It is an exciting place to stand. As anyone afraid of heights knows it is also terrifying.
Up until last Sunday my daughter, Dana, was standing on that edge at the climbing gym. We watched her as she bouldered. She ascended half way, scanned the wall in all directions clearly seeking safety from her fear. Then she’d find a fitting hold to grasp and jump down. We praised her ability to fall and helped her learn how to stay safe doing it. She would work out a few tough spots, a pattern of riddles on the wall, but never ascend beyond the middle. She felt the holds, explored their shapes; this one looks like a monkey, an ice cream cone, a turtle. She was getting used to the idea. We cheered her when she tried a new wall, a new set of holds, or when she mastered a difficult sequence or move. We discussed our own bouldering projects with her and introduced her to the puzzles we were working on. She watched us climb, fall, try again, discuss different approaches and even master routes. She was thinking about it.
Dana broke through this learning edge on Sunday in the climbing gym. After a quick ascent in the kid’s play area to the top of the mini-wall she proclaimed “I want to go to the bouldering area.”
Quickly, confidently, she grasped the first hold and launched her way up to the top of the twenty foot wall and walked off the top. Then, and this is the amazing thing about kids, she did it another ten times. I love that she repeated it over and over and over again. Repetition is the key to acquiring learning. She instinctively knows this. It is the mortar that keeps all the pieces she put together in place. Each time she went up that wall again, she trained her body to integrate the climbing moves and sequences to perfection. But more importantly, she was training her mind. In the future there will be no excuses, she can do it not only once but twelve times. Once that feels good, she will find the next problem to master and a new learning edge will emerge.
I loved watching her take that step over into the unknown and scale the wall. We were exhilarated but only by a fraction of her delight. It was truly a breakthrough and a complete surprise.
And now I wonder where my own learning edge waits.