9 Things I Want My Daughter to Learn from Climbing

Daddy and daughter rock climbing shoes. (Szalay 2014)

My Wunderkind starts preschool today. She’s going to learn to write, spell her name, cut with scissors and gain more confidence.

Natalie and I have been asking her to not grow up too quickly. Her baby qualities passed too fast and her toddler period was truly beautiful and ephemeral. Soon she will be too big to ride on my shoulders and too heavy for me to pick up and carry in my arms.

In a few more years from now she will probably go with me to the climbing gym — the same one where Sasha DiGiulian got started. I might even take her to Great Falls on a weekend or a New England crag during one of our vacations. I’m sure that she will climb better than me right from the start. I have no idea whether she’ll latch onto the sport the way I have, but there are a few things I hope that she will take with her, even if she only climbs a little. They’re things I want her to learn in general, but I think climbing will help:

9. Fear is only as tangible as we let it be. Being afraid of something can dissuade us from doing things and being unnecessarily fearful can close doors and opportunities, whether it’s reaching the top or going for an audition. Identify why you’re fearful and consider whether it’s worth being scared about.

8. Know the value of communication. Too many climbers have been dropped or stopped being belayed because of poor communication with their belayer. We have to be clear with the people in our lives about our needs — whether it’s about slack or just about what we expect from our friends or colleagues. So being forthright and outspoken can help, but you also have to listen. You need to know where your friends and colleagues stand too; hopefully you’ll surround yourself with other honest and outspoken people too.

7. Who you tie your rope to matters. Before you’re in college, this phrase will become cliched to you: Your life is in your climbing partner’s hands. The thing is, cliches ring true. Choose wisely who you spend time with, particularly important events, whether it’s your tennis partner or the friend you want to take your first road trip with. The friend will be a significant factor in your experience and a critical link in your success and safety.

6. Comfort zones are about your current limit, not your potential. Climbing at the same grade can get stale and the difficulty of climbing at the next level isn’t about it being too hard or impossible, but rather a matter of horizons. Sometimes you won’t find out how much better you can perform — at anything — until you keep trying. You might even look clumsy for a bit, but that’s because you haven’t reached that view beyond your vision.

5. If you think it’s too risky, then it is.  Only you can determine what your comfort zone is when it comes to dangers. Dangers are real and shouldn’t be ignored. Know your limits. But limits are relative based on what you deem as risky. I certainly do not want you to free climb like Alex Honnold, but as an example, he doesn’t think his free climb of Half Dome was too risky for him. But it is for me.

4. The joy of finding your way without a map or guide. While the map shows you where you are, it’s a unique experience to chart a new path without a map or regardless of the map. Please start your climbs from the ground up. Some of those routes may be dead ends, but you won’t know what’s up there until to you go.

3. You get out what you put in to it. I must confess that I have put more time into being an armchair mountaineer than a real climber since becoming your dad (you probably know that from my footwork.) But I have learned from other examples that the rewards of dedication to an activity or cause are equal to the effort. Dive in and enjoy!

2. Looking at the world from the ground is only part of the picture. I think your perspective is already somewhat unique and creative compared to your peers. Still, most people see the world from the flat plain of everyday Earth. But there are a few of us that go to those anomalies on the plant where rock juts up from the surface. The perspective might provide insight on the world and ourselves, but you can’t understand until you travel there for yourself.

1. You’re capable of a great deal. You have so much potential right now. I can’t wait to see where you choose to take it.

I don’t think I need to say comparing Wunderkind to the boys; we’re fortunate live in a community where its assumed that the girls can do as much as the boys if not more. Still, I think that even now she is learning to be confident in who she is as a girl and a person. I hope that for every little girl growing up into a woman.

Regardless, if any little girl can learn these nine things, they’ll be okay.

Thanks again for stopping by. If you enjoyed this post, please consider following The Suburban Mountaineer on Twitter and Facebook.

5 thoughts on “9 Things I Want My Daughter to Learn from Climbing

  1. Hey! Found you through your Twitter account. Loving your blog so far, especially this post.

    There are a hell of a lot of life lessons in here I think are absolutely amazing to be teaching to a young child. Too often these days, I think kids grow up feeling a huge lack of confidence, and these lessons, especially that last one, would be amazing to instill in a daughter from a young age.

    Kids grow up way too fast, but at least you’ll get to share climbing with her pretty soon as you were saying. Hopefully she’ll learn these lessons well, and I’m sure she’ll have plenty to teach you herself!

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