Mother Crushers

Adventures in Climbing and Parenthood

As parents, sometimes it’s easy to think we are the experts on climbing (and life in general!) compared to our kids. After all, we’ve often been climbing longer, and have the benefit of adult-world experience. But I am here to tell you that my kindergartener has taught me several things that I try to remember whenever I climb. He is not particularly outspoken, but he is definitely not shy about making his opinion known to Mom. And he happens to have some really great ideas!

Always bring snacks and water

If we’re heading out for a big outdoor climbing trip, of course I come prepared with snacks and water. But they are equally important for short trips to the gym. Snack time at the gym is something my kindergartener really looks forward to. I usually try to bring something from home; luckily, our gym also has an excellent selection of snacks available! And if you’ve brought enough snacks to share, it’s also a great chance to relax with your friends at the gym.


Lessons My Kindergartener Has Taught Me About Climbing

Climbing is hard work, and you can definitely work up an appetite – especially if you are a growing kiddo. Taking a snack break allows both the body and mind to recharge a bit during a climbing session, thereby avoiding the “hangries.” If you’ve never experienced a hangry kindergartener, consider yourself lucky! A lot of times at the gym I’ll be single-mindedly focused on climbing, perhaps ignoring the signs that my own body will need a rest and refuel. My son has shown me, that taking a little break and having some food and water may just give me the focus and recharge to send my next project.

You can go off the beaten path – AKA make up your own routes!

As climbers, we’ve been taught how to read a route in the gym and how to track hand and foot holds by their color. Outdoors, there are plenty of guidebooks that show us the general path of a route up the rock face, and in the case of a sport climb, the route even has permanent bolts and anchors to clip into along the way. My kindergartener loves the challenge of finishing a route that he’s been working on for a while or seeing if he can make it to the top on the first try. But one of his favorite things to do is to climb creatively on the whole wall, not limiting himself to only climbing designated routes. He’ll try out different holds of all colors and shapes and try different body positions and moves. He frequently asks me to “make up” a route for him – or to make up a route for me or anyone else in the family…he certainly doesn’t take it easy on us either!

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that youth climbers (and adults for that matter) like to train on a spray wall, where every inch of wall space is covered with a variety of holds. The possibility of climbing moves is endless, and it allows for people of all sizes to reach holds. It also trains our brains to think flexibly and can increase our focus on the wall. But from a kid’s perspective, making up routes is like a game – and it keeps things fun and interesting. In fact, there’s a climbing game specifically for making up routes called “Add-On” where each player incrementally adds a move or hold onto a specific climbing sequence. It’s a lot of fun, and I think we “grown-up” climbers should play it more often!


It’s ok to say “not today”

Many times, I have seen my kindergartener climb a bouldering route and get a little apprehensive about a particular move. Perhaps he is tired that day, or really feeling the height of the wall, or he’s trying something new that feels awkward. Whatever the reason, he may shake his head and say, “not today Mommy.” I have come to learn that this does not mean that he’ll never make the move – it may be a move he has completed many times before, or he may do it the very next time he climbs. He really does just mean “not today.”  And that is ok!

Maybe because my time is often limited, I have the notion that I have to climb my hardest every chance I get. This sometimes works to my advantage when I’m feeling particularly strong and up to the task of finishing everything I start. But many times, this mentality puts undue stress on myself and leads to feelings of inadequacy or disappointment. Some days we are having a “high gravity” day. Some days we are feeling under the weather. Some days we just feel like climbing something that is easy for us. It’s completely ok to say “not today” when we are climbing and come back to it another time!

Successes can be small

It’s not all about getting to the top of the wall or the top of the route. Typically, we’ve been taught that getting to the top and finishing a route is the goal. And it certainly can be, but that should not be our only measure of success. There are many successes to be celebrated throughout our growth as climbers, and we should look closely to find the ones that may be overshadowed by “getting to the top of the wall.” My son is particularly good at finding those smaller victories and telling me about them. And it’s interesting to notice too, that sometimes the successes that my son feels for himself are not always the ones that I see in him.

From my kiddo’s perspective, his successes are often measured by accomplishing something physical. He will be so excited that he got a hold higher on a route or could hold a plank longer than he thought he could (or more importantly longer than I thought he could). He can be quite internally competitive with himself and loves to see if he can beat his last record on, well, pretty much anything. He is also equally as excited when he can do something that previously made him apprehensive, such as the giant rope swing or using a “bad hold” on a bouldering problem. As a mom, though, I notice other successes. Perhaps he packed up and remembered all his gear without reminders. Maybe he kept his cool when his figure 8 knot didn’t work on the first try or a route was harder to climb than he originally thought. These skills transfer far beyond the wall of the gym and into the real world and are definitely worth celebrating!

Remember to have FUN 

“The best climber is the one that has the most fun!” Truer words have not been spoken. That quote is written on our walls at the Training Center, and I know our coaches share this wisdom with our young athletes. I was impressed that my kindergartener remembered the quote and shared it with me while we bouldered one night. He was climbing his “favorite route,” and meticulously explaining how he liked to make each move. He said how much he enjoyed climbing, and then that the best climbers are the ones that have the most fun. He often talks about how much fun climbing can be. Some of the things that he finds particularly fun are climbing outside, doing “a really hard move,” playing games at practice, making his coaches laugh, and hanging out with his friends at the gym. It isn’t always just about the climbing. It is important to remember that we climb for the fun of it…and while it’s fun to see progress and improvement, we should make sure we are enjoying ourselves along the way!