A respected friend has a toddler who likes to climb. Of course she needs to keep him safe. This causes me to write the following reflection.
When our son (now almost 20 years old) was a toddler, he needed to climb. We tried to not say, “you need to come down.” We tried to simply find times, places, and ways for climbing to be safe. It was gut-wrenching for me, the mom, sometimes.
Our son’s need to climb is, and was, genetic. My husband grew up “rock hopping” in Billings Montana. My husband and son are coordinated, well-balanced, and sure-footed.
As a family, we always kept our eyes open, looking for places to do some rock hopping or a bit of recreational (not technical) climbing in the beautiful outdoors and even in developed settings.
When our son was in about ninth grade, he discovered the movement art of Parkour and it resonated with him in a way that was compelling. We are lucky to live in a time and place in which the people who lead the Parkour community approach it from the point of view of “Parkour Vision.” These young world-changing leaders practice and teach the Truth that Parkour causes you to move through any environment – physical, intellectual, emotional, or spiritual – by seeing the obstacles and devising a path through, over, under, and around them. It is a fully-embodied metaphor for what we want our young people to learn and develop into adult-world survival skills.
Because Parkour had such a strong natural call for our son, he wanted to “make the case” to mom and dad in a way that would invite us to say “yes.” And so he did. He wrote an essay with the right balance of informality, combined with some information and purpose. We said yes.
That was more than four years ago. The Parkour Visions folks have developed and grown a non-profit organization for the purpose of teaching the movement art and life skills of Parkour at an indoor gym. Along the way, they have developed curricula, methods and inventions to share with others. Our son has not had time in the past couple years to train at the gym regularly, as much as he would like to, and as much as we would like it for him. The rhythm of a rigorous academic life makes it challenging to work all the physical distances between home and school and gym, while working the school commitment with integrity.
But the movement art of Parkour is part of his life and his vision and his approach to life. Parkour, and the Parkour Visions people, have been formational to the independent-thinking young man who inherited his father’s balance, sure-footedness, and so on.
When our son was a toddler, we arranged our lives to look for safe places, ways, and times to honor his intrinsic need to climb. When he had reached “the age of reason,” we, as a family, decided that in Ireland, we would not visit the Cliffs of Moher, because, honestly, there could be no assurance that our son would stay far enough back from that dangerous edge. We visited an amazing set of caves, instead – rock hopping of a different kind.
It is better for our son if mom does not always see the movement life that he is comfortable with. That dynamic tension between any young man’s abilities, and any mother’s caution, is simply the way of the world. It is not a matter of right and wrong. It is right for our son to develop his own good judgment about how to develop use his movement skills, and it is right for a mother to find it a bit gut-wrenching.