FatherSon Ventures

Building a Relationship through Adventure

Adventure Plex

Written By: Scot Butwell - Sep• 23•12

D and I are sitting on the floor in a Yoga Room, me telling him to move closer to a golden Buddha statue and a stuffed penguin with earmuffs and a colorful striped scarf for a picture.

“That’s me, Buddha, and Rico,” he says, looking at the picture.

We’re at an indoor playground with a roped, five-level play structure and fast slides and a zip line, and he loves this  place, but this Saturday morning he is enjoying hanging out with Buddha, Rico and me in the Yoga Room.

buddha fin2

Technically, I don’t think we’re supposed to be in the Yoga Room, and after we’ve been in here for around twenty minutes, I start to wonder why D is enjoying playing so much with a golden Buddha and a stuffed penguin.

I know kids use their imagination to play with objects. That’s normal. D has just chosen an odd time to engage his imagination with a huge play structure, teeming with kids, below us.

We play hide and seek, despite there being only one hiding spot behind the  curtains, and then D fiddles with the strings on Rico’s scarf, and I think about us doing a “typical” kid activity.

Eventually, we exit the Yoga Room, and while passing the front desk, D stops to flick the edges of a Super Hero mannequin’s cape, so I inquire about the age requirement for the Rock Wall.

The age requirement is six, the manager says, but he says D, who is four and a half, can climb if he wants to since summer campers are allowed to climb the Rock Wall at age five.

“Do you want to climb the Rock Wall?” I ask him.


He is oblivious to the physical challenge ahead of simultaneously grabbing small rocks that are spaced apart while gripping  other rocks with his toes, a feat that will require coordination beyond his ability.

However, he shows no fear as K, his teenage instructor, secures a harness around his waist, and I fasten on his helmet under the shadow of the imposing 40-foot-high Rock Wall.

I go first to give D an example. Halfway up, my forearms burn and back tightens up. I struggle to grip rocks and find toe holds, yet I make it to the top, lean back as if sitting in a chair, and counter-intuitively rappel down with my feet against the wall.

D is next, and I think of Parker J. Palmer, author of Let Your Life Speak, and a passage from his book when he is at the edge of a 110-foot cliff and told by an Outward Bound instructor to lean back and rappel down.

“Do what?” Parker says.

“Just go!” the instructor says.

Failing to lean back, Parker’s body slammed hard into the rock wall when he failed to follow his instructor’s directions and trust a thin rope.

“I don’t think you’ve quite got it,” the instructor told him.

“Okay, tell me again what I am supposed to do.”

“Lean way back and take the next step.”

It’s a metaphor for parenting, I muse, while D starts climbing the rock wall, failing to get past the number “1” marker on his first couple of attempts.  I detect signs of distress in his face.

I realize he is going to need my help making his ascent up the face of the Rock Wall, and perhaps more important, a little motivation to help kick start the climbing experience.

“If you make it to the number ‘5’ on the rock wall,” I tell him, recalling my need for support during my first rock climbing experience at age twenty-one.  “Then we will eat at Denny’s.”

True, it’s a mix of encouragement, motivation, and good, old-fashioned bribery–the standby most parents use in a time of need–and this seems as good a time as any for a bribe in the form of encouraging motivation.

dom wall crop

And it works. The positive association of food (really macaroni and cheese) motivates him. He makes a few more attempts, each time showing absolute determination and razor-like focus, and reaches the number “5” marker.

And I catch a glimpse of his character. He’s determined, willing to take risks and face his fears, and not give up at a challenging activity. Yet, I know his main motivation was eating macaroni and cheese at his favorite restaurant.

“Do I get to go to Denny’s?” D asked as soon as his feet touch the ground.


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