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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Will's Rock Climbing Expedition

My boy, Will age 8, just had his birthday party the other day. As many readers of this blog know one of my goals as a father is to prevent him from getting a sense of entitlement that many American kids have. When my wife told Will (without me knowing) that he could have his party at an indoor rock climbing gym, I was not pleased. What's next? Will's refusal to wear non-designer clothing? A dislike for science and math?

Well, the party was a week ago and though I still have reservations about feeding the Birthday-Industrial Complex there were some merits to the rock climbing expedition. One, I did not have to do any rock climbing. Two, I didn't have to interact with many of the children (including my own) while they were spitting in the face of gravity. Three, I experienced what some of us in the monkey business (psychology) would refer to as a Corrective Emotional Experience. In a nutshell, a past traumatic event (or a similar one) is relived with a different (better) outcome. This is a good thing.

I've mentioned before that I had a minor (at times not so minor) disability while I was young, hypotonia or low muscle tone. I didn't speak until three and then I needed speech therapy up to the 4th grade. My coordination was less than stellar (walking was an Olympic event for me... don't get me started about bicycling). Seeing Will climb up to the top of the 46 foot tall ladder (yes, he had a safety line) was deeply satisfying.

I'm going to be honest with you (just between us) that these experiences are not all together pleasant for me. All you people with "happy" and "well adjusted" childhoods (don't lie... I know who you are) probably feel a simple kind of joy when their children do well. For me (and I'm sure for many others) there is a predictable cycle of emotions:

1. Woo-hoo!  My child is not failing! This is good!
2. But I feel strange. Why? Wait for it...
3. I could never have done that at that age. Now I'm angry (the typical fall back emotion for men).
4. Who the Hell is he not to have my problems? It's as if...
5. I'm not failing as a parent. Well, that's not a bad emotion. It's almost pleasant but I remind myself...
6. Not failing as a parent is a life long task. Hmm, now I'm feeling conflicted.
7. But I'm used to feeling conflicted because...

This is Purgatory.

1 comment:

  1. Rock climbing = always good for children. Problem solving. Confidence. Persistence. Fitness. Humility (you cannot outsmart the rock, or shmooze it into doing your bidding -- ability and strength alone get you to the top). Rock climbing and yoga = P.E. that actually teaches you someting. This ain't no kickball, ain't no dodgeball, aint no fooling around. Peace, JL

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