Mary has been wanting to do the monkey bars at school. She never mentioned it to me, she kept it to herself. It was her own, personal, quiet goal.
She had wanted to try, but she hadn’t tried yet. She hadn’t even climbed the ladder. There were plenty of very valid excuses — David broke his arm on the monkey bars last year. Plus, her friends like to play tag. It’s easy to avoid the monkey bars. Also, she was scared. It was something she’d never done before, and those bars are high.
Last weekend we went to a nearby park, and Mary marched straight up to the the ladder, climbed it, and went across the monkey bars. She did it without making any sort of announcement or preparation. She did not ask for help or look to us for reassurance.
I’ve seen more subdued Super Bowl celebrations. If we had had a cooler full of Gatorade on hand, dumping it on her head would have been completely appropriate.
We were all so proud of her. The whole family showered her with high-fives and hugs as she jumped around and pumped her fists. And then she celebrated for real by going back and doing it over and over again. Tom took a video, and I took pictures.
“Mommy, I can’t believe I did the monkey bars!” she exclaimed. “I didn’t even practice, I just did it!”
“You know what that means? That means this whole time you’ve been ABLE to do the monkey bars,” I replied.
“YEAH!” she shouted, pumping both fists in the air. “All I needed was the confidence!”
As I mom, I spend so much of my day holding little hands, steadying the bike, and giving reassuring smiles that it becomes second nature. You offer a boost before they even ask for it. And for the child, knowing that your hand is there is part of the magic of childhood, mom is always there when I need her.
But then you spend so much time giving support that, without even wanting to, you start to believe that you are not just a piece of the process, but a necessary part of the process. Helping becomes second nature; you do it subconsciously and almost believe that without you, nothing would be possible.
If she’s going to cross the monkey bars, I need to be there to spot her or at least be her cheerleader.
One day you mention trying the monkey bars and they respond by shrinking away from the suggestion.
Then another day, they climb the ladder, reach out, and take a risk. And you stand and watch as they reach from one bar to the next, legs swinging wide from the effort. They didn’t need your hand because in all that time holding on, they were building the confidence to let go.
She jumped down and ran back to us to celebrate her accomplishment. I am so, so proud of her. For me, the real joy was not just her achievement, but in the moment that she decided to let go. She became successful when she believed in herself; when she decided to prove to herself, and everyone else, that she can do absolutely anything she wants.