Top of the World

Every place that children gather to play has its own mysteries and legends.

We all watched while one of our 5-year olds worked to crack the code of how to climb up the sheer walls of the Children's Teahouse. She knew it was possible because her older sister had attended our Summer program (#Tink) and had reported back. This past Summer, the campers with just the right combination of gumption and length of limbs had figured out how to scale the Teahouse. They employed a staged approach of ground to window apron, apron to window head, and then from there, the ascent using the ridges as handholds to pull up to the metal roof.

The 5-year old had heard the story, and perhaps had been given the exact method, but still she hadn't succeeded. She circled the back of the Teahouse, back and forth, back and forth, testing out her ideas much like a tiger trapped in a cage and never giving up. There has to be a way. You could see determination at every turn.

She did this for days and days. Devoting a large portion of her precious Pony Secret Agent play time to this effort. Now imagine how much focus, how much drive, has to be devoted to something like this. There is no way you can manufacture something like this or lesson plan it out. The benefits of just the pursuit are worth every second. Imagine the sense of accomplishment when she succeeds in her efforts.

We (the adults) all know not to directly help or hinder, but I broke that rule. After several weeks of watching her, I couldn't resist. I walked up to where she was pacing and testing the rope, footholds, arm reaches, and fingers grasping and gave her this little thought-challenge.

The rope is not for climbing up. The rope is for climbing down.

She stopped. She actually stopped everything. She turned away from the rope that for so long had distracted her in its purpose. This rope is tied to an overhanging branch of the elm tree just at one corner of the Teahouse. It says, "Climb here." The Tink campers had wrapped it in coils from the branch as a solution for the traffic jam that was created on the ascent. There was no way to climb down when so many people were climbing up! And while the gumption and length of limb will get you onto the Teahouse roof, most of the children haven't added that muscle set no matter how much they buy into that romantic notion of pulling themselves up on a rope. It had a specific use. Down.

Within minutes, she was on the roof. Just like that.

She immediately asked for a broom. All the children have heard (and often seen) older children cleaning the roof of the Teahouse and now it was her turn. 

The story doesn't end there. Her really good friend, much younger and without that length of limbs, but still a recipient of older children's passed down story and lore, turned her attention to the Teahouse. No matter how often her older friend explained it and showed her, this younger one, simply could not reach and pull herself up. And yet, she also never gave up. There were frustrated tears and there was comforting and encouragement. All that was followed by steely resolve and months, months of trial and error, trial and error.

Then, and it felt suddenly, you could see all her muscles fall into place, her finger, arm, and hand reach was both longer and more assured. And then I did it again!!!!

"Take off your boots and try again."

Sorry, not sorry. All of this gumption and growth that seemed to happen suddenly had not at all. We were now in Winter. The cold weather gear was holding her back! Surely, the thick woolen socks she had on would provide the warmth she needed, even if the exertion of the climb had not already taken care of that. The renewed mobility would surely change the landscape of the whole effort!

And it did.

"Hand me a broom," once she arrived at the top. And so I did.