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Ben and the giant stairs

It’s such a simple thing, a staircase. Yet I spent a good half hour with a two-year-old recently using the library stairs as a giant fascinating toy. Up, down, jump, fall, hold onto my hand, DON’T hold onto my hand, go up, turn around, step back down, do it again, repeat.

Fischer-Price doesn’t make stairs, and Toys R Us didn’t get a dime from our play that day. No toy company in China benefited financially from Ben’s delight in this old school exercise, yet he delighted in every risky step. Adults passed up going up and going down, barely registering the extreme concentration Ben was marshaling for his feet and legs to work together.

Bannister, railing, glass, metal, rubber, tread, up, down, backwards, forwards, stop, start, jump, come, go. And Ben’s counting got some attention as I coached his jumping from the bottom step. He initially chanted “One two three four nine ten. Jump!” and graduated to “One two three four five. Jump!.” A small rote victory.

I remember watching a film in a long-ago child development class of different stages of a boy’s life and a set of steps in a park. At first the baby boy crawled up the steps, then he toddled holding his dad’s hand, then he walked alone, then he skipped, and by the film’s end he was tearing down the railing of those same steps on a skateboard.

Ben won’t remember that a strange adult spent part of a morning with him on some stairs, concentrating on social and physical exercise. He won’t remember he called me “Grandma” or that his mom got some things done elsewhere or that he watched people walking by through the glass walls of the staircase.

But I’ll remember the simple process of focusing on the two-year-old brain, a toddler working on life skills, and a little boy giving a mother missing her own little boys a flashback moment. Simple was good that morning, simple was wholesome. Simple was joy.

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