Before you become a parent you observe other parents in and around your life and it's easy to look to their ways with the valour of naiveté and think "I will never be like that." When you become a parent, navigating rules and ways you don't yet understand, you look to other parents to see the way. How do they things...how is it done? And the ideas you had before your child came into this world are buried under the weight of responsibility of keeping this small person alive, unharmed, especially unharmed as a result of your decision making.
But then, the "you" before your child arrived is still alive within and you want more, better, best, for your child because that is what they are intended to be. A better you. A stronger, fitter, more-likely-to-thrive version of you. So as they pass their milestones, you begin to test their ability. If you are like me, and it's likely you are because you're following and reading this blog, your child is an untapped source of potential, a rich and pure example of what we could all be like if only we hadn't been exposed - and ultimately succumbed - to fear, rules and regulations. It's not our fault, it's how we've been brought up in this society that thinks it means well but is ultimately misguided.
So you battle with your own conditioning mirrored by the other parents in the playground telling their children that no, you can't climb that slide because it's too high, with your desire, your innate and primal desire to bring your child up to its own highest standard of physical competence. You joke to your friends that you're raising him like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the beginning of Twins...the prime physical and mental specimen and embodiment of strength and skill. You worry that you're becoming that parent, that pushy parent that puts everything into their kid. But at the same time, you don't want them to grow up like you did - slowly losing skill and gaining fear and having to battle through it just to get back to that wonderful stasis.
I'm not a natural athlete. I'm not being mean about myself; it's just the one of the many differences between myself and Ben ;) But I'm game for most things and Ben has introduced me to a lot of things I might never have tried. Before having our child, I dipped my toe in Parkour (only to find myself on the verge of sobbing one evening while trying to stand upright on a railing). But I remember that fear, that ridiculous feeling of just not being able to force myself to stand upright on a rail five foot above the ground. So in the playground with Quincy, I don't say no you can't climb that. I say go on then, I'll be here to catch you. I feel like a hypocrite as I encourage him to climb higher because I know I would never be that daring. His will, his desire is to keep climbing, little monkey paws grasping instinctively onto bars as he swings with such joyful exuberance, I could never stop him. And with each new skill gained, I have to wonder about where that desire comes from...why in our psyche is the instinct to swing joyfully from bars (branches)?
Our son climbed the highest slide before he could walk, he swings from bars, he traverses rope bridges, he pulls himself up the mini climbing walls, he has the desire to balance atop of high beams. He is 20 months old. Is this natural ability? Maybe but I'm not sure it's out of the ordinary, that we all have a level of natural ability that some of us keep and some of us lose. I think more it's encouragement to keep it going. We go to family parkour every week and while Quincy's enthusiasm is currently surpassing his skills, his desire is to move upwards. And most importantly he sees me balancing, climbing, swinging, maybe not with much skill and maybe not in an impressive way relative to the hundreds of movement examples around...but nevertheless, he sees me traversing a railing and he wants to do the same. We can no longer pass a bench or a fence or something without our son indicating he wants a hand walking across it.
It's that untapped thing, that potential we have. That thing that gets lost. That thing we do battle with and that thing that Ben works hard to re-introduce to his students. Freedom of movement and a desire to scale something than to look at it and think mmm no, it's OK. This is all our potential - to reach high with fingers outstretched. This is our human spirit, to reach and grasp and pull ourselves up. Is it a metaphor for our will to survive? Maybe! But more simply, at its base, it's physical playfulness and exuberance. There's many things to be afraid of in this life, many serious and realistic fears but falling off a wall is not one of them. So that five foot railing of a few years ago...I can't be afraid of it if I want our son to keep climbing higher and higher.
Some parents want their children to surpass them intellectually, to succeed in higher education, to get a great job, to succeed in many different ways. I just want my son to be free. Free to challenge that fear rather than succumb to it, free to run and jump and crawl and climb every day of his life. Because freedom in movement gives you the mindset to be free in every area of your life. Fear is you friend, fear is there for a reason. To protect you, to keep you responsive and in the moment. But as this great article from Parkour Generations Dan Edwardes explains, "During the time you felt fear, the fact is that you were quite safe and not being attacked. For the brief period when you were actually in danger, the fear ceased to be."