My seven-year-old Hannah has recently mastered the monkey bars. Now, it’s all that she wants to do. This month I’m making a concerted effort to have regular outside time, and Hannah is spending most of that time dangling. I remember doing the same thing at her age. It was heady, finally being able to swing by your hands from one end of the bars to the other. Then pushing yourself to skip bars, and working at it until you mastered that.
Hannah’s determination with the monkey bars reminds me of other times in her life when she’s shown determination. I remember when she decided that she would really walk, instead of crawling. She fell down, and got back up. And she fell again, and got back up. And again, and again, and again. Lather, rinse, repeat. She kept at it and at it until she stopped falling altogether. Then she started walking faster, and running, and jumping, and skipping. She was always pushing herself that little bit further.
The thing is, when you’re first learning to do something, there are often growing pains. There’s the falling down. There are the sore muscles, the bruised shins, and the blisters. And oh, the blisters you get from the monkey bars. So. Many. Blisters. I remember having them myself, until eventually callouses formed. But they didn’t stop me. Now Hannah has them, and they’re not stopping her, either.
I’m no longer seven years old myself, so I find the blisters alarming. I worry about things like infection. I suggest to my daughter that maybe she should take a break to let her hands heal. She swears up and down that they don’t really hurt though, and she gets back out there. Hand over hand. Back and forth. Swinging her legs and pushing herself further every time.
Somewhere along the way in the last three decades I learned to play it safe. I learned how not to fall down, and I decided that not falling down was better than pushing myself and maybe getting hurt. It’s not all bad, actually. Someone has to be the adult (real or otherwise). Someone has to set a good example, and be waiting on the sidelines to kiss the booboos and make it all better. That’s me. I’m the one who plays it safe so that my kids don’t have to. I get it.
But every once in a while I sort of miss it. I miss the feeling of the wind in my hair. I miss the single-minded dedication that comes with working to physically master something. I miss the elation when I can go just that little bit further. And I even miss the feeling of heat in my hands, as soft skin rubs against hard metal until blisters form. It’s the feeling of possibility, and life, and iron-willed determination. I remember that it felt good.
Do your kids ever keep at something until they injure themselves? Have you seen monkey bar hands in person, too? I’d love to hear your stories!