I’ve already explained in my climbing/trust post how, as a rule, I let my daughter climb and don’t help her down or up when climbing.
Well, today my daughter easily climbed up a big, fake mountain of rock, easily the height of that scary merry-go-round tree structure from my experience explained in that earlier post. At the top, she sat for while. I noticed that after the initial “I’m at the top” face, came a look down and a “I don’t want to get down” face. She said as much to me when she said “Help me get down!”
Now don’t you know some other little girl, a few years older at about 5 or so, climbed up and sat next to her and also was afraid to come down. Her family members were going to climb up there when they heard me tell my daughter, “I know you may be feeling scared, but if you got up there then you need to come down on your own.” The little girl’s help climbed down and said, “She’s right. You can climb down on your own. You need to figure it out.” So the little girl’s grandmother directed her what to do and where to go, and down came the little girl, leaving my daughter sitting there by herself.
“Help me!” came her shout as I wavered inside but not outside. “It is important that you get down on your own, my love. Trust your body. It knows what to do.” She started to get down, instinctively turning around and scrunching her body so she was more balanced. She stopped her descent and went back to sitting.
I saw her up there, looking more scared, so I said, “Sometimes climbing down can feel scary, huh? What can we do when we’re feeling scared?” She looked at me for a minute. “Are you breathing?” I asked. She nodded, calming herself down.
I told her she could take her shoes off if she felt that would help. She did. It did help.
After gathering her breath and her bravery, she ended up turning around and climbing down with some guidance from me about possible options when she got stuck or was headed towards a place with a big drop and no footholds.
When she got down, her face beamed with relief and pride. “I did it!” she said to me, more than once. This was clearly a feat for her. She had conquered her fear.
Not much later, though, came a boy, older than both girls, who climbed up less than halfway and stalled. An adult male he knew had climbed to the top and others were down on the ground. He began to doubt himself and expressed that. The man from above began taunting him about how this girl (another girl had climbed to the top in the meantime) could climb up and why couldn’t he do it. The boy continued to hold on, growing in fear. The other males said common phrases like “Be tough” told him to stop being scared. The little boy finally lost it and was crying in complete fear begging for someone to help him down. One of the adults (his dad?) picked him off of the “mountain” and put him down.
The whole event struck me. First, my daughter, who had just climbed this thing, was watching intently with a puzzled look on her face. Second, it was clear to me that this boy had every capability of climbing up and back down on his own. Finally, I felt saddened that this boy had his gender thrown in his face (and girls backhandedly complimented/insulted), his feelings denied and his potential to have a similar experience to my daughter’s (that pride, that relief) thwarted.
I can’t say what this boy needed in that moment, but I do believe he needed some support and care and, more than anything, empathy. I don’t think there is anything special about my daughter, but I have worked to give her the space to learn about her body and her mind and what they can do.
We are powerful beings, capable of great things no matter how big or small. We can only know that inasmuch as we have space to learn that for ourselves. Other people can work hard to build us up, but only we can truly put ourselves at the top….