Life is dangerous; don’t pretend you’re an expert. Before we go any further, there are some things that need to be cleared up. My wife and I (as parents) began this journey when our 18-month-old daughter gained Internet fame shortly after one of her random climbing videos went viral. From this video we received an overwhelming amount of support as well as the somewhat expected amount of detractors. While we were humbled and thrilled with the amount of support we were receiving, there was a large unspoken problem with the negative aspects. My wife and I are experts in what we do. I have been climbing for over 20 years and my wife (Rachael) has been climbing for over 14 years. This makes a difference. Let me repeat this: we are experts in our field. I have worked in the outdoor industry for over 15 years and throughout every bit of it I was emerged in the climbing world. Now in all fairness, some of the detractors have made valid points. For example, climbing is dangerous and especially if it’s done in the wrong circumstances or if individuals are not properly educated. Climbing is dangerous just like riding a bike is dangerous. So is kayaking, horseback riding, playing at the park or engaging in contact sports. Frankly, just about every object in your house could become dangerous when you have a toddler running around. Just like my wife and I have no idea how to kayak without drowning, there are many people who don’t know how to keep their children safe while climbing. So while we don’t take our child kayaking at the moment, we definitely take her climbing… because it’s what we know. Climbing is our passion. It’s our lifestyle and something that we feel will help her blossom into a strong little athlete. An athlete that is built upon confidence, health, happiness, strength and independence.
Here is what we want you to take from this journey. Sure we want more and more people to experience the joy of climbing, but more importantly, we want them to do it safely while learning with best practice. Take the time to learn from professionals at a climbing facility. The climbing industry has exploded in the last decade and there are gyms in nearly every city across our country. A list of gyms throughout the Unites States can be found HERE. Take the time to learn what you are doing rather than assuming that your baby can do what the Internet baby did. Beyond this, climbing may not be for you. Every person reading this has a passion or interest that sets you apart from your friends and family. Use this as your first leap into the Surface to Air Parenting philosophy. It is from your own experiences and passions that your child can draw in inspiration. They learn from you, they are inspired by you and they look up to you. Start today, start now by creating the best path you can for your child and give them something that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
Without further waiting, we bring you:
Surface to Air Parenting: The End of the Helicopter Parent
I think it is important to take a look at how we learn. While we might all want a fun and smooth ride in this life, we don’t learn from those comfortable experiences nearly as much as we do from the failures and disasters. I wish it wasn’t that way… but in truth, trial and error is how we learn. The largest problem with the arrival of the helicopter parent is how this style of parenting is removing the experience of failure. It removes that process of learning through trial and error. Anytime a child is about to hit a rough patch or fail entirely, the parent is there to swoop in and prevent that fall. Look, in most instances, this overzealous reach on the part of parents comes from a good place. No one wants to see his or her child get hurt or experience pain. Yet what they don’t see, is the bigger picture of pain and failure and how it sets their children up for dealing with experiences later in life.
I want to tell a story from an experience I encountered when our little girl was only a couple months old. We were at the public library and reading books in the children’s section. There was a little play kitchen set up in the middle of the room where two little girls were playing around with the different utensils. The two girls both reached for the same spatula. There was a moment where time stood still and the two girls looked into each others eyes and a conflict began… two hands one item. A learning moment was going to happen. It might have been a disaster or perhaps this would be the first time they would learn to share. It didn’t matter what would have happened because before either could react, two moms were immediately at each child’s side, stepping in to mediate everything before the children could do it themselves. The learning opportunity was destroyed.
If we imagine our little bugs out there flying around in life, I want you to imagine the helicopter parents flying right up next to them in the sky. At the same time, I want you to imagine a Surface to Air parent watching their little bugs from the ground. The new little bugs flying around in the sky are bound to fall out of the sky at some point. It’s going to happen and there’s no avoiding it. Here is the difference between a helicopter parent and a Surface to Air parent. The helicopter parent will be ready to snatch their child up as soon as a potential fall is predicted. When they do this, the learning experience has been taken away and the child has been given a sense of false security and possibly even success. This might not seem like an issue at first but removing the experience of that fall has deferred the learning experience to a later time in that child’s life. A later time in the child’s life where there are no guardians and the failure can be catastrophic and irrecoverable. Now let’s get back to our Surface to Air Parent. They are excited to see their child up in the sky and flying around on their own. They know full well that their child is probably going to fall right out of the sky. Your job is not to prevent the fall (the fall is the best learning experience possible!), but instead, your job is to catch them after the fall, before they hit the ground, so that they don’t suffer any serious damage or harm. What you will see is that over time, these falls that they take will start happening less and less and you will even start to see the children recovering mid fall… they will spread their wings wider and fly right out of the dangerous situation. Think about that, they have just begun to learn how to correct their own failures because of the learning experience they experianced during the previous falls. This falling and learning experience is taken away in its entirety by the helicopter parent. Falling allows a child to learn from the failure while your roll as a parent is to make sure that the failure isn’t severe enough to cause something catastrophic or inhibit their future learning.
The hard truth in the end is that your child will be out there learning and experiencing life on their own no matter what your actions are today. Wouldn’t you rather let them fail and learn with you on the ground to catch them rather than hovering over them and stripping their learning experiences away from them? The reality is that one day you won’t be there to intervene and when that day comes your child is either going to know how to avoid the danger and recover on their own or they’re going to crash and burn in a catastrophic event all while wondering why no one was there to catch them and correct the mistakes they made.
In summary, Surface to Air Parenting is a concept that guides our children to be independent and successful individuals. Ones that have the strength and agility allowing them to spread their wings further, fly higher and exceed their wildest dreams. The other main focus here is that successful parenting is hard to do when you as a parent aren’t following your own passions. Take the time to get yourself swept up in something fulfilling.