April Jeppson: What I learned watching my 4-year-old climb

Published 9:44 pm Thursday, September 6, 2018

Every Little Thing by April Jeppson

April Jeppson


Over the long weekend, my family went up north to my hometown. We have a little festival every year that really brings my town of 400-something to life. They have a few games for the kids, and in true grandparent fashion, my mother bought all my children tickets for these activities — one of which was to climb this tower that resembled something from a Burger King play area.

Email newsletter signup

This tower was probably about 30-feet high, a 5-by-5-feet square, and each level had a floor made out of bungee straps crisscrossing each other forming holes that you could climb through to the next level. You’d have to put your body through the hole in the ceiling and then use the straps to lean and sit on and pull yourself up. Once you got to the top of the tower, there was a huge inflatable slide that brought you back down.

So all three of my children head up. The two oldest loved it. They climbed that contraption like the monkeys that they are. My 4-year-old, on the other hand, needed a little help. As my son, Hans, went through a second time, I advised him he was to stay behind his little sister to ensure she was able to climb it. She stepped on his head, sat on his head and used any part of him she could in order to climb the tower.

She was really starting to get the hang of it and was utilizing her brother a lot less the higher she got. Every once and awhile she would look down, see how high off the ground she was and shout, “I can’t do it!.” Thankfully, her brother was right beside her telling her she could do it. We all congratulated her when she made it to the top and slid down the slide to us, giving her hugs and high 5s. She was so excited she wanted to go up it again. The only problem was that each child got two turns and my older kids had already gone twice. Genevieve assured us she was big now, and she could do it on her own. So up she went.

She made it eagerly and easily up the first three levels, at which point she decided to sit on the straps and repeat, “I can’t do it.” Since she was only about 10 feet off the ground, we easily convinced her to keep going, and she went up another row or two. For a person that’s only 3 1/2 feet tall, it was a lot of climbing. You could see her little arms start to shake as she pulled herself up each time. We knew she wanted to do it, but her continued “I can’t do it!” as she hit each row really started to make me question if she wanted to finish.

The levels didn’t get more difficult as you climbed; in fact, they were exactly the same. If you could get to the second level, you could also get to the 10th. It was a matter of persistence and perseverance. Genevieve was now only two rows from the top of this tower, and we were in full cheer mode. This is where she began to shout “I can’t do it!” Her arms were so wobbly (rightfully so), and she was so high off the ground she was beginning to panic and cry.

Right as our other daughter got her shoes off and was ready to climb up and help her little sister, Genevieve pulled herself up and was trying again. We all started cheering louder and reassuring her that she could make it those last few feet. We told her how close she was and that we knew she could do it on her own. With every ounce of might that little 4-year-old had left in her body, she pulled herself through the last two rows. As she entered the entrance to the slide, she turned around with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen and shouted, “I did it!”

As a parent and onlooker, I knew she was capable of climbing the tower the entire time. I could see how tall it was, I saw her ability and it was clear to me that she could do it on her own. From where I was standing, it was obviously easier for her to climb those last few feet to the slide, than to climb all the way back down. But it was my perspective that made these observations so clear to me. I was not the one climbing. I was not the one distracted by the height or how alone I felt up there. I was safe, on the ground, watching.

As these events were playing out, I kept thinking about how many times I tell myself, “I can’t do it.” Do my friends watch me and think, “Oh come on, yes can!” Do my parents or my husband need to reassure me that I’m capable enough to finish a hard task? Does my Heavenly Father watch me and say, “Oh, you’re so much closer than you realize, keep going!” Yes. Yes, they all do.

I know for a fact that I am just like my 4-year-old. I’m so overwhelmed, scared and feel alone that I often don’t realize how good I am doing or how close I am to hitting my goal — how giving up right now, is actually going to be more work than if I were to just finish the task I set out to do. It was so clear to me how well Genevieve was doing. I was so proud of how far she had gone, and I could see how easy it would be for her to finish — if she just kept going.

I hope the next time I find myself ready to throw in the towel, I remember this moment. I hope I remember how my family, friends and my Father in Heaven are right there, cheering for me and ready to give me a boost if I need it — that even if I can’t fully see it, I’m probably closer to reaching my destination than I realize, and giving up is never the way to reaching my goal.

Albert Lean April Jeppson is a wife, mom, coach and encourager of dreams.