The Climbing Wall

How we suffer for our kids…

I’m huddled in a thick winter coat and fur-lined boots, with gloved hands warming up around a steaming cup of coffee. A rictus smile is pinned to my face as I watch climbers of various abilities making their way up the climbing wall. Their laboured breath forms a freezing cloud, charting their progress along the route.

It’s hard to believe this is an indoor facility.

Heating is not an issue for Grunting Teen – his exertions soon have him peeling off his layers to hand to me, his pack-horse servant. For tonight, I am the designated taxi driver, so I polish my mother’s halo and jam my woollen hat further down until it meets the scarf wrapped tightly round my face.

Usually, I delegate this task to the Nearly-Beloved. After all, I’ve done my parental time with endless swimming lessons, dance recitals and basketball matches. His turn to suffer!

Unfortunately, today he’s on a well-timed business trip. I sigh and take a sip of the burning liquid. Only another hour to go. It wouldn’t be so bad if I could watch my son climbing. But no. Clapping his efforts was apparently ‘not cool’, so I’ve been banned to a side corner.

Just as I’m wrapping Grunting Teen’s discarded fleece around my hands in the hope that it will create more heat, the door opens. A group of five young men walk in. There’s an air about them that immediately commands attention. Apparently, they are the Elite Team who take part in speed competitions.

‘If you’re cold, you should get climbing yourself.’

A wholesome-looking, blonde youth is smiling at me.

I smile back and gesture in the direction of the beginners’ group, who are attempting to clip themselves on.

‘I think I’d freeze to death before I even got started,’ I reply.

‘Not if you practise,’ he winks, attaching himself to the rope and literally running up the wall.

I blink, having just witnessed a Spiderman moment.

‘Wow, that was amazing,’ I say as he abseils back down.

‘We’re always better when we have an audience, aren’t we?’ he says to his fellow climbers.

And as if to prove a point, the other four clip on and race each other to the top. They’re incredibly fit and focussed, effortlessly knowing where to find foot and hand holds. Their lithe, sinewy bodies strain against their tight climbing tops as muscles flex, reaching for the tiniest of grips.

I suddenly feel quite hot.

The Elite Team race up, down and across the walls like a moving art installation. They are living and breathing Michelangelo statues and, I tell myself, I am simply an art appreciator.

My gloves and scarf are off now and I’ve had to lift my hat up to let out a bit of steam.

Meanwhile the Elite Team continue to dangle one-handed from the highest holds or clamber upside-down around impossible overhangs. Just when a move looks impossible, they leap daringly from one rock-face to another, before finally swinging back to the ground to high-five each other.

‘Are you alright, mum?’ – Grunting Teen suddenly appears – ‘You look a bit flushed. And you’ve got hat hair.’

‘Oh, is that the time already?’ I stammer, ‘Have you finished?’

‘Yeah. Sorry if you got cold, mum. But Dad’s back next week, isn’t he?’

‘Will that Elite Team be here then?’ I ask casually.

‘Yes. Why?’

‘Oh, no reason. And, actually, I’m feeling surprisingly toasty. So, I might do your father a favour and bring you again.’

How we suffer for our kids …

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