Jenna has added another phobia to her list, my cautious yet daring second grader. Escalators have now joined tornadoes and bugs as Very Dangerous Things.
I was afraid of them too when I was little. I remember having the same near-refusals with my mother: I'll go up but I don't wanna go down.
My fear deepened when someone told me the story about the time my cousin Martie got her shoe stuck in the ridge where the stairs go under the platform at the bottom of the escalator--better known by a young me as that "forever place"-- and fell down. Martie had to take her shoe off to get her foot loose from the munching escalator. Patrons were apparently aghast.
I've found that the best plan is not to tell a little kid a story like that when you're busy convincing them that escalators are both handy and nice.
I still haven't told Jenna the cousin Martie story, although she met this cousin for the first time on our trip, and Martie's now 50ish, has both feet, so I guess all's well that ends well.
Anyway, I decided to work with Jenna a little on the "There's nothing to worry about--no one has EVER gotten their foot stuck while on an escalator before" thing during our visit to Rochester.
Kauffmans, a department store that used to be Sibley's, has some pretty old escalators--the kind that go slower, have wider and deeper steps, thicker handrails, and are, from a kid's perspective a lot more welcoming. They also don't go up very high, and you can see the UP and DOWN escalators from the same place. This is important. Because if your kid chickens out at the last minute, you want to be able to get back down to them before an unregistered sexual offender makes off with them.
So there we are, standing at the bottom of the department store escalator. I tell Jenna to look how nice and slow this one goes. Look how BIG the steps are--who could miss a step like that? NO body. SO easy. See that little girl step right on? You can Definitely Do This.
We walk closer and she tells me for the 12th time, "Look mom, it doesn't make sense. I mean, there's an elevator over there, and there must be a stairway, and I don't like the way these steps just pop out the way they do, and why can we not take the elevator? I don't want to go on it."
I reason with her, bribe her, and finally she decides to get a little closer. She spends some time, even touches a toe on the emerging step, and off. On and off with the toe like a phobic ballerina.
"SEE?! Isn't that cool?"
She evaluates the situation for a good two minutes. I take the opportunity to put a foot on the first step and grab her hand with a smile. We are going to beat this fear. Together.
"Come on--here I go--Come with me! One foot, NOW!"
Just then she steps back, knocks my hand away, and backs off the platform to the safety of the handbag rack.
Up I go. Solo.
I look to see where she is, and can't spy her right away, and then hear, "HEY, MOM! OVER HERE!"
There she is, at the bottom of the down escalator, smiling and waving, and waiting for my return.
Five minutes later on the way up the elevator, she declares a victory of sorts: "Well, I got close this time."
"Yep, you did."
I think about cousin Martie and her shoe and am suddenly glad for the elevator.