Big Girl Panties

Today we took our youngest and her friend on a science adventure deep into the Colorado Rocky Mountains when we took them to see Cave of the Winds. Although we’ve lived in these mountains now for several years we had yet to make this particular day trip so off we went this beautiful 4th of July weekend.

We picked the family friendly Discovery Tour although my interest we piqued when the guide described their Lantern Tour, a 90 minute hike though the deep caverns in total darkness armed only with a lantern while our guide entertains us with ghost stories! Good parenting eventually won and I decided that I would save that adventure for another day since the 10 and 11 year olds with us can’t handle PG 13 yet! The other option was to add an Adventure Rope Challenge to our day and that I just couldn’t resist.

After the past year I have discovered I am a bit of an adrenaline junkie so I figured the Adventure Ropes Challenge would suite me just fine. The Challenge is a series of swinging rope bridges, balance beams and other such obstacles that you get to test your nerves with, while safely harnessed to a support beam above. The set up is a good 20-30 feet in the air and one section extends out over the deep canyon. Assuming that if I can skydive and actually love it I was confident I could handle this course without too much stress….ha!

The girls and I gamely stepped into our harnesses and passed the inspection of an innocent faced young teenager in charge of our safety and up we went. Up, up and up.

At the top of the first flight of stairs I found myself on a narrow platform with only two choices, go right or left. Ok, right it is. Next, I looked over to see my youngest daughter, fear in her eyes, as she made the fatal mistake of looking down!

“It’s ok, you are just fine, I assured her” while failing to mention that I too was freaking out about our current predicament.

“Remember you are safely harnessed in and hooked securely to the beam above us. You will not fall” I explained with a confidence I seriously lacked. Nothing like lying to your child in the face of fear!

“OK, let’s try this first one” I said to the girls as I eyed the narrow rope bridge swinging ahead of me. “No let’s do this one first, brave young Kelsey suggested as she spied a more substantial version of the same suspension bridge on the other side, the only difference being, this one had rope sides that you could at least hang onto.

“Oh yes, that’s a great idea. Let’s start with that one!” I said with complete false confidence. My youngest looked up at me with terror in her eyes and promptly asked if she could go back down the stairs.

“You are just fine, let’s do one together!” I encouraged her.

Carefully, we made our way to the rope bridge. Stepping out into thin air and delicately balancing on the single strand of rope, I watched as my daughter tentatively but bravely and carefully made her way to the other side! Triumphantly she stepped onto the platform, amazed that she had lived to make it to the other side!

“Great job! You did it!” I congratulated her before I too stepped out taking the first step and wishing it was my last.

With the rope swinging in the air, I balanced, carefully putting one foot in front of the other, all the while keeping a death grip on the bridge sides.

This is really scary, I thought to myself, just don’t look down, just don’t look down, and just don’t look down, I repeated. There is something very disorienting about having to step out onto a single rope and having nothing to hang onto. Like a true chicken I soon realized that if all else fails I could always reach up and hang onto my lifeline, not necessarily demonstrating the utmost in confidence but it did get the job done. When I safely made it to the platform on the other side I let out a long held breath. I did it! While this part felt good, I realized that I would have to do it again and again if I ever hoped to get down off this deathtrap!

Reality started to sink in, drat-I had signed us up for this and now I had to make good on this whole adrenaline junkie reputation I had recently earned. How do I get myself into these messes!

Faced with yet another decision, go right and somehow balance on a thin beam with nothing to hold onto, or turn around and go back across the suspension bridge, Maggie and I rapidly came the same conclusion, go back! As I carefully turned around, I glanced over and saw young Kelsey gliding effortlessly across as skilled as a ballet dancer. Impressed, to say the least, I grudgingly stepped off into thin air again, and inch-by-inch managed to grope my way back to where I started.

At this point Maggie looked desperately into my eyes and begged, really begged to go back down and get off this contraption. Debating in my mind what the best course of parental action was, I finally relented, in the end deciding to let her take the lead. “yes, if you want to you can get down.” I calmly answered.

A hint of a smile starting to creep on my face, I answered the only way I could, honestly, “he might” I said. Now this probably sounds worse than it should. My husband is a saint, he is an amazing father, he just doesn’t mince words, and he shoots straight so to say. He might give her a little bit of a hard time for coming down, then again he might not say a word. I wasn’t sure.

She stood still for a few seconds. I could tell she was thinking over her options. Stay and face the next painfully thin piece of rope hanging 20 feet above air or face her father. She made her decision and didn’t look back. She headed down the stairs and gleefully planted both feet firmly on the ground. Looking down at her I could see her smile, safe again!

I debated my own destiny. Go down and feel the solid earth under my feet and face the ribbing of my husband, tempting the dreaded fate of having to forever live this down, or suck it up and put on my big girl panties and face the next rope challenge. I looked up and saw that Kelsey was now another 10 feet higher in the air practically dancing across the second level of challenges.

Battling my inner demon, I realized that this was one of those moments in life where you really had to suck it up and see what you were made of. Logically, I knew I was totally safe. I was in a harness, secured by rope to the beam above me. I knew that this was a battle in my head more than in reality. I thought about what I had overcome in the past year-I’ve jumped from a plane at 18,000 feet, I’ve yodeled at the top of a mountain 14,000 feet above sea level, I’ve climbed a frozen waterfall, I’ve said goodbye to my mother, this was peanuts compared to all that. The fear was in my mind. I realized this was all a mental challenge.

I looked down at my husband. I told him to take a lot of pictures because I might never do this again. Then I stepped off the platform and went for it. Another leap of faith. Another mental challenge. Another fear to overcome.

I wished I was brave enough to get off this thing but I just couldn’t bear never living this one down. No, I was stuck, 20 feet in the air.

While I was on the Adventure Challenge ropes I realized I was not born to be a circus trapeze artist and I have crappy balance. It also became apparent that I was not made of graceful moves like a ballet dancer or champion ice skater. That did not stop me though. I plodded along and I stuck it out. I can honestly say it was not pretty.

Kelsey, meanwhile, was skipping across one rope to another, happy as a little monkey to be swinging in the trees. I was impressed, it probably helps that she is a skilled gymnast but still, she was good and very brave. I, on the other hand, stuck it out and while I did not venture out on the most difficult challenges, I did grope my way across several.

While on this little adventure I did come to an understanding that translates to real life. When all else fails and life is giving you nothing but scary options, go right or go left and neither looks all that comforting, look up to the heavens and ask God to be with you. Reach up and hang onto your lifeline and know that HE is with you and somehow you will come out on the other side.

I think I earned my roping merit badge and I am pretty sure I will never do that again. Once was enough. So much for being an adrenaline junkie.

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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