Over the weekend I took a trapeze lesson. Like a real one — one where in a matter of minutes an instructor quickly details how to get the safety harness on, how to jump up to the bar, throw your legs over, arch your back and fly through the air. The goal is to learn (rapidly) how to accustom yourself not only to the environment and to the sport but to let go of the bar, fly through the air, and catch a partner’s arms who is simultaneously swinging on another trapeze. All this WAY up in the air.
Within a few moments of some ground instruction we were escalating into the air up a ladder some I don’t know, 20 to 30 to 40 feet in the air. You lose perspective of distance the faster your heart beats. The instructions came quickly, the rapid-fired commands kept thinking to a minimum while also maintaining transitions with necessary momentum. For the first time in a long time I was really doing something I’d never done before. I’d never met these instructors, I’d never been to this place, and I’d not swung upside down by my knees since middle school. At the same time that I was asking my mind to override a great fear of heights I was demanding that my body acquire a new set of muscle memories and choreography. It was oddly taxing. Because of that, I suppose, it was also wildly rewarding when I was successful. There truly was a moment when I thought I may not climb the ladder.
We ask our children to do this constantly. I mean…..constantly. We drag them to new places, we meet new people, we ask them to rapidly acquire new coordinations, new social situations, new goals. And all the while we expect them to do so without much anxiety, without much complaining, without much of a margin for TERROR. This is childhood, this constantly newness, and I would like to say today I think we’re out of touch.
Exhibit A: Over the very same weekend where I trapeze-d through the air I piled my boys into the car Saturday morning after I mentioned we’d drive to a new place, meet with a new man who would instruct them in a music lesson both on a known instrument and a on a new one. I didn’t think it would be such a challenge. But when I heard the instructor quickly explaining what it meant to transpose from the key of C to G and my the neurons in my own mind went into a pretzel I wondered just why the little dudes weren’t curling up on the floor saying, “there’s no way I can learn this so fast.”
Sunday we did things we’d done before.
But then WHAMMMO, on Monday morning, less than 48 hours after Exhibit A, we drove to another place my boys had never been, we walked into a room full of complete strangers (we truly didn’t know a soul), and I left my two boys to this group within about 10 minutes. This was just a summer camp they’d never tried before: Exhibit B. But if we zoom out to a fair perspective it was also a foreign country of experience a vast ocean away (new camp, new people, new place, new skill requirement).
I walked to the car, tears welling up in my eyes, after seeing the look on my 7 year-old’s face as I left the room. It perhaps perfectly captured his reality. It was something like this:
I’m terrified, Mom, to stay here and do this but I believe you that it will be fun and I believe I am capable and I believe over-riding the terror I feel will lend itself to something good. I know I will reap the colorful reward of accomplishment, connection, new friends, and fun. But I’m scared and I am asking a lot of myself every single time I do this
And the trapeze reminded me. We ask our sweet babies to learn and reach and stretch and grow and start things new constantly. Think of a new school year. This post just a reminder, after a quick lesson at 30 feet, we have to remember the herculean tasks we expect and the patience we can have for nurturing tremendous grit but also the compassion we must also embody as we acknowledge the enormity of the challenge in doing something new.