It’s not every day that you get to try out something you’ve only ever seen performed at a circus! When I assembled the kids on the couch to announce that my sister had arranged for them to have a trapeze lesson over their spring break, this was their reaction:
“Why is Auntie Sissy so awesome?!” my son exclaimed in wonder.
“I don’t know if I’m more scared or excited,” my daughter said.
As we drove to the venue, I confirmed to my sister that I had gone online to fill out the requisite forms.
“Do you mean liability forms?” my son asked from the backseat.
“Mmmhmmm” I replied as nonchalantly as I could.
The Trapeze School New York in Washington DC is in a hangar-like building, right across from Nationals Park and the Navy Yard Metro.
The kids got strapped into their super tight – forget about breathing – organ-crushing belts.
After some brief instructions, they chalked their hands and got ready to climb an extremely tall ladder:
In the video of my 13 year old’s first try on the trapeze, you can hear the teacher instructing him to jump on “hep.” He can’t quite bring himself to actually jump off the platform the first time, so the teacher gently repeats the command.
The boy never did get his knees over the bar, but days later I discovered that he had done something far more remarkable.
We were reminiscing about his amazing trapeze adventure when I asked my son,”Was there ever a time during the lesson when you thought – Nah, this is way too scary. I’m not going to jump.”
“Yeah!” he replied.
“But just the first time, right?” I asked.
“No. Every single time I got up to the platform, I seriously thought about not jumping and just climbing back down the ladder.”
I’ve always told my kids that you can’t be brave without being scared. If the level of fear they felt is commensurate with their level of bravery – I think they should all be draped and festooned with medals right now! I had no idea that he was so scared…I was so proud of him for climbing that ladder and taking that enormous leap of faith over and over again.
Speaking of scared, you might be wondering where my 10 year old daughter was while all of this was happening. She was lying on the ground – with the saddest look on her face. Kind of like the fish we had seen in the aquarium the day before:
For the first hour, you could see that she was at war with herself. She couldn’t bring herself to give it a try and was getting more and more upset as her brothers took their turns. Finally, one of the instructors came over and said that doing the trapeze is all about gaining a sense of accomplishment by pushing through fear. He suggested that her goal for the day could simply be to climb the ladder.
She pondered this, but was intimidated by the thought of taking even that step. One kind lady, a trapeze veteran, walked over and offered to climb up right behind her to spot her from behind. She kept resolving to try it, but would change her mind the next second. We kept reassuring her that she didn’t have to do it if she didn’t want to, but finally, she decided to go for it! We whooped and cheered for her when she made it to the top of the ladder! We could hardly wait for her to climb back down to give her a congratulatory hug… We were surprised to see that the instructor at the top was rehooking her harnesses.
And then this happened:
When she got back down, I asked her why she had decided to go for the swing.
“I think the instructor at the top didn’t realize I was just going to climb the ladder. She just assumed I was going to jump. So I did.”
Flush with the thrill of her accomplishment, we all asked her, “Do you want to go again?!”
And I could totally respect that!