Lessons from a Rock Wall

Family time is rare in our household. So, when we are presented with that gift, we like to make the most of it. Thanks to election day and school closing, yesterday was one of those gifts and we packed up the girls to check out Rock Quest for some bouldering and rope climbing. Like most children, the girls were excited about climbing and a new adventure. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but I ended up being very surprised by how much I took away from the experience.

Before I get into that though, I want to take a moment to talk about what this place is not. It is not a play space in the way that some of the playground/bounce house facilities are. That is not to say the guests do not have fun, because they most definitely do. It is clear that the patrons love the challenge and fun of this sport. I mention this because it relates to the story I am about to tell and I do think it’s important to recognize that there is most definitely an educational and athletic element to this experience. The girls learned a lot about safety, how to climb, where to clip their harness and how to navigate the various routes and hand/foot holds. However, this post is not about what they learned, it’s about what I learned.

I learned that you are never too old (or too young) for an adventure. Seriously, there were all ages and variety of people there during our time climbing. The part of me that loves to people watch enjoyed watching the different ways in which people approached the climb. My 6 year old may have been the youngest on this particular day, but I know there was at least one man there in his 60’s (because it came up in conversation with my children.)

I learned that allowing your children to take risks and push boundaries is healthy. It may not have felt that way to me at the time as I had to make a conscious effort to keep my mouth shut and my hands to myself as my heart was racing watching them scale the giant boulder in the middle of the room.

Most of all, I learned that you can (and maybe should) push your kids every once in a while. I generally subscribe to a supportive “no big deal” approach to parenting when it comes to risk-taking and milestone mastering. Not ready to try to ride your bike without training wheels? Okay… I will ask again tomorrow. Afraid to try out for your school musical because you don’t want to be on stage? It’s your decision. Climbing a giant boulder, but you start to panic and want to come down… OK I will catch you.

Except as I opened my mouth to speak those words, the staff member who had been showing us around gently said to my oldest child, “Hang in there, you’ve got it, don’t give up.” and sure enough, her foot found a hold and with a little additional spotting support from her Dad, she pushed herself up and over. This was a light bulb moment for me friends… a reminder, I didn’t realize I needed. I can support and push at the same time.

Later in the day, my youngest had scaled three-fourths of a 40 ft wall and called down to me that she was going to come down. I could hear the desperation in her voice. Instead of saying “okay” like I really wanted to do, I said, “You have a blue foothold just out to your left and you are so close! You can totally do this! Don’t give up!” She found the foothold I had referenced and moved up a few more feet. She once again called down that she couldn’t go any further and was ready to come down. Again I encouraged, “Don’t stop now, you are right there, you’ve got this!” She kept going and when she touched that top handhold, her whoop of excitement could be heard throughout the gym.


She came down and literally leapt into my arms. This girl was beyond excited. But she was more than that… she was proud. She had overcome something she did not think she could do… something she tried to give up on not once, but twice. She had the best smile on her face as she told me, “Mom, my hands were burning and I didn’t think I could do it, but I kept going and I got all the way to the top!” That, is a lesson she will not soon forget.

It’s one I won’t soon forget either. I don’t think any single approach to parenting is right 100% of the time, but I am grateful for the unintentional reminder that I was given that day… a reminder that resulted in supporting, encouraging and yes, even pushing a little. By doing so, I helped her grow some that day.

As I looked around the gym at people scaling complicated surfaces and even crawling across the ceiling, it was oddly symbolic of how I was feeling as a mom. The climb may be tough and it may seem impossible or it may take you several attempts, but eventually, all walls can be conquered and when you do, you will savor the climb that got you there.


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