She’s thirty feet in the air when she starts to panic, her legs and arms shaking with both effort and fear. She has one leg on two different blocks of swaying wood, one hand on the left cable, and her arm clutched over the right cable.

“I can’t do this…I’m going to fall…,” she says in a rising falsetto voice.

Just then her feet go in two directions and her legs splay like a deer on ice. We all gasp, but she manages to keep herself from dangling by her safety harness.

Her uncle and aunt are on the platform at the end encouraging her.

“OK, Kelly, just take a break,” her uncle says. “Just breathe and listen. Put your left foot flat on that board, move your right hand up and to the left….”

Her dad and I stand at the start platform behind her, helpless. We can’t go out to get her and or reach out a hand to help her.

We can only stand there and watch her struggle. She’s got to do it herself. She has to find the strength. She has to figure out how to make it across.

We can only stand by and watch and hope and hold our breath and offer encouragement and instructions.

When she almost falls, I have to turn away.

It’s hard to watch your kid struggle and suffer. It’s hard to watch them fail, but I know it’s essential.

There were times earlier in the course when I could’ve helped her — steadied the blocks, held the cable taut, reached out a hand to pull her up — and chose not to because sometimes I think we are too quick to help… too quick to intervene in sibling or friend spats…to quick to rescue our kids from any discomfort or adversity. While we mean well, it’s being proven again and again and again and again that this kind of parenting is to the child’s detriment.

Too many kids today are afraid to fail…or fall…or mess up… and they are paralyzed by that fear into never doing or trying anything lest it be anything less than perfect.

They need to struggle. They need to fail. They need to face adversity. They need to know that they can handle things on their own. That they are strong and resourceful and capable of doing things for themselves.

Kelly eventually regained her balance, shifted her weight to cross the blocks, and made it to the platform. We all cheered. She smiled, maybe from relief, but more likely from the sense of self accomplishment and inner strength that came from doing what she didn’t think she could do.

From coming that close to falling and saving herself.


More about the Peek’s ropes course here.

About Just Write “What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.”