What do you do when your kid wants to get involved in an activity you’re not familiar with? Maybe it’s even something that makes you nervous or causes you to freak out a little? Do you say no to your child or do you push past those feelings of anxiety and say yes? For me, even though I didn’t realize it at the time, those questions presented themselves a few years ago when my son asked to participate in the sport of parkour.
For those of you with boys, you know what I mean when I say it can be difficult to find new and fun ways for them to expend their energy. If your son is like mine, he loves to run and jump and climb and flip and flop around….anywhere he can. You’d think they’d outgrow this, but my son is almost fifteen and he’s still full of energy. We tried outlets like soccer and track, but his interest level waned over time. However, once he was introduced to the sport of parkour, he found an activity he was truly passionate about.
When he first got interested in parkour, I had no idea what it was. It’s not a mainstream sport, so I had to dig a little to learn about it. After doing lots of internet reading and watching countless YouTube videos, I became pretty nervous about my little boy being involved in such an adventurous sport. Some compare parkour to skateboarding because there are a lot of “tricks” to learn and perform. I like to think of it as a cross between gymnastics, tumbling, running and strength training. The goal isn’t just to overcome obstacles, but to do it elegantly, with fluidity, strength, originality and speed.
Even though you’ve probably never heard of it, you’ve likely seen parkour featured in many movies and video games showing characters running and jumping on top of buildings, fences and rooftops. Have you ever watched American Ninja Warrior? Or known someone who participated in the Tough Mudder race? Parkour moves are heavily featured in those competitions as well. Fun to watch, but scary to think about my baby actually doing those types of things!
I was convinced this wasn’t a safe activity and I didn’t know any other kids or parents involved in the sport, so at first I said no….he wasn’t allowed to participate. My fears, uncertainties and anxieties overruled his passion. But…he was enamored with the sport. He persisted and begged and asked if we could check out a local gym that teaches parkour, Fight or Flight Academy in Edina. I finally said yes….he had worn me down.
That first night, I’d like to think I walked in with an open mind. But once they asked me to sign a waiver, a scary looking waiver with all kinds of warnings and qualifications, I felt a little freak out coming on. But seeing my son’s excitement, I went against my gut and signed the waiver anyway. He took the introductory class and was hooked…I knew it. I watched with the eyes of a hawk. I learned. And I asked lots of questions of the instructors.
The instructors did a great job teaching safety precautions, techniques and modifications to help students learn the sport. Think “spotter” in gymnastics. This approach, plus all the big fat mats in the gym made me feel a little better about his safety. The more I watched and learned, the more comfortable I became. And my son? He was having a blast and his confidence grew with each new move he learned. He loved to talk about parkour and everything he was learning. He was excited. An emotion not to be taken lightly with a teenage boy!
All of the running, jumping, flipping, swinging and climbing he was doing also began to build up his strength. He became a faster and stronger soccer player. I learned that the sport encourages creativity and originality of moves, not just the repetition of a teacher’s motions. I began to respect both the physical and mental aspects of parkour. I grew to love to watch him perform cat grabs, side flips, speed vaults and wall crawls. Together, we began to seek out other parts of the city that are conducive to parkour. Places like the Mill Ruins Park in Minneapolis and the Core Valley playground near the Community Center in Eagan.
Even though parkour isn’t necessarily something I would have chosen for my son to do and even though he doesn’t voice it, I know he appreciates my support. He appreciates me taking an interest in something he loves. That big scary yes I gave him a few years ago? It was the right thing to do. But what if I had dug my heels in and continued to say no? I often wonder how things would be different if I had squelched something he felt so drawn to.
Sometimes, that intuition and gut feel we have as parents is spot on and we need to listen to it. It saves our kids from countless injuries and bad experiences. However, as I’m learning, other times we need to push through our own fears and allow our kids to explore something new. Something that makes us nervous. Something that might even make us freak out.
I’ve learned I don’t always know what’s best for my kids….sometimes they do and I need to listen to them. Maybe that’s part of letting go, letting them grow up and encouraging them to spread their wings in ways we had never imagined or maybe even don’t agree with. I’m beginning to see that it can produce amazing results when we let our kids follow their dreams. It might even cause a teenage boy to get excited and smile.
What things do you consciously or subconsciously discourage your kids to do because of your own fears or lack of knowledge? When have you pushed past those anxieties and what was the impact on your child?