humbled by the exuberant courage of the young, who know that a challenge is what turns a simple walk into an adventure.