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Stepping out in the world

At the foot of the bank that slopes down to our brook is a peculiarly cut rock. Chair-shaped, armless, it seems to draw Tyler like a magnet. I suspect its odd formation is the result of some previous blasting when the banks were riprapped to prevent flooding. But Ty is convinced that this particular rock just grew there for his pleasure. He straddles it front-wise, as though it were a driver's seat. I can almost visualize his "steering wheel," which he "p'tends" to manipulate with sophisticated dexterity.

When we emerge from the woods and start toward the brook he races forward, heading for his "car-seat." It's the first rock in a series to be carefully stepped on in order to cross over. Ty can't master that route yet, and isn't allowed to try. But he watches calculatingly as his elders navigate a safe course across. Any day now, we figure, he's going to attempt it -- and will probably succeed.

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I guessed that, and Bob reinforced my suggestion today when Ty met me on the path with a broad grin. I'd come to join them half an hour after they'd left the house. "Watch this, Gocky," he announced.

He ran down the bank and headed -- incautiously, I thought -- past his car-rock, and prepared to leap to the next one, set in a marshy green island out in the water. I hastily warned him not to try for it. "It's ok, Gock. Just watch!" he argued over his shoulder. "Papa showed me how."

"Stand straight," Bob called. "Remember what I said about those knees."

There was a new sense of confidence in Tyler's step as he put one foot solidly down, precisely in the center of the rock, and faced the next, which was to one side. "Tall," Bob reminded, "stand tall. Step firm. Don't bend over. Keep your balance."m

He, too, was grinning, reassuring me: "He'll circle that little island. Isn't he proud of himself, though?"

Distributing his weight like an acrobat, yet striding with obvious concentration, Ty moved rapidly from the next to the next to the next stepping-stone.

"Your legs are long enough," Bob cheered. "Keep balanced."

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With a triumphant hoot Ty was back to where we stood, dry-shod and cavalier. "It's easy, Gocky. Wanna see me do it again? I got balance."m

Before I could say no he was off again, to repeat his achievement, his legs truly long enough to hold him erect, unwavering, composed. It was amazing what the accomplishment did for him. He was managing something only his brother or big people did. He was being trusted. He was up another rung on the grown-up ladder. Oh, balance, was a wonderful thing, a terrific discovery. It was but the beginning of so many adventures. Equilibrium adjusted, his legs were long enough for this -- today. Tomorrow? Who knew what else might challenge, what other achievements beckoned? He must only remember to stand tall, distribute his weight, calmly judge. Balance.m

Down by our native brook, Tyler's learning field, judgment, poise and self-control are contributing to the fine art of balance that will determine the course of his life. There's moss on some of those stones. Many are treacherously shaky. We'll have to guard our small boy awhile yet before allowing him to launch out on his own. We mustn't be surprised, though, when he returns from the field with his grandfather one of these days, joyfully announcing: "I got clear across the brook, Gocky, without getting the toe of one shoe wet. I kept my balance all the way."

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