At about forty feet up, clinging to the handholds, I thought to myself, "I don’t know if I really want to do this rock-climbing thing."
All of a sudden how far I was above the ground hit me – hard. And I never had noticed how frail and tenuous my hand muscles and ligaments were. Sure I was clipped in with a safety harness.
But that does nothing to allay basic human instinctive fears.
Yet I kept going. And the thought that kept me urging my fingers, arms and legs to move me upward was the thought of my indomitable kids.
I had watched them rock-climbing several times when we took them to a climbing gym as an alternative winter activity.
This time I was joining them. And all the times I watched them struggle – physically and mentally – came back to me.
"Come on, Mom!" I heard my son yell from below.
"You got it," urged my daughter.
Deep inside I found that ounce of will that had been hiding out. I found it in the thought of how can I urge them to fight their fears or push their body just that much farther when I’m ready to give in so easily.
So I pushed forward. I pushed hard with my right thigh into a leap of faith upward. My hand grasped the handhold – amazingly. Inch by inch, I moved up. One handhold short of the top, I lost it and fell back, slowly lowered to the ground by the belay.
See, this is the core of family fitness. There is something about growing with your children. Not just watching them grow. You teach them and coach them, sure. But they in turn move you to new heights. Sometimes literally.
When they see me struggle and move forward, they believe me more when I urge them forward.
And when we sit around the kitchen later, recounting the fear, the challenge, the triumph, there is a connection that is stronger than any belay rope or metal clip. We’ve done it – together.
I spent a half hour watching my spider-like kids clamber up the difficult pitch they were working on. They fell, shook their hands out and then tried again. Alternating turns, watching each other and trying new strategies.
Inspired by these two powerful spirits, determined not to let the wall win. I turned back to the wall I had fallen just short of conquering myself. It was hard. My arms were tired. My hands even more tired.
But hold by gritted-teeth-hold I worked my way up to the top, up to the hold that I’d lost my grip on the last time.
And this time, I did it. This time we all did it.