Tuesday, March 28

Belay on!

My husband's yougest sister went to a birthday party recently. The party was held at an indoor climbing wall, and she apparently had a great time. Since then she has wanted to go back so she convinced her mom and other siblings and us to go to the climbing wall again with her. (We had a great time too.) Climibing in a place like this happens in pairs. Both people wear a harness, and both are attached to one end of the same rope. The rope loops over a pulley at the top of the wall. Depending on which end of the rope you are attached to you are either the climber or the belayer. The belayer stays on the ground, keeps the rope taut as their partner climbs, and by use of a braking device ensures that the climber will not plummet to their demise. While I liked climbing well enough, I found that I rather enjoyed belaying. Maybe it has to do with my love of knots, and simple mechanical systems (pulleys, brakes, levers etc.). Maybe it was because I'm out of shape and didn't feel like scaling the wall more than a few times. I wondered, though, if it might have been because of the similarities with mothering.

The belayer is able to do rather a lot to help the climber. Using my weight I could apply the brake and pull down on the rope to give my partner a boost. This comes in handy for a climber who is only able to get a tenuous grasp on a tiny handhold. Another way a belayer can help is by pointing hand or foot-holds that the climber may not be able to see. Often their own body gets in the way of their view, or the curvature of the rock face prevents them from seeing a good hold that they could easily reach. From the ground at a distance away from the wall, a belayer can the whole face of the wall, and is able to move around a bit to change their vantage point. In this way I could counsel the climber to 'head more to the left' because I could see a 'pathway' that they could not. Keep in mind that the belayer is most important in emergencies. By being attentive they can be aware of when the climber begins to slip. They can brake the rope and prevent their fall. And should they get hurt the belayer can ease them down and is able to get help quickly.

I've heard it said before that I am "not staying home to have an immaculate house." I'm staying home to be the belayer for my family. To meet their needs for emotional security. To give them boosts of love (and loving discipline) and to aide them in selecting paths to pursue. I'm here to be aware of their needs, and to be ready to prevent their falls.

Yeah belaying gets boring sometimes, there is no way around it. Also every time I belayed for someone was a time that I didn't get to climb. I'll be able to climb every here and there, when someone else (read: my husband) belays for me.


Anonymous said...

I really like this analogy, especially if you think of life as a multi-pitch climb. You have to trade-off belaying (from bottom and top). I feel like Jana and I are climbing the same route together. It's ironic--I sometimes consider myself the belayer, because Jana gets to pursue her PhD first, while I support her.

But this example also introduces the element of leading--does one person lead the whole way up to the top, or do you switch off? Maybe I'm taking the analogy too far. 

Posted by John

Anonymous said...

What does it mean about me and my mothering skills if I don't want to be the belayer (speaking literally and not necessarily metaphorically)? All I wanna do is climb.... 

Posted by pilgrimgirl

Anonymous said...

Pilgrimgirl, I don't think it says anything about your mothering skills. :) I haven't really taken to mothering quite as I thought I would, and thinking of mothering as being similar to belaying helps me to think of mothering in a more positive light.
John, is a multi-pitch climb the sort where both climbers are going up the rock face using eachother as belayers and placing anchors in the rocks as they go? If yes, then that is exactly the thing I thing a marriage should be/become.

There are a ton of other cool things about climbing, one I've heard is than neither men or women are naturally better at it. While men are strong and tall, women are light and flexible. All of which are nearly equally important. I've also heard that male-female pairs play off of eachother's strengths and climb well together, (their complimentary strengths are an asset and neither holds the other back) Neat stuff! 

Posted by Starfoxy

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