Sunday, April 2, 2017
"Did you see it?" I asked.
"Yes," both girls answered in unison.
"It's in the parking lot," Beatrice added.
The rock wall, which was actually a cylindrical rock wall tower over 30 feet high, stood in the corner of the supermarket parking lot. We saw it clearly once we rounded the corner of the parking lot entrance. There was only one girl climbing up its face at that point.
"Daddy, I'm a little nervous, so I don't think I want to climb it," Bea again reminded me.
"Bea, you don't have to do anything you don't want to. If you want to try it, great. If not, that's okay."
"Okay. I'm just a little nervous."
"I'm not climbing that," Bryce said.
"Girls, you don't have to. Don't worry. Let's go check out the other booths."
It was a small "summer camp" fair we'd gone to. There were about 10 small booths encircling a small corner of the parking lot with the rock tower at its head. Represented were science camps, active activity camps, adventure outdoor camps and even a LEGO engineering camp. The latter being the one the girls gravitated to first. Bryce immediately began building and Beatrice drop things on a LEGO conveyor belt that dropped them in a big bucket. Then they switched roles and Bea built stuff while Bryce dropped stuff on the moving belt.
"Very cool," I said.
Bea looked past me towards the climbing rock tower where another boy and girl were giving the climbing a go. "Daddy, I'm a little nervous. Maybe I'll climb it next time."
"Don't worry. You don't have to climb it; it's up to you."
At one of the active activity camps, the girls had to spin a wheel to then do a specific activity to win a prize. They both hit "do 10 jump jacks," and so they did 10 jumping jacks with the people running the booth. In between exploring each booth, we'd have to jump back to the LEGO booth for more building and playing.
About 15 minutes later, Bea said, "Daddy, I want to climb it now."
I'd blocked out the possibility of it, because I just didn't think she'd want to climb it. I didn't want to push her either, or under-encourage her. Instead I just kept making it about her choice. But what I didn't get at that moment was the fact that, with her repetitively saying out loud she maybe didn't want to climb it, actually meant that she was building up her confidence to climb it.
Damn. You go, Bea.
And that was all she wrote, as the expression goes. One of the adventure booth representative fitted the climbing harness on her and away she went. Within a minute, Bryce said, "Daddy, I want to climb, too."
There will be times in our lives where the pride we feel for our children's accomplishments will send us skyrocketing into summer's dusk like brilliant fireworks on Independence Day. This was one of them; I beamed a reverent rainbow while I watched them climb the rock, repel down and then climb up again.
It didn't matter that neither went all the way to the top. It didn't matter that Bea made it twice as far as Bryce did. All that mattered was that they both climbed the rock wall tower by their own volition. They did that. I was supportive, yes, as I should be, but they did that. This part I didn't miss, knowing that their mountains will be steeper at times and potentially more treacherous because of their gender. That having each other as well as supportive and empathic mentors and peers, both women and men, will empower them. My wife and I also know we can only help them develop their confidence and grit one step at a time, and that the cumulative heights they reach will ultimately be of their own making.
Here be the bold and tenacious. Here be the #BhivePower. Amen.
“Ain't no mountain high enough
Ain't no valley low enough
Ain't no river wide enough
To keep me from getting to you babe…”
—Ashford & Simpson, Ain't No Mountain High Enough