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  • Betsy Singleton Snyder

Risky Business

I’m not much of a thrill seeker, not in the way of someone who loves sitting in a metal car that circles on tracks upside down at high speeds. I’ve ridden my share of roller coasters, tilt-a-whirls, and ferris wheels, but that was mostly in my past.

As a kid, I swam in lakes, waded in streams to catch tadpoles, probably not far from a nice, Arkansas water moccasin or two. I rode bikes, not as a cyclist would, but all afternoon with friends until my legs ached, returning home at dusk, sweaty and grimy. I played with yo-yos for hours at a time: I can still do “around the world” and “walk the dog.” I had a hula hoop, roller skated, mastered the pogo stick, climbed trees, and pushed my body to stretch through a backbend on my front lawn, eventually falling in soft, green grass that smelled of summer. I did all those kid pursuits years before, once upon a time.

At some point, we think we are grownup. We are not inclined to strip the bark off a dead limb and make it a magic wand, or Rey’s staff, or a Ninja warrior’s weapon. We are not inclined to thrust our homemade sword toward someone and exclaim, “En garde!”

Then I ad four children.

Having my four boys allowed me to participate in childish pursuits I hadn’t done in years. Suddenly, I was more than willing to

play again in (ahem) middle age. How in the world can we big people ever forget about play that makes us sore, and gets us dirty, and is, sometimes, risky?

For a spring break this year we went to our cabin in the Ozark Mountains. We took two of our boys’ school friends. We had a list of planned options, as well as free play.

One day, we went to a nearby zip lining facility. Almost all of us decided to try one or more activities, including a free fall, a wall climb, or a zip line. My husband declined, so I slipped on the gear.

As I stood on the platform to take my turn at the free fall, I watched several of my children jump off the edge, so that I lost sight of them. Surprising myself, I felt nervous. When the employee clipped my carabiner to the line headed down, I considered changing my mind. I couldn’t see beneath me. I would have to leap. For a brief second, as I left, the safety from above, I had no idea where I was going, or what was next. Then, I soared down, squealed with fear and delight, and fell gently on my rear-end. It was over too soon.

Unfortunately, later that day, one of our young friend’s cut open her forehead by a zip line careening backward too quickly. After some worry, tears, wound cleaning and a bandage, I assumed this child would want us to have her parents come pick her up that day, rather than wait until their planned arrival two days later.

Instead, this tiny girl, said, “No. I want to go horseback riding now.

I said to myself, “Uh, yeah. Yeah, Me too.”

(First published in Little Rock Family Magazine in the column "Parent-ish.")

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