Boy, does time fly. Seems like just yesterday we were bringing Joseph home from the hospital. This is my favorite picture from those early days (not sure what it says about me).
Of course, I snuggled with him lots. And nibbled his tiny fingers.
We couldn't' tell by looking at that delicious little lump, but my boy would turn out to be quite the little monkey. He started climbing ladders at 18 months. Just a few months later, while visiting Aunt Cynthia in the city, he spied a rock he thought he'd like to climb.
What struck me was how thoughtful and methodical he was about where he put his hands and feet, searching out the best holds. My boy still can't throw a ball to save his life, but climb he can.
Just this past Memorial Day weekend, while visiting my in-laws at their Poconos lake house, he hopped across a couple of big rocks, onto the dog house, and up onto the roof of their little garage (the type with a steeply pitched roof). I don't even know how to explain it, but he didn't go up vertically, he scaled it sideways so he could grip the edge of the roof with his fingers. Here he is perched proudly at the top:
This will give you a little perspective of just how high he climbed:
Joe's birthday was the next weekend, and I still didn't know what I was going get him. As soon as we got home, I Googled "Rock Climbing NJ" and came up with New Jersey Rock Gym, just half an hour away in Fairfield. For $20, I could get my boy 90 minutes of climbing with only enough instruction to keep him from getting tangled in the ropes. I told Joseph about my present on his birthday and we made plans to go the next weekend.
When Joseph and I walked in, he was immediately excited, but he was also a little intimidated by the height of the wall. I explained that he would be in a harness and that his instructor would be holding onto the rope so that if he slipped he wouldn't fall. I explained it all again as the first climber zipped up the wall.
Joe took his turn eagerly, but just a few feet up I could tell he was starting to hesitate. He probably only got about 10 feet up before he decided it was time to come down. "It's too high. I'm nervous," he said. And down he came.
I guess when you're just staring at the wall right in front of you, you don't really know how high up you are. Or have any ability to know that it's not even as high as, say, the roof of the garage you climbed without the benefit of belay or mats.
He tried three more times, each time bailing out a little earlier. The last time he was only a little higher than my head.
"I want to go home," he said.
There was still 45 minutes left in the class. I didn't want him to leave feeling like he couldn't do it. Or worse, get home and wish he'd stayed. We took a walk. I talked to the woman at the front desk.
"Tell Lucas to take you to the kids' room," she said.
Lucas, our instructor, happily obliged and, for Joe, it was night-and-day different. To me, the wall was only about 5 feet shorter than the wall in the main room. But it was quieter. There were no birthday parties having races up the wall. And, best of all, there was a kids' bouldering wall Joseph could climb on his own while the other kids in the group did the bigger wall with belay.
A couple times up and down and across the bouldering wall, and Joseph was ready to get back in the harness. First time up he picked a spot on the wall he wanted to climb to. Wish we'd thought of that sooner. It let him decide from the ground how high up he wanted to go. He actually zipped right past his landmark -- that blue hold in the shape of a conch shell you can see to his right in the next picture -- and got a little nervous as soon as he realized it.
The second time up, he got to the top. He was so proud. I don't have a picture of it, because I wanted to make sure I saw his little face when he made it. He beamed!
That was the last climb of the day. And as soon as Joe's feet hit the ground he turned around and said, "Can we come back next week? I want to do this again!"