On Boys, Balls and Climbing the Walls…

8 Jun

Yesterday afternoon my husband and I took our three boys to an indoor rock climbing gym– a completely new adventure for all of us.  I had no idea what an elaborate undertaking it would be.  I began to realize that rock climbing was not for sissies when there were 9 pages of liability forms to fill out and 18 separate spots requiring our initials.  Apparently there are numerous ways to maim yourself at an indoor rock climbing gym, and the owners were engaging in some serious legal CYA.  After we absolved the gym from any and all wrongdoing in the event of an untimely carabiner malfunction, there was a safety video to watch.  

During the video is when the true epiphany struck:  Rock climbing is mighty dangerous!  Why was this just occurring to me now?  What in the world possessed me to bring my boys here on a lovely Sunday afternoon in order to dangle them 50 feet in the air from a rope that was probably about as strong as a frayed piece of dental floss?  That image was scary enough… but then I started to wonder:  What if nothing at all went wrong… what if they had a great time…  what if they loved it?  I pictured a future of weekends filled with hand-wringing and floor pacing while my sons enjoyed wilderness excursions that included hanging by their fingertips from sheer rock faces like that Scientologist in that ‘Mission Impossible’ movie.  And then I thought:  “What if they all loved rock climbing so much that they became Scientologists?!”  I’ll be the first to admit that my imagination tends to run wild at times, and it was running completely amuck during that safety video.  

After the video we each put on our rented pairs of teensy tiny little rock climbing shoes that were inspired by ancient Chinese footbinding rituals, before awkwardly donning our requisite groin holsters (that incidentally served to freakishly exaggerate the manhood of every dude in the gym… and I mean that not in a good way).  We then commenced a 20 minute orientation with a cute little fresh-faced girl named Rachel who looked about 12 years old and should be filling us in about the favorite colors of the Jonas Brothers, rather than authoritatively educating us on the death-defying pastime of rock climbing.  When Rachel’s presentation was over, we had to demonstrate all our new found knowledge of knots, harness tightening and belaying tactics to her before she cut us loose (er, probably not a great choice of phrase here).  

The boys started climbing whilst my husband and I stayed on the ground and held on to their ropes for dear life.   Let me just tell you I have never been so tense in all my years.  Watching each of my boys scamper up a 30 ft rock wall was exhilarating and terrifying.  I marveled at their facility as each of them stretched and lunged and nimbly picked his way up the steep walls without a moment’s trepidation.  Even my 6 year old made it to the top about 62 times. It was amazing and I was so proud.  My husband beamed as he looked over at me and proclaimed:  “This place is boy heaven!”  And he was right, where else were boys allowed to literally climb the walls and flirt with death… and not get in trouble for it?  Finally it was Mom’s turn to try.  

It needs to be said that I was not dressed properly at all.  Never having climbed before, I showed up in running shorts.  (Emphasis on the “short”).  Between the teensy tiny shoes and go-go shorts, my thighs looked like they belonged to Mary Lou Retton (that is if Mary Lou had never been an Olympic athlete, and if her idea of “floor exercise” was kicking back with a bag of Doritoes, and flipping through the channels).   Add to that the tight harness cinched around my crotch and midsection, and let me tell you, I was a vision in Bulge.  And while I might have felt like the first woman to summit Mt. Everest as I bravely scaled the colorful plastic toeholds of the beginner’s section of the artificial rock wall, I shudder to think of the view my husband had of my backside as he belayed me from down below.  I must have looked like the second incarnation of the Hindenburg Disaster, up there all blimp-y and inflated while my comparatively little husband stayed down on planet Earth, yanking on my tether to keep me from floating away.  

And by the way, I didn’t actually know that I was afraid of heights until I was about half way up that wall.  I made the mistake of looking down at my little ant-like family scittering around far below me and my palms and forehead instantaneously broke out in sweat– and I mean like a bunch of sprinklers coming on.  When I got so high that I swore my nose was about to bleed, I begged my husband to let me come down.  “OFF BELAY!!!  DOWN CLIMB!!!  DOWN ME NOW!!! I screeched from a frightening altitude.  With my feet safetly back on terra firma, I asked him to point out how high I had gotten, fully expecting that his voice would be choked with admiration as he indicated some lofty distance.  He yawned and pointed to a pink rubber toehold barely 5 feet from the floor.  Totally embarrassing.  I was determined not to let Mt. Rock Wall to get the better of me and tried again.  Somehow during my triumphant ascent, my little tiny ant-husband managed to wield his iPhone to take a “proof of life” shot of me at the top.  I planted the American flag and descended triumphantly.  I couldn’t wait to see the picture of what a rugged and adverturous Boy Mom I was…  As my husband handed me the camera he politely warned me that the photo was “not, uh, very flattering…”  All I saw before I hit the ‘Delete’ button was a horrifying image of the underside of my keester oozing out of a crotch harness.  Let’s not talk about it.  

After a couple of hours of belaying the boys, my hands and my nerves needed a break.  My middle son wanted to spend some time with some boxing gloves and a punching bag, and since neither of his brothers was available to play the role of the punching bag, we went upstairs to the fitness area that gave us a bird’s eye view of all the climbers.   At one point I spotted my 10 year-old literally hanging around.  He had used the auto-belay to climb nearly to the top of the 30 ft wall and had clipped himself to a little tether to sort of “hang out” for a minute or two.  It put us virtually at eye level with one another, but about 20 feet apart with nothing but an expanse of air between us.  The gym was noisy so we couldn’t actually converse with each other, but our eyes met and I mouthed to him:

What are you doing?”  He mouthed a response, but I couldn’t really make out what he was saying.  “What?” I mouthed back.  Again, I could see his lips moving but couldn’t really understand him. Was he telling me he loved it here?  That he was having the time of his life?  Finally after his third attempt, I got it.  He was saying:  “MY BALLS HURT.”  


All in all it was a great afternoon.  I felt adventurous and gratified after a fun family outing where everyone attempted something new and walked out tired and happy. Despite all my worries, there were no carabiner malfunctions, no broken bones, and no dramatic Scientology conversions.  

Mission accomplished.


3 Responses to “On Boys, Balls and Climbing the Walls…”

  1. Kirstin June 25, 2009 at 4:32 am #

    LOL — I wished you hadn’t deleted that photo of you descending down to earth. It reminds me of a scene from Bridget Jones Diary where she comes down a pole caught on video for all of England to see!

    And as an all-girl mom I can safely say I’ll never share in the experience of having a kid say “My balls hurt!” Too funny!!!

  2. Melanie July 9, 2009 at 8:37 pm #

    Thanks for giving me the link to your blog. So funny! And as a fellow mom of all boys – I totally get it.

  3. Jessica Grady July 29, 2009 at 5:45 pm #

    Great blog Susan….look forward to seeing the vacation follies, because I KNOW there were some 🙂

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