My daughter has decided, at seven years-old, that she wants to be a professional climber when she grows up. She saw a makeshift climbing wall once in a bachelor friends living room and had a good time traversing it. The majority of her experience, however, has been more of a free climb—of everything and anything. We lived in the Caribbean until this August, and although there were playgrounds that had equipment she liked to try and climb the tops of, she was more often found up every tree or rock structure she could find.
Not surprisingly, my good friend sent me this article from The Washington Post: Dear strangers, please stop telling me my daughter might get hurt.
I could have been this mom. That could be my daughter. I remember a mom running to me with concern at a playgroup because my daughter had climbed and stood upon a small table. I was surprised it wasn't something higher. At a birthday party last year, two separate parents mentioned she had the skills of a mountain goat. Another well-meaning mom approached me about my daughter standing on "a ridiculously high rock formation" - a height I admit I agreed to. But this rock was at the beach we went to almost daily; she knew it well, so I feigned concern, sauntered over, and whispered, “Love, can you get down for now? You are freaking some of the moms out.”
My concern is rarely about my daughter's safety; my struggle is balancing the opinions of others with my own understanding of the active little girl I am raising. On at least one occasion, my daughter's behaviour helped encourage another child to challenge himself.
But more often, it me trying to assure people she is okay, and I see the look of doubt in their eyes. They doubt her abilities. Possibly more, they doubt my judgment.
My mother said she herself has admonished my daughter's decision to climb the shed and jump off it last summer. Her concern was most heavily influenced by the fact that the neighbor kids were there. What if they did it too? What if they weren't as dexterous? What if their parents found out? In this day and age, someone could sue! And so we step in, we correct, we caution. But frankly, I fear I might have dampened her spirit in the times I intervened because of the anxiety of others.
Should I stop her? This is her. This is what she loves to do.
One of the first researched and carefully selected gifts my husband bought for our daughter was a climbing harness when she was 2. Of course, and no doubt quite appropriately, he could only find one in size 4. He proceeded to rig up makeshift zip lines at two different places we lived. She's repelled down our house, she jumps into the water from decks and bridges, and all trees are a potential challenge. My toddler son is also showing some of this no-fear gene. I have often joked that fate should have given me at least one quiet little reader who would like snuggles more than scaling, but this is not the case. I wonder, like the writer, if her behaviour is noticed by others more because she is a girl.
I wonder if the reaction with my son will be as marked.
I long ago learned when I couldn't see my daughter in a crowd to look up. I don't particularly love heights myself, but letting my daughter be who she is has had an effect on me. I push myself a bit to either help her down from some weird position she has put herself in or just to join in her in her adventures. So to her I say: keep climbing, take on challenges, soar to these great heights, and thank you for pushing me to try new things. Even though you're only 7, I look up to you, my darling.
1. Understand your own child and trust in that understanding
2. Join in the adventure
3. Let them learn through their mistakes knowing you can't always protect them
4. Have a go to explanation or even a disclaimer at the ready for the more concerned audience members