As K-Man climbed ever higher up the stairs to the longest twisting slide he’d ever seen, he pointed up to the sky, “Look at those kites, waaaaaay up in the sky, Daddy.” I craned my neck to see where he was pointing and was amazed to see not kites, but four or five paragliders gently floating so high, airplanes were visibly flying beneath them. My first thought was, “If only…”
If only I had ever tried such a thing. There was something so undeniably beautiful, peaceful, powerful and other-worldly about these flying humans that just made me wish I was up there floating above the airplanes. I know, in theory, it’s not too late, but I’m realistic enough to know paragliding isn’t anything I’m likely to try at this point. Naturally, my attention turned to K-Man.
K-Man is an adventurer. He’s a climber. He’s a leaper. His curiosity has him trying any number of new things – from food to physical challenges. I don’t think I was necessarily that way growing up. And, having grown up in a different generation (before such a thing as extreme sports and the X-Games), I wasn’t really exposed to any sort of crazy activities. (Though, the way I played the position, soccer goalie could have been considered a bit nutty.)
But K-Man’s mom is all about the outdoors. She’s climbed glaciers and has jumped out of airplanes. She has skied the most treacherous of mountains and has backpacked through Europe. So, K-Man has some of the adventurer in his blood. As I watched the paragliders, I secretly hoped that someday, I’d hear K-Man tell his tales of jumping off mountaintops around the world.
There are those parents – and, I guess, particularly dads – who live through their kids’ achievements. Newspapers are filled with stories about the sports dad who pushed his kid to become a superstar, thereby fulfilling the unrealized athletic dreams of the dad. I’m not suggesting that K-Man fulfill my unrealized dreams of extreme adventure. I just want him to be exposed to all of it and have the chance to “glide” – if he wants to.
K-Man yelled out, “Daddy, watch this!” as he jumped from the top step of the play structure. It was probably a bit higher of a jump than I’d like him to be making, but the look of determination on his face was enough to make me keep my mouth shut. And, the pride on his face, “I did it!” was something of my reward for staying quiet. Could he have gotten hurt? Yeah, probably. Would he have been hurt badly? No. So, why not give the kid a chance, right?
Granted, jumping off mountains while suspended from a wing is different from jumping down three feet. But, in a way, I feel like the theory is the same. I don’t know any paragliders, but I wonder what their childhoods were like. Were they given the opportunity to experiment with different sports? Did their parents encourage them to take chances – risks, even? Or was their need to jump from mountains a result of parents who were holding on too tightly? I don’t know. (Maybe Wikipedia knows.)
I think it’s probably our job to make sure that K-Man learns about doing things safely (no riding crotch rockets hundreds of miles per hour). But, it’s not our job to ignore his desire (need?) to take his chances. I suppose that’s how the kid will learn what works and doesn’t work for him.
“Daddy,” he asked, “what is that?” I told him that they were paragliders. I told him that those big wings were holding people who were gliding in the sky and coming back to the ground. “Oh,” he responded, while clearly trying to wrap his young brain around the concept. “Maybe someday I can go gliding.”
Yes, K-Man. Maybe someday you can. And if you really want to…you will.