When family comes first

Climbing Partners Daughter just hanging out

Will I ever be able to climb again? AHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Before my son was born, this question was haunting my mind with increasing trepidation the closer we got to his birth date. I knew I was ready to be a father, but I did not completely understand what that would be like. A fear of the unknown was propelled by the stories surrounding me. When I was born, my father, at the request of my mother,  stopped climbing for years. When I would discuss my anxiety with my climbing partner Trevor, he would respond with something like: “oh, you will be fine, once he is four you can start climbing again and take him along.” As much as I did not want to buy into these scenarios, I began to think my days of climbing were over and I dreaded how things were going to change. However, once he was born, it was my attitude that completely transformed.

Sometime between “honey, we need to go to the hospital” and that first cry, my desires were completely consumed by this little man-child.  Resolved to be the best father I could be, I was not concerned with the lack of climbing I was doing.

My first day back on the rock since I became a daddy

After a few weeks I had the opportunity to climb with Trevor at San Ysidro Canyon. Although, it had only been about 3 weeks since the last time I had been out, it was probably one of the strangest and most bewildering days of climbing I ever had.

A routine lack of sleep had left me in a perpetual state of delirium – for example – after I tied into the rope to begin my first lead of a local 5.8, I reached back to chalk up and had forgotten my chalk bag at the base of the crag – or thinking I had lost my ATC sometime between pulling my gear out of the bag and getting ready to belay, only to find it in my pocket when we were headed for the parking lot. Trevor appropriately started calling me “milk brains,” which became my pseudonym for the next few climbing sessions.

Changing my approach to how I maintain a climbers lifestyle

I quickly realized that although I would not have to give up climbing completely, I was going to need to approach it differently. Until this point, climbing had been my sport, something that I would do with my buddies, and my wife gave me a ton of freedom to do this. Thanks honey! This changed once my son was born,and there was no going back.

However, my stoke for climbing was not going to subside anytime soon, so I set out with a rigorous mental challenge (ok maybe for me it was rigorous) to find a way to get my wife excited again and figure out how to bring my son along. My climbing partner Trevor has 3 kids and after a few days of bringing them to crags, we found the best solution for making sure they stayed out of trouble while we climbed:

Climbing Partners Daughter just hanging out

While this option seemed out of the question since Petzl does not make infant sized harnesses, I could not really find a justifiable way to bring my son to the crags until my wife was excited to climb again. Since the last time she climbed outdoors resulted in a 30 foot swing, I realized the best solution was to have her climb in a much more controlled environment. So I bought her a climbing harness and chalk bag for Christmas, and started to encourage her that we should climb in the gym.

Climbing with the family, there is nothing better!

Vertical Heaven  is just a few minutes from our house, so we headed down on a Friday Night (family night) and brought our son along with us. After we filled out a waiver for him, we could take him out on the floor in his car seat. While we climbed, he was either a sleep or just looking around to get some beta on his projects. He really did not fuss, and we have been back three times since and my wife is climbing great and building her confidence.

Although I have not been able to get out and climb some of my projects yet, I am in no rush. We have a double date with one of my climbing partners Darrell and his wife and 3 month old daughter to climb at VH this weekend and I am climbing two days a week at a local bouldering gym on my lunch breaks. So, instead of my worst fears coming true, I have been able to reconcile my family time with my passions and there has been nothing better.

More photos to come soon!


9 Responses to “When family comes first”
  1. 51feetunder says:

    Great post! I went through a similar mindset before our first was born, unfortunately we also fully reno’d a house around the timeo fhis birth so climbing took a big hit for both of us for a while. Eventually we figured out that a night swap was the easiest way for us to get out regularly (i.e. – she climbs Tues, I climb Wed), and then recently added a date night climb where we get a babysitter. We’ve just started taking our oldest outdoor climbing with us; two trips to the Red River Gorge and counting! Good Luck, it only gets easier as they get older.

  2. Great post! While my wife and I didn’t start climbing until our son, about five years old at the time, started to climb, climbing together as a family has become one of our favorite activities together.

    The key with really young kids: it takes a village. Climb with a big enough group of friends so that the little one(s) can hang out with one or more folks who are waiting their turn on the rock.

    Naturally, you’d have to choose areas with fairly easy, safe approaches.

    The village idea has the added benefit of socializing the young ones, so that they are comfortable with more than just mom and dad, a surefire way to prevent separation anxiety in the future.

    Climb on! 🙂

    • SBClimber says:

      I am excited to have this as a fun activity for the family. At least until he can surf. My son has a very mellow personality so I imagine he will not create too much of a fuss during the crag days and will only need two free adult hands to keep an eye on him. We are having a blast and will probably play some tennis this weekend.

  3. I’m the mum of a son who is 2 years and 3 months old and I have climbed more (and better) than ever since he was born. My husband has also climbed more than he had done in years and totally got his stoke back. He has been a full-time climber in the past and also had a couple of shoulder ops – prior to baby coming along we had become mainly surfers but climbing is actually much more baby friendly and something you can do together as a family. Obviously you have to adapt and choose your crags more carefully and always be aware of baby’s safety and carry so much extra stuff plus a growing baby (good weight training!) but it can be done – trust me!
    Anyway, sorry to blab on!!
    I wrote a post that touches on this topic here: http://asturiandiary.wordpress.com/2012/01/12/travelling-with-babies-and-small-children/

    • SBClimber says:

      I am so glad to hear that. Also, the fact that you and your husband surf is awesome. We live in Santa Barbara, CA, so when I am not climbing or at home with the family, I am surfing. My wife and I tried to get out on Saturday while my in laws were in town, but the waves were too blown out so we just went and got come ice cream.

      • Santa Barbara – lucky you! We did a big California trip a few years ago combining surfing and climbing and covering a LOT of miles. What an awesome place to live. (We’re lucky enough to have some really good friends living in L.A. and also in Bishop…..I think they’re due another visit!!)

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