“Contenders! You will go on my first whistle. Gladiators! You will go on my second whistle. 3, 2, 1, whew!”
And so starts the game of The Wall. Two hopeful fitness fanatics attempting to scale a 36′ wall while two barely dressed Gladiators try their hardest to thwart their efforts; once the hair flicking and posing and fighting talk has finished.
It’s nail biting. Will they get to be interviewed by John Fashanu at the top? Will they get the coveted head start on the Eliminator? Which Gladiator will be at the local pantomine this year?
I loved Gladiators in the early 90s. Classic Saturday evening TV where you hoped dinner wouldn’t be ready before the end. There was no pausing TV then.
Despite never being remotely sporty or even ever enjoying any sport, I love watching other people push themselves to the limits of their physical endurance. I harbour secret dreams of being amazing at something physical. Mountain climbing, sailing around the world, skiing. Nothing too obvious like running or cycling, which the rest of my peers have taken up. The individualist in me wants to be outstanding at something different and unexpected.
And yet this afternoon finds me with the kids in a local youth centre. It’s been another long day of suburban parenting, on the back on poor sleep thanks to sickness in the family. It’s an indoor climbing session, which the 8 year old did for the first time last week after lots of encouragement. She ironically used to be obsessed with Fash, thanks to my Wimbledon FC loving husband. To watch a normally cautious and anxious child scale a tricky climbing wall several times was pretty inspiring. To see her problem solve and persevere all the way to the top. To see her triumphant face every time she made it, even if Fash wasn’t there waiting for her. It made me do a lot of thinking.
About how much I encourage her to do hard things. To keep practicing the physical things that she naturally finds so hard. This year she has learned to swim, ride a bike, tie shoe laces, do the monkey bars at the park. And now she’s climbing walls. And talking about how she wants to learn to do free running. My 8 year old child is teaching me a lot about myself.
If I can’t do something first time to my ridiculously high standards, I don’t bother trying again. I live in the awful inbetween of wanting to do something significant and different with my life but with none of the self encouragement and perseverance to even try. She wants me to go back with her another week so I can climb the wall too. I don’t have the heart to tell her that I don’t even have the stamina to get halfway up.
We get home and promise to have a takeaway dinner and movie night. But instead all I want to do is sleep. I close my eyes while the kids watch an episode of a nondescript TV show and silently pray the youngest doesn’t wet herself on the sofa. I’ve hit my own wall. And it takes an hour before I have the energy to thing about dinner. Even take out is too much of an effort, so we settle for boiled eggs and jaffa cakes and Gansta Granny, and I try not to cry too obviously when Granny dies.
I reach my wall every single day. Thankfully there’s no mullet haired Falcon climbing up behind me, ready to take me down. It’s hard to think and plan and do something incredible with your life when just getting through a day without turning into monster mummy is an achievement. Maybe right now isn’t the season for backpacking with the kids around Japan, relocating to an inner city ghetto, climbing Kilimanjaro. And maybe that’s ok. Maybe the most significant thing I can do with my life right now is to be kind to myself and the people around me. But it doesn’t hurt to still dream of Tokyo.