Parenting, climbing, and Enduring Patagonia – watching my son read my book


Strange experience last night.

My 12-year old son Ryan and I were reading at the kitchen table last night when he exploded with gales of laughter. Nothing too unusual about that, except for the fact that he’s reading my book, Enduring Patagonia, to fill a requirement for his school reading class, which makes the kids read in a wide variety of genres.

“Dad, would Enduring Patagonia count as an adventure book?” he’d asked.

“I should hope so, Little Friend. Assuming Mrs. Duggan agrees. You’ll have to check with her.”

IMG_3880Mrs. Duggan must have given it the nod, because Ryan plowed though half of EP on Friday night. Very odd feeling for me to be reading next to him while he was flipping the pages of a book that’s a pretty accurate snapshot of my brain in the year before he was born.

He didn’t say much, and he didn’t have many questions, but he must have liked it because he read more than a hundred pages without taking a break, and his momentum carried over into Saturday.

IMG_3899Saturday evening, we were reading at the kitchen table and he burst out with gales of laughter — it was the ball washing episode that was killing him.

Later, he exploded laughing again, and tramped down the hall to quote Donini on baseball and granite tombstones (pp. 127), which was positively surreal.

I called Jim and told him right afterward.

It’ll be fun when Ryan gets to the Supermouse. That’s really going to make him howl.

IMG_3895We were out for dinner last night, and he had his nose stuck in the book right up to the second our pizza arrived.”Dad, this is good. It really makes me want to go climbing.”

Oh shit.

[EDIT: Thoughts I’ve imported from a post I made in the supertopo threads.]

It’s pretty great to see how much Ryan’s enjoying Enduring Patagonia, but it also raises a pretty serious question about what it means to be a parent, and a climber.

Of course I love climbing, and as an individual, it defines who I am as much or more than anything else, and I’d be delighted to teach Ryan to climb — if it’s something he genuinely wants for himself.

But I don’t think it’s right for me to make him into a climber just because I’m one. The sport is just too damn dangerous, as any deep perusal of the threads on the supertopo.com discussion forums makes obvious.

Ryan on Holdless Horror in Tuolumne Meadows in 2011

Ryan on Holdless Horror in Tuolumne Meadows in 2011

We’ve done some gym climbing and have taken a few trips up to Yosemite and Tuolumne, which have been great, and great experiences for Ryan, but I haven’t pushed climbing too hard. We only go when Ryan asks to go, which he hasn’t done very often — just a time or two a year.

If Ryan wants to be a climber, I feel like it should be his decision as much as possible, one that he makes when he’s a little older than he is now, when he’s grown into more of his own person. This is one passion I really don’t feel comfortable pointing him too strongly toward without him wanting it for himself. I have a pretty strong intuition that I shouldn’t force feed it to him, that I shouldn’t make him a climber without it being his decision, his desire.

Of course, when the time comes, if he wants to learn, I’m going to be delighted to teach him. And I’m going to want to do it myself.

I’d also be very interested in hearing from other parents how they’ve dealt with this issue.

To me, it feels like a big one.

[UPDATE #2]

… and then, of course, at a stoplight on the way to a birthday party, he hit the part about the Supermouse… (and I was ready for it.)

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There’s some other climbing-related stuff in the recentĀ Enduring Patagonia posts, with lots of photos, including these of Jim Donini, Charlie Fowler, and J. Jay Brooks. And then five pages of Patagonia photos, starting here and moving forward in time. I’ve got a lot more Patagonia and Alaska photos currently getting digitized and I’ll be posting them soon.

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5 Responses to Parenting, climbing, and Enduring Patagonia – watching my son read my book

  1. Dina Howard says:

    This is so great. Greg, you have now totally made it in both the writer and the dad world. And everyone loves the Supermouse!! Go Ryan.

  2. Amy Sillars says:

    Pretty funny that we recently had a conversation about being a parent of a kid that was interested in football and the worry that would bring (head injuries, other physical injuries…). I was happy to have a girl and you were pretty confident Ryan wouldn’t be interested in playing the game. Never understimate the power of children to strike terror in the hearts of parents.
    :)

    • Gregory says:

      No doubt, Amy…. climbing’s actually a really healthy, excellent sport with little in the way of ruined knees and the like. Until it’s not.

  3. Parvaneh says:

    I’m happy for both of you, you’re good friends and it’s most important things. It will be a very nice feeling when Ryan enjoys your writing, congrats.

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