Kenny can climb

Five-year-old Kenny Robert was quite adamant about one thing: He did not like heights and he had no intention of going up the wooden steps of the sturdy, if breezy, four-story-high observation tower at the park.
The fit he threw at the base of the tower was meant to convince Uncle Randy that he would not go. He did not care that Cousin Lindsay, also 5, looked down at him curiously from her perch half-way up the first flight of stairs.
His uncle, our son, smiled. He had determined one thing: Kenny Robert could, and would, go up. As he told his wife, “My dad made me do things I didn’t want to do, and it didn’t hurt me.”
Okay, I admit, my husband did make the children do things they didn’t want to do, but it was safe stuff like learning to pick up crayfish and shoveling dirt out from under the house until our cellar turned into a basement. Well, there also was that time he insisted that the Uncle Randy, as a child of 8, could and would let go of the inside wall of the observation room at the top of the second-tallest building in Chicago and look out at the city through the break-resistant glass wall.
Kenny Robert did not know about any of that, he only knew that looking up from the base of the observation tower to the top, it looked high and scary.
“I don’t want to go up there,” the child wrapped his hand around the guardrail.
“Oh, so you don’t want to go up the tower? Why?” Uncle Randy held tightly to Kenny Robert’s other hand. He stepped onto the bottom step.
“Because I might fall.”
“Ahh, so you might fall.” His uncle took another step. The child had to move up.
“Tell me another reason why you don’t want to go up the tower.”
“Because my mother would not let me go up.”
Above them, his cousin giggled.
“Oh, so your mother would not let you go up. And you might fall.” Uncle Randy moved up another step.
“Do you have any other reason?”
“Going up that high will make my stomach hurt.”
“So going up will make your stomach hurt, your mom would not let you go and you might fall. Any other reason?” Another step up.
“My head will hurt.”
Another step because his head might hurt and then one because it was too windy.
All the way up three flights of stairs and across three levels of platform Kenny Robert told his Uncle Randy why he was NOT going up that tower.
He protested all the way up the ladder and through the hole to the observation platform.
They had run out of stair steps and ladder rungs.
They had reached the top.
“You tricked me! You made me go to the top,” Kenny Robert was angry.
But not for long. The view enchanted the child. He was on top of the world. He had climbed the tower – he had conquered his fear. Kenny Robert joined his cousin checking out the view and the small people in the park beneath him.
On the way down, Kenny Robert did not have to cling to the rail or his uncle. He raced ahead freely.
At the bottom of the tower he looked up at his uncle, “Let’s do it again. Let’s go back up.”
They went back up, much more quickly than the first time, and stood victorious at the top.
Afterward he told his mother, “I was really scared to go up, but Uncle Randy helped me all the way up and it was really cool!”
His mother never said she would have forbidden him to go, or that she would have allowed him to be controlled by his fears and to stay at the base of the tower. She just listened with her mouth open that someone, anyone, could make her child do something like that.
(Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times.)