Parkour and Seven Years Ago

Our little guy works on his vault skills.
Our little guy works on his vault skills.

“To try and fail is at least to learn; to fail to try is to suffer the inestimable loss of what might have been.”
― Chester Barnard

When our boys were little, we did what all suburban parents did. We enrolled our kids in class after class, letting them try out countless activities to see what might be their thing. We tried swimming, soccer, baseball, tumbling, and multi-sport camps. Nothing clicked. I can’t tell you how many times our sons did not advance from a basic swim class. I can recall four different swim schools that could not teach them. We were beating our heads against a wall. I used to complain that if I could get the money back for every class they attempted and found no success in, I could fly to Europe and back. Twice. Yet, we persisted in our parental folly and perpetual money wasting because we felt they should be able to do these things other kids could do. Our expectations told us to hang on. If we threw enough money at it, sooner or later something would have to stick, right?

When they were 4 and 6, they were diagnosed with sensory processing disorder, which affected their fine and gross motor skills. They had very low core strength, as well. This explained why swimming and tumbling were nearly impossible for them while other kids their age breezed through without any trouble, but it did not make us feel any better. With assistance from occupational therapy twice weekly, they both learned to ride bicycles after they turned 8. They still had difficulty throwing a ball. Catching one was nearly impossible. Over time and with continued therapy, their core strength improved. They made progress, but they were still years behind other kids their age physically. We accepted it for what it is, and we stopped enrolling them in activities that made them feel slow, incapable, and defeated. We figured there was no point pushing them when they physically and mentally were not ready to be successful. We made the choice to let them just be kids. Time would take care of the rest.

Tonight, we made a big leap. We decided it was time to try again. I drove them to Apex Movement, a parkour gym, and enrolled them in an introductory class. I’d heard about parkour years ago from a male occupational therapist who worked with the boys and thought it might be a great thing for them. At the time, I showed the boys videos of professional parkour to pique their interest. They thought it looked cool, but weren’t totally on board. I talked about it the last two summers, telling them I could register them for parkour camp. Still…no interest. I reminded them of their successful work on the climbing wall at school and told them they were ready to take this step. No go. Then, lo and behold, a couple of weeks ago both boys come to me and tell me they want to try it. I thought I’d finally gotten through to them. Nope. Turns out their friends are doing it. There you go.

On the way to the gym, Joe was nervous. He began telling me that maybe he could start next month instead. I told him that you’re always nervous the first time you do something. It’s that nervousness that tells you that you’re actually growing. If you go through your whole life, never putting yourself in situations that make you uncomfortable, you never progress. I reminded him of some recent times when I had been nervous about something and how it worked out without incident. You can’t have success if you’re afraid to risk failure. I reminded him that his success rate so far in surviving uncomfortable, new experiences was 100%. All of the times he’s tried something new, he survived and was better for it. This would be no different.

When we got to the gym, the boys could barely stand the waiting process while I filled out waivers and verified payment and class information. They were dying to get out and jump around. When they got the all clear, they went into the open gym time and started trying out every obstacle they saw. When class started, they listened and tried everything that was asked of them without concern about failure. As I sat watching them make honest attempts at new things, some successfully and some with definite room for growth, I was so proud of them for being willing to move forward and try again, for facing their nerves and taking a chance on themselves. I was a fearful child. I did not learn how to take risks. I instead learned that failure is not an option. I hid behind excuses so I didn’t have to try anything. I left important things unsaid and undone. I avoided opportunities to make mistakes or do goofy things until I was in my forties, when I finally realized that I was letting life slip by unlived.

Most of the time, I feel I am an adequate parent, just good enough. I try. I make mistakes. I apologize. I try again. Tonight my boys showed me something. They’re braver than I was at their age, which means we are all making progress. We’re learning to give ourselves a chance. Seven years ago, my kids weren’t ready for the opportunities we gave them. And seven years ago, I made a conscious decision to begin work on my own risk-taking skills. Now here we all are together. The stars and planets have aligned. We are still nervous but trying because it’s better to try and fail and at least learn than never to know what might have been. Who knows with a little parkour and seven more years where we might end up?

Life On The Edge

The perfect ride I could have missed.

I’ve never been much of a risk taker, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve begun to be a bit less cautious. I don’t know if that’s because with experience I’ve learned that I have often avoided things that turned out to be no big deal or if it’s because I’m older and figure I’m going to die anyway so what the heck? Either way, I definitely throw caution to the wind more often than I used to. Most of the time it pays off.

Take today, for example. It was a perfect day for a bike ride. I mean, picture perfect. Clear, deep blue sky. 65 degree temps. Light breeze. Amazing. It would have been criminal to ride indoors. My road bike desperately needs new tires after 700 miles on the trainer this spring, so I had to pull my mountain bike out of the garage. Years ago, hubby and I took the knobby tires off it and replaced them with touring tires so I could more easily pull the kids in the bike trailer with it. Still, I figured the tires should be able to hold up to some light mountain biking on dirt roads, right? Before leaving the house, I desperately tried to locate all the necessary tire changing materials (including a tube that would fit the touring tires) just in case. No luck. I decided to go anyway. The day was too nice to waste. I would take the risk, figuring that the worst that could happen is that I could end up having to walk home with a flat.

I rode out of our neighborhood and down into the state park across the street and hopped onto a dirt trail that leads to a nearby Audubon Society nature area. From there, I rode about two-tenths of a mile to the dirt road that runs up Waterton Canyon where I have hiked with my boys for years. The road travels about 6.5 miles up before you reach Strontia Springs Dam and a hop-on point for the Colorado Trail. It’s 5 miles from our house to the entrance to Waterton Canyon. I figured I’d ride up a couple miles only and that way if I ended up with a flat it would be just a short walk back to the entrance of the canyon where hopefully some nice fellow biker with a vehicle in the parking lot would be able to offer me a four mile ride back to the entrance to our neighborhood. But, damn, if the day wasn’t just too nice to stop two miles up. I was feeling great, so I kept riding. I rode 5 miles up. Then it occurred to me that if something happened at that point, it would be a 10-mile walk home. I decided a 20-mile round trip ride was good enough and I headed back down the canyon. Why push my luck, right? Of course, nothing bad happened. I got in a ride on a flawless day and was so glad I hadn’t sweat the small stuff and given up before I’d started on the off chance that something could possibly go wrong.

I used to plan my life based on things that might happen. I missed out on a lot of incredible opportunities before it occurred to me that I wasted too much time imagining disasters that never unfolded. Things usually manage to work themselves out. And, even when they don’t, the world doesn’t end. If I’d gotten a flat 5 miles up Waterton, it would have been unpleasant. It would have taken me a long time to get home. I probably would have been fairly cranky, but I would have gotten there and the world would have kept right on revolving. Years from now I’d have nothing left but a faint memory of the difficulty and a funny story to share. Too often we hold ourselves back from things to save ourselves possible trouble or heartache. But, what potential joy have we abandoned by living too cautiously? Yes. Sometimes things go wrong. But, then again, sometimes they don’t. Those are the times when you know with your whole heart how truly amazing life is.