I took my kids to the playground today. It’s one that I used to visit as a kid but that’s when there was nothing but a rusty swing-set and a forest full of bears. Now, it’s a beautiful park with all sorts of little play islands. We ventured farther than we usually do and found ourselves at a tall rope jungle gym about twice as tall as me, making it about twelve feet high.
My son knew he was going to be the boss of that jungle gym and started scaling it. He’s three so that jungle gym was about four times his height.
I carefully followed him up, keeping my distance. After a few slips and near misses, he found himself at the very top. I found myself near the top and gripping the back of his shirt. I let go when he angrily said “Mama, let go of my shirt!”
As I pulled back my hand, two thoughts flashed through my mind. My first thought was how proud I was that he persisted in this difficult task. Then, I thought about something Jessica Smock wrote about last month. In her article, she spoke of teaching kids the ever important trait of persistence (grit) in the face of challenges.
My kid is three. He’s not ready for long term goals like getting into college, of course. For three and all its spontaneity, a five minute task of climbing up a too-tall rope jungle gym is enough.
And he did it. I was reminded that with all the hopes we have for our children, they come with a price. For my kids to develop “grit” I have to sacrifice the illusion of 100% assurance that everything will be perfect for them. I can fool myself that I have complete control over their environment sometimes, but I never really do. And that’s a good thing.
In teaching my kids to persist in the face of challenges, I have to let go.
I have to let go.
It’s been hard learning to do this but it’s amazing to see how it pays off.
The view from the top was really great. Especially with the knowledge of what it took to get there.
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