“If At First You Don’t Succeed…”

We have entered the stage in life where Zoe gets invited to school kids’ birthday parties. Last night, one of her friends was celebrating turning 5 and all of the girl classmates were invited to go rock-climbing. (A side note – now a crazy high bar has been set for what Zoe is expecting for her 5th birthday. I guess gone are the days of pizza and cupcakes at someone’s house?)

I will be honest, I was little more than skeptical about a group of ten five-year old girls going rock-climbing. Especially Zoe. I kept thinking, “She’s so cautious! She’s scared of heights! She’s so timid! This is totally not her thing! She’s going to go and then chicken out, and my heart is going to hurt so much if her little friends make fun of her!” (Obviously this whole thought process was not one of my finer “Mom moments.”)

But we went. Zoe was so excited! There was no way that I could withhold this experience from her! Sure enough, when we got there, Zoe, despite her previous excitement, became overly shy and timid. My heart swelled at the sight of her long, gangly legs poking out of her harness. She would approach a climbing wall, skipping and hopping, watching her friends scale up to great heights (another side note – I was wrong! Five year olds are champs at rock-climbing!). She would tremble with excitement, hopping from foot-to-foot until she got clipped in and then her face would fall as she quietly whispered, “I can’t do it. It’s too hard. I’m scared.” And then they’d unclip her and she’d skip off to the next wall here the exact same scenario would play out.

After this happening about five times, I started to become acutely aware that my kid was the only kid not climbing. I heard myself starting to make excuses….”Oh, she’s such a cautious kid…I’ll never have to worry about her in life making bad decisions….This is totally not her type of thing. Her younger sister, if she was here, on the other hand….” (So much for saying I don’t compare my girls!)

Finally, after much encouragement, she tried one course where she had to climb from towers of alternating heights to the final tower, which was about 25 feet high. Each time she tried, she would make it to the fourth tower and then purposely drop because the next towers loomed too high in front of her. She did this same thing about ten times. Once again, I started to become more and more aware of how cautious she was being. I kept telling her, the instructor kept telling her, “Try to go up one more tower! Just one more!” But she would smile sweetly and then let herself drop back down to the floor.

Eventually, one of her favourite little school friends climbed the same course, made it to the very tallest tower, and then gracefully dropped down to the floor below. Of course all of us parents were clapping and cheering loudly. Zoe looked up at me with her enormously earnest blue eyes, her bushy blonde pigtails quivering with her enthusiasm and said, “I can do that, Mummy!”

I said something to the effect of “Of course you can, Kiddo.” And then sat down at the picnic table, watching doubtingly as she got clipped in for the twentieth time. I wasn’t even really paying attention until I suddenly noticed that she had made it past the fourth tower and was nimbly climbing up the fifth tower. I whipped out my phone and started taking a video, probably squealing far too loudly, “I can’t believe she’s doing this! Look at her go!” to anyone who would listen to me.

Zoe rock climbing

Zoe didn’t stop at the fifth or sixth tower. She didn’t stop until she made it to the very last, very tallest tower, and then, she took a small step off that had her smoothly sailing through the air to the mat below. At that point, I was pretty much jumping up and down with excitement and pride for what my girl had just done. Yes, she is a cautious kid. She is very methodical and not overly spontaneous. And yet she is brave. So flippin’ brave. She didn’t let my excuses, my skepticism, stop her. It may have taken her 20 times climbing the fourth tower for her to test the waters, to feel confident. But the point is, she didn’t stop at the forth tower. She believed she could, so she did.

This all reminded me of the overly quoted saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” I know that I have definitely said that saying numerous times to my kids, but how often have I actually believed it? Clearly I had a hard time believing it for Zoe, one of the humans I love most in the world. And I know I certainly have difficulty believing it for myself! How many times have I gotten stuck on the “fourth tower”, given up because the dream or goal I had suddenly became too big or too scary? I don’t trust myself, I don’t trust God, so I just give up. Yet here was my daughter teaching me that to “try, try again” actually is so much more than a flippant adage. God has given me gifts, given me talents that often, in the busyness of young motherhood, I allow myself to get stalled on the fourth tower. Yet He made me, cautious, unbelieving, skeptical, tired me, with a unique set of dreams that if I would only take that one small step in trusting Him, who knows from what breathtaking heights I could soar?

So, thank you, Zoe, for showing me what it means to be brave, to trust, to believe. And in turn, I promise to always be confident in your dreams.


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