That’s my husband lead sport climbing. I’m below him belaying. As he climbs, he pulls the rope up with him and secures it with a quick draw in pre-set bolts in the wall. As he climbs past a bolt, he enters “scary fall zone”. If he falls once he is beyond a bolt, the fall is longer, he is more likely to scrape himself up and the force of the fall will pull me off the ground, just a little. In reality, he is safe. The gear and my belay will catch him. We have learned and done everything we can to make it so. He has a harness, a secure rope, knot, knowledge, practice and all our attention.
There are times when he is leading a climb and I get scared. He climbs past the bolt, gets stuck and searches for a route to get to the next bolt. He is nervous, clearly unsure and struggling. I get anxious. The last time I watched him struggle, I wondered why I bothered to watch him. If he falls, he will be okay. In reality, my anxiety doesn’t help him.
This is the essence of growing up past the bolt and parents should pay attention. Why?
Ideally, parents do everything we can to provide safety for the risks of childhood and growing up. We talk to them about the risks, we instill values, we set limitations, we teach them, provide an environment for growth and high standards. But, eventually, they will have to climb past the bolt and enter “scary fall zone”. Us parents can watch and get anxious or, provided that we have invested in learning, creating and communicating a safe structure, just let them fail or not.
Undoubtedly, climbing past the bolt sometimes means failure. It is the nature of risk-taking to fail. In climbing classes, we always practice falling which is in essence, practicing failure. It makes you a better climber to get comfortable as you climb past the bolt and fall. Get used to it.
I want my kids to fail (and succeed) a few times as they climb past the bolt and out of their comfort zone. Failure shouldn’t scare them to paralysis – though it might always be a little scary. The greatest learning in life happens when you climb past the bolt and into the risky unknown.