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Maddie And The Monkey Bars

A few weeks ago, Maddie came to me,
troubled. “Mommy, I’m very frustrated with recess time
right now,” she said.

Fearing some sort of conflict with one of her friends, I cautiously
asked, “What’s going on?”

Maddie sighed. “It’s just that every single one of my
friends can do the monkey bars except me, and I feel really left
out. I feel bad that I can’t do it. And all my friends try to
help me and give me suggestions, but I just start to feel like
everyone’s telling me what to do and I get frustrated and
have to walk away.”

“So what do you want to do about it?” I asked.

Maddie looked at me determinedly. “I want to

And ever since then, we’ve been
going to the school playground every weekend. Maddie works for
about twenty minutes on the monkey bars before getting tired and we
head home. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with
Maddie’s upper body strength, or her basic bio-mechanics;
it’s simply that she’s afraid to let go. She’s
fearful of what will happen next, and she’s mistrustful of
her own body. So she tries, and hangs there, and falls. And
here’s what I love about this: she gets frustrated. She gets

But she doesn’t give up.

I can think of so many instances in my life – both as a child
and as an adult – where I allowed my fear of failure to keep
me from trying something that might have been really wonderful.
I’m a bit of a perfectionist (ahem), and there’s a big
part of me that thinks that if I can’t do something really
well, really early on, then I’d just rather not try it at
all, thanks very much. And I don’t want to see my daughter
paralyzed by that same fear.

Yesterday as we were walking home from school we saw a friend had
stopped to play on the playground for a few minutes, and we ran in
to join her. The weather was beautiful and Maddie played with her
friend while I chatted with the mom. I saw Maddie’s friend go
swinging across like a monkey, and saw Maddie lined up behind her.
Two minutes later, Maddie started off: grab on. Grab the bar in
front. Swing to the next one. Fall.

“Maddie!” I yelled across the playground. “You
did one swing! You let go!”

Maddie looked up, and smiled. Even though it’d just been one
bar, she’d gone one bar further than any other time. She ran
back to the beginning and started back out. First grab on. Grab the
bar in front. Swing to the next one.

And then the next one. And then the next one. And then the next
one. And suddenly she was standing at the other end, the biggest
grin – half ecstatic excitement, half disbelief –
plastered on her face.

“Maddie! You did it! You swung all the way across!” I
shrieked, running over and grabbing her in a hug. “I
can’t believe it!” she said, unable to wipe the grin
off her face.

She went across again, and again, and again, and kept saying she
couldn’t believe all the fun she’d been missing out on
all this time. That night in bed as we lay snuggling, I said,
“I’m so proud of you for all the hard work you put into
mastering the monkey bars, baby. It was really hard and you never
quit and that’s really incredible.”

She looked at me, not quite understanding. “Why would I quit?
I really wanted to learn how to do it.”

I just love that it never occurred to her to give up.

My girl came, she saw, she kicked that monkey bar’s butt.


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