This Saturday I will wake up at 6 am, drag my pre-teen out of her cozy bed, and drive two and a half hours to a city in another province.
Creative Cat has a bouldering competition this weekend. As much as I enjoy watching the grace and skill with which she climbs, I find it these competitions to be a bit nerve-wracking. She’ll be climbing without a harness, on routes designed for adults. It doesn’t help my nerves that she almost broke her arm in her first-ever bouldering competition.
But this is not about me. This is about Cat and her desires. She has a funny relationship with competition, this girl. She loves climbing and wants to be the best – but she hates competing. One day she’s telling me she doesn’t want to ever compete again, except maybe one or two competitions at her home gym. The next day she’s asking why I haven’t signed her up for a certain out-of-town competition, and do I think she will have to do such-and-such an event when (not if) she makes it to the provincial finals.
I try to remain supportive through it all. I’d like to see her be the best that she can be, but on the other hand, she is only ten years old. I believe she has the skills to compete with the best climbers of her age in the country – but I’d like her to keep climbing for many years to come, and not feel so pressured that she burns out before she reaches her teen years. Besides, it’s not like soccer. I can’t just throw her onto the field and hope she does her best. If she doesn’t want to be hanging off a 14-foot wall by her fingers and toes, I can’t force it. On the other hand, I think she really does want to be there, but she’s scared, and maybe a little push from me is what she needs.
So, love finds a balance. Love sends a message to the coach and the best friend saying, “Cat has decided not to enter the competition in Montreal next weekend”, and then does not complain when the child changes her mind even as the message is being delivered. Love puzzles through a French-only registration form, and then gets up early to drive to the competition, stopping to pick up the coach and the best friend along the way. Love watches the competition out of the corners of her eyes and hopes not to see any falls, and celebrates the score at the end, whatever it is. Love says, “Of course you don’t have to go to the Provincial Finals if you don’t want to…but maybe you should sign up anyway in case you change your mind later.”
One way or another, and sometimes with its heart in its mouth – love is supportive. Unfailingly, endlessly, till-it-hurts – supportive.