Thursday, September 01, 2016

A giant leap in learning parenting


We had been to a picnic last week. It was a nature trail with different adventure activities for big kids and adults. My daughter wanted to do the rope way activity but we weren’t sure if she would be allowed given the age and height restrictions for the rope way. Once we were there we were told she had just the exact minimum height and that required an adult to accompany her. So I signed up with my daughter for the rope way activity.

The activity is spread over a wide area with metal cables and ropes connecting tree to tree. The cables were maybe about 15 to 20 feet above the ground, and once up, the only places where we could comfortably stand were the wooden planks which circled the strong tree branches. We had to put on a safety harness which ran from shoulder to waist. We had 2 safety belts one end of each tied to the harness and the other end had a special hook which we would latch to the metal cables as we moved along. We were given a demo and instructions and I was asked to follow my daughter so that I could help her if required. Once we were up, we were pretty much on our own unless we called for help.

We choose a path which was completely empty. Each section between the trees had different types of hanging planks and seem to require an increasing skill. We made through each of the section and finally came to a tree which had only 2 metal cables connecting to the next tree. The next tree was about 20 feet away. The 2 metal cables were one above the other with a gap of maybe 4 feet. Essentially it was a tight rope walk with our safety belts latched to the top metal cable. My daughter asked me if she can go and I told her to go ahead. I helped her latch the safety belts to the top metal cable and guided her to walk on the lower metal cable. She had to stretch and hold the top cable and started walking on the lower metal cable which was about 15-20 feet above the ground.

When she had walked for about 5 feet, I suddenly realized what I had put her to. She was actually walking on a cable which was maybe 20mm (2 cm) in diameter holding a similar cable over her head. The 2 safety belts were latched but they were not for supporting her. They would only hold her if God forbid she slipped. I almost froze thinking about it. My entire life flashed in front of me at that moment; the first time I held her in the hospital when she was born, the time I walked her to school,.… I was praying as I watched her every step on that cable. Once in a while she would ask me if she was doing alright and I had to gather courage to even sound normal and tell her she was doing great. A small crowd had gathered below watching her as she walked on the cable. She finally reached the other tree and I heaved a relief thanking God for ensuring she did not miss a step.

It has been almost 5 days but I am still not able to get past that day. The steps she took as she walked still flashes in front of my eyes. I have been asking one question to myself – How did my 7 year old walk on a cable 20 feet above the ground? She did not walk because she had done it earlier or because she knew how to do it.

The only possible answer I have is – She had walked because no one told her she could not do it.

As I think about this answer, maybe, if there is anything stopping our kids from achieving what they dream, its parents like me. How many times haven’t I stopped my kids from doing something just because I have not done it or someone had told me not to do it? I still sometimes feel it was foolishness of me, but if I had stopped her that day, maybe she would never have found courage to do what she did. Kids stop not because they cannot do something but because someone tells them they cannot do it.

This has been probably the biggest parenting lesson I have learnt.
PS – I followed my daughter and walked on that cable holding the top cable, exactly how my daughter had done. I know I had not walked on that cable for the thrill of it. I had walked on that cable only because all I wanted to do at that moment was to hold my daughter.  

~Narendra V Joshi