Last week my husband and I, my parents, and my kids went to Sky Zone, an indoor trampoline park in Rochester, NY. If you’ve never been to a trampoline park, you Must. Go. We dunked basketballs, flipped into giant pits of foam, and played hardcore dodge ball. Yes, I’m 33. My dad’s 53.
So, we’re having a wonderful time—London is loving the foam pit. Eve’s bouncing in the trampoline room like some kind of adorable wind-up toy. Justin’s elbowing small children for a spot in line at the basketball goal—when we decide we should probably play dodge ball. We love dodge ball.
Justin and I saunter up to the dodge ball court, our five and six year olds in tow.
The dodge ball ref, probably amused at our grown-adult-ness, giggles a little. Then, he looks down at the girls. He cocks an eyebrow. “Are you sure?” he asks.
I pick up a ball and examine it. I look around the room at the players, and make quick calculations. I think, “They can handle this.”
The first round just Eve and I play. She jumps in the back for the entire game, hopping from here to there like a woodland fairy. Nobody ever throws a ball her way.
I am encouraged.
The whole family plays round two. Eve continues her practice of intentional disengagement. London though, she’s IN it. She chases balls. She throws them. She positions herself in highly vulnerable areas…
About two minutes into the game, London is flanking her dad when a nine year old boy pulls back and takes his very best shot at Justin’s left thigh. Justin, reflexes like a mongoose, jumps out of the way unintentionally opening his much-shorter daughter up to the full impact of the ball.
And it hits her. In the face.
I sweep her up into my arms and jump-run off the court to a nearby bench. London cries. A lot. Her eye swells. I watch people watch me, my face painted in guilt.
I tell her she’s tough.
Later her dad gives her the good and bad injuries speech (earned through bravery=good, earned through stupidity=bad). He tells her she’s brave. She cries a little less.
We try very hard to make her feel better.
We abandon the dodge ball court for the foam pit where she and I resolve to do infinity twist jumps (her favorite) to erase all memory of the incident.
But after jump twelve or so she grabs my hand. I look down at her precious swollen face to find her serious and resolved. She says, “Mom, I’m ready.”
"Ready for what?" I ask.
"For dodge ball," she says, one eyebrow lifted, her smile cocksure. "Let’s go."
And off she ran to the dodge ball court where she and I played dodge ball for twenty minutes, her playing like a rookie soldier at war—terrified, cocky, inexperienced, determined, reckless and brave.
It was one of my favorite parenting moments ever.
Because she tried again.
In the face of failure and pain and so much fear, she decided, without prompting, that she should give it another shot.
Theodore Roosevelt once said in a speech called “The Strenuous Life,”
Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.
Last week I watched London, her very face checkered by failure, achieve a glorious triumph.
And I was so proud…
*I never said the word “God” in this post, but I imagine you see Him there as much as I do—the God who called his son to much suffering and pain in pursuit of the ultimate, truest, glorious triumph, who calls his sons and daughters to risk, to shake off the dust of failure, and to be people who are ever and always trying again.
I doubt God cares much about dodge ball. I suspect He cares very much about resilience and courage and hope.