Over the past year multiple people have emailed me videos of child climbing prodigies. First there was the 22 month old climbing on her parents’ woody, which was upped by the 20 month old “Little Zen Monkey”, topped by the 19 month old climber. Each video features a blossoming child climber genius sure to become the next Ashima. In each video I hear the gauntlet being thrown, a resounding “CHALLENGE!” to me as a climber parent. My son, Chase, is now almost 20 months old and despite in utero exposure to climbing, spending most evenings hanging at our home wall and most weekends at the crag, he has yet to display an inherent aptitude and genuine psych for climbing. To garner a deeper interest in climbing, his bedtime routine was modified to include dead hangs from the hangboard and a mandatory crib V0 to get into bed. Ondra videos replaced Elmo videos, and we’ve set a specific route on our home wall that includes enticing truck and turtle holds. When Chase started out of the blue shouting, “Dynamo!” we convinced ourselves he was surely saying, “Dyno more!” Yet, despite creative manipulations of his speech and Little Zen Monkey’s taunting, my son seems quite content with rolling around on the mattresses rather than bouldering, or throwing rocks rather than climbing them. It is with great trepidation that I dare ask, what if my son chooses not to climb?
Should these fears become reality, I would no longer be able to aspire that Chase become the third legendary Climbing Muskateer with Fitz (Tommy Caldwell’s 2 ½ year old) and Theo (Beth Rodden’s 1 ½ year old). Forget about our “super soft catch” belayer, always guaranteed to be available. My plan to lure Patagonia to designate our adorable climbing family as climbing ambassadors, complete with a full line of Patagonia clothing are slim to none without Chase as the bait. I thought I had it all figured out, straight through the dreaded teenager years: any back-talking sass and he was carrying all of our gear to the crag! But alas, that plan too would be squelched. As for my dreams of growing old climbing with my son as my rope gun and route finder? Guess I might as well start top-roping everything.
Need I even ponder the wretched activity that could potentially replace our family bonding climbing time? Baseball? Soccer? Do I even think it…football?! Will I be able to control myself and muster up a cheer as he chases the same ball back and forth on the same field, all the while thinking of how that endurance paired with just a few months training on the hang board could really do you wonders! Wouldn’t those mini-vans parked at the soccer field parking lot be much better utilized for a weekend climbing trip? How will I survive spending afternoons packed into a hot, sweaty gymnasium when fall temps and friction-filled rock are calling? Can I resist the urge to encourage pull-ups, dead-hangs, and finger training on the monkey bars at recess? And let’s not even talk about family vacations – the thought of a week in the Magic Kingdom over a week in Magic Wood is too much to bear! Will my son grow up to idolize Tom Brady over Tommy Caldwell? Say it ain’t so!
Of course it is Chase’s ultimate decision whether he climbs or not, but son, let’s analyze the options, pros and cons, real well. Climbing, the sport that encourages dare devil, defying the odds, calculated risk! This is the sport in which the standard parental reprimand to a child climbing out of reach is flipped and you will be cheered for climbing higher and reprimanded for coming down off a climb! It is one of the few sports in which you could potentially be better than both mom and dad by age…10 (yikes)! The sport that glorifies sleeping in a van down by the river! You’d be the only kid who has truly been responsible for someone else’s life: “You babysat your little sister?” “P-shaw! I kept my dad from falling 100 feet off the ground!” You want to impress someone? Try the moves you’ll learn climbing on the playground! They’ll never forget you!
But of course, like I’ve always said, son, you do you, climb or don’t climb, I’ve no strong feelings one way or the other.
Climb on! ~Cate