When a Parenting Lesson Comes 20 Feet Up in the Air

In a guest piece I wrote at Mother of Pearls blog last month, I shared how difficult it can be to transition from a parent who makes all decisions for their child to the life coach my teenager needs. Trusting them to make the right decisions. Trusting God when they don’t.

It’s a lesson I apparently need reminding of.

For our daughter’s 14th birthday last week, we took our two teens to a treetop adventure park. It’s one of those places where you look up at a maze of obstacle courses and zip lines 20 feet high in the trees and ask yourself why you didn’t read that waiver you just signed. It’s a place that any tree-climbing kid can’t wait to conquer. It’s a place that puts 50-something parents on the borderline between participant and spectator.

To prove our coolness, my husband and I chose the former.

A kind, collegiate named Sky (note the irony) helped us strap our bodies into harnesses and taught us how to “click” metal hooks onto wires so that the magnetic connection is made that will open the hook to latch across the guide lines. The hooks are at the end of a set of straps that will keep us from falling. As you move from guide wire to guide wire, one hook must maintain the magnetic connection before you can unhook the other one.

Here we learned the meaning of the word “belay.” As a verb, belay means to secure a person to one end of a rope. As a noun, it means something like a rock or other object sturdy enough to run a rope around it to secure a hold.  OK, got it.

Training complete, we set off for the trees. My daughters scurried up the rope ladder to the platform and were clicking onto the green course before I was even 3 feet off the ground, struggling for balance and cursing the deviant who invented the rope ladder. My husband made it up to the platform in respectable time and joined the girls on the green course. Well aware of my own limits, I opted for the yellow (bunny) course. Off we went.

The first few steps were slow and fearful, everything Sky said racing through my mind. But eventually I got my “sea-legs” and soon I was making progress.  Traversing trapeze wires, floating platforms, click, unclick, maneuvering around trees. I even conquered a wired skateboard 30-feet up in the air. By the time I was at the final platform for my course, Daughter #2 was in the middle of her 3rd course, the purple one; Daughter #1 was contemplating a second course and my dear husband had opted to be my cheerleader rather than start another course.

My last challenge was to hook to the drop line, take one step off the platform, and let the line drop me to the ground. “The most boring ride in the park” I had been told.

I couldn’t do it.

Shouts of encouragement rang out from below and across the park. My husband, the guides, all cheering me on. I was truly petrified.

But there was no other way down.

Finally, I sat on the platform, grabbed hold of the line, and scooted my butt off the wooden planks.

“Oww!  “SH*T!”

God forgives a stressed-out mom in off-the chart pain.  When I grabbed hold of the line, I grabbed the wrong part of the line, and it burned through my hands as I lowered to the ground.

Most boring ride in the park, my A**.

Let me tell you that the first aid kits you buy in the stores are NOT sufficient in times like this. And I will never again mock my husband for the monster kit he assembled and keeps in our car. Ointment, bandages, ice packs. I needed every single one of them. Only my thumbs weren’t burned, blistered, or ripped open.

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“Honey, I can’t make dinner tonight” I joked, trying to keep things light for my daughter’s sake.

Over the next few hours the pain lessened and the fingers moved and the healing began. But the lesson lingered.

I was holding on to the wrong part of the drop line. I was holding too tightly. I was not trusting the wisdom and counsel of the guides. I forgot that I had a belay.  And so it goes in raising my teens and learning to let go, to let God be their belay.

Interestingly, as a verb belay has another meaning, to stop.  Yep, I needed that lesson, too.