My son began climbing at a very young age. There are pictures of me and my son on my back in one of those baby backpacks with he and I, 20 and more feet climbing a tree. Consequently his fear of heights barely existed. I remember when he was six months old, and hearing this exhilarating laughter from the living room which made me take my hands out of the dishwashing sink to see what all the laughter was about; there he was swinging on the drapes from one side to the other just having a blast. Checking the strength of the curtain rods made me comfortable enough for his play to continue.
Round about ten months old, a beautiful young woman lived above us in our apartment complex of several dozen apartment buildings. Kinda like the faithful dog who waits at the end of the road for his friends to get off the school bus, Theo would wait at the door for her usual scheduled journey home. I would revel in how his face lit up and his body squirmed, wiggled with pure energy as he saw her walking down the sidewalk.
One day when silence was too prevalent, I took my hands out of the dishwater to go see what was up. What was up was he had began climbing the stairs to go and investigate just what and where did she disappear to. Since, my job of a mother is to watch and guide the baby, I remained outside and watched as he slowly ascended the cement steps leading to her apartment. It took him nearly a half an hour for him to get to the top and then find her apartment (still today I wonder how he seemed to know which one was hers- was it smell, or did he hear and identify just which door).
He did everything in his baby power to pursuade me to carry him down the steps. Ask anybody who knows me, there is a stubborn streak wider than the Mississippi river running down my back, and no; if you climb up, you must learn to climb down. Climbing down has an entirely different movement required and such skills can only be learned through doing the action. It took him nearly an hour, because there were far more breaks trying to paddle up the Mississippi river running down my back. Finally he did it, and such pride he did have of his accomplishments, that on a regular basis he would climb the stairs to see his beautiful friend who lived above us.
When he was a year and a half years old he was about twelve feet in the air climbing a playground appartus when a kindly lady voiced her concern and said, “Don’t you think he is a little to young to be climbing that high?”
- My response was “No. I’ve tried to coax him higher but he only climbs to the level he is comfortable with. Besides its not my duty to instill my fears upon him. My job is to watch and guide him.” We ladies soul searched each other looking deeply into each others eyes. Was I being righteous with his care? She decided to sit back on the bench and watch him from a distance.
About four years later, at the same playground a single father and his son who we had known for nearly two years happened to cross our paths again. Since we hadn’t seen each other in nearly half a year, we got caught up in sharing the day’s excitements for those missing moments. All of a sudden, we realize where are the boys?
Ah I knew- so we went around to the other side of the playground and ten feet up in the air was his youngin’ and a good twenty feet my son was climbing the over one hundred year old pine tree. The top was well over forty feet and today Theo tells me that HAD BEEN the goal.
The father nearly had a heart attack right then and there, “You get out of that tree- right NOW!!!” he screamed at his son.
Me knowing the development of my son and watching him study the pattern of the tree for nearly a month, “Good job Theo, great climbing skills!” This time the response was total surprise ‘what- a woman NOT scolding a child for going too high?’ and the single dad said, “you’re not upset he is that high?” I explained my idea on parenthood.
Out of respect for all society the boys climbed down. Father was much more at ease!
Jump to when he is eight years old and we have climbed many cliffs and objects safe enough to handle our weight. On the third friday of the month, we had Freak Show 2000 where sometimes hundreds of people gathered at the cliffs near the Cliff House on the beach of San Francisco. There musicians of all instruments showed up and from sundown to sunrise the drum circle made sweet heavenly music to the rhythm of the waves crashing in the caves that nature supplied. Those moments are probably one of the most magic moments we have ever shared- Theo and I we be dedicated drum circlites. We never missed a Friday for over a year and a half.
Well half a year into the magic, one night a man and his two friends came to me very concerned that Theo was scaling the cliffs. To let you know, the cliffs are made of a shale sort of substance rather than the normal solid rock like most climbs we had accomplished. Theo loved the challenge! So my response is, “It’s not the fall that will kill you, it’s the landing. I am pretty confident in his skills of landing. He has taken a few falls in his young life- his skills are quite excellent in that department.”
Ask a friend or two, I can be quite pompous with my skills in life, bleeding that into my son’s character. It was about three o’clock in the morning when the same man tells me to come see about Theo because he has fallen off the cliff. I am led to where my son is sitting, and I can see he is shaken up a bit.
I take the time to completely give him a through body examination… including noting if his pupils are denoting a brain injury. His only harm done is scratched hands and a long scratch just below his nipples and sweeping across his abdomen to just where his back begins. The examination took a good fifteen minutes.
All done I say, “Well show me where he fell!” Off they (his two friends) lead me to where Theo has fallen.
This time my dismay blurts out my mouth with zero filtering ability, “Holy f***ing Christ, are you kidding me!!!”
The fall was a minimum of a hundred feet, possibly more and when I got back to where Theo sat patiently waiting for my return, the best I could do was extend my hand and shake the hand of a true master. “Man Theo, you passed the test of landing!”
“So what do you want to do?” I ask.
“Go home.” He replied. The only time we ever left that drum circle before sunrise!
Today neither one of us can climb a tree or scale a cliff, our bones and inner ear have been too damaged by the disease we have been forced to endure these six long torturous years!
Yet, I keep telling Theo over and over “Honey, when we finally get help, the miracle of the human body’s design will show you we CAN heal and once again do the action we both LOVE SO MUCH!”