Tuesday, November 5, 2019

How to Build Confidence in Children: Climbing the Trees and Getting out of a Hole

This must be around 1965-66. I am around 4-5 playing in my next door neighbor's house with my friend Umair, and somehow I had managed to climb up a large shahtoot (mulbery) tree in their courtyard. I could still feel my exhilaration that I felt as I went up and up from one branch to another. We have not yet started going to school and it was morning time before noon. Umair's mother was in the kitchen. Other siblings have gone to school....

We were living in 57/2 Wavell Lines, right in front of the Chaklala Railway Station. This was where I was born in 1962 and spent my early years. These were old British era barracks which were used as temporary accommodations for government servants waiting for the new construction in Islamabad. My father was in government service and had moved in to this Chaklala barrack home from Karachi, when the capital had shifted to Islamabad in 1960-61. Each barrack block had been converted into three separate units for family accommodations with three rooms each, with a veranda, kitchen and bathroom. There were only trees and empty ground between the railway station and the barracks where we were. Now this area has all been encroached.
Front side of Wavell Lines Barracks 50 years later in 2011.
These barracks were torn down in 2017-18

I did climb up and up the tree till I could go up no further. When I looked down I realized that I didn't know how to climb down. It was terrifying and I started crying. My friend's mother came out from the kitchen and didn't know what to do. She also panicked and went and got my mother from the adjoining house. My mother took stock of the situation. I had panicked and was crying. She first calmed me down. Told me not to worry. Assured me that everything would be fine. She told me that I was a big boy and could do it. Her voice and composure soothed me down. I stopped crying and started listening. She then started giving me step by step instructions. I had gathered enough composure to start following the instructions. She first told me to turn my face towards the trunk of the tree, and then asked me to hold on to this branch and reach out to the next one below. Then guided me to put my feet on such and such branch and move this foot in that direction, and perch it on this branch, and hold it while moving my other foot on that branch, then asked me to grab the other branch with this hand, move that feet to this branch and so on. Her reassuring voice, and her step by step instructions, made me climb down. Soon, I was down. I could not believe that I have climbed down all by myself! It was an adventure and a great lesson for me for keeping my composure in the face of adversity. 

I was happy to have conquered my fear of climbing up and down the trees. Thereafter climbing up and down the trees was always a pleasurable experience for me. Nothing more easy than that. 

There would be another invaluable lesson in keeping my composure and getting out of adversity. This incident I have related in another post  about exploration of nature and role playing that my mother encouraged: Of Jungles, Streams, Berries and Wild Pink Flowers -- Fragrant Memories of Islamabad that Was, which I am copying here again:

Then there were these huge underground storm water drains around F27/1 in the scarcely populated Islamabad of 1968-69 that opened for us an immense treasure of uncharted network of tunnels where adventures of "The Danger Man" and "The Man from U.N.C.L.E" and "Avengers" could take place. While crawling through those drains we somehow were never afraid of snakes. Fortunately the mongooses residing there, I know now, had made sure of that. One day I got stuck in one of these dry drains opening up in one of the creek of the stream bridge near our house. I had panicked and the more I was trying to stand up the more I was getting stuck. Fortunately, my mother got there. I don't recall how. I think my friend who had also panicked and had ran away to our house must have called my mother to come and rescue. I still recall the calm in her voice as she first soothed me where I was deep inside that drain. Obviously she or anyone else could not have gone in that drain pipe to help me out. So, she calmly asked me to lay down straight and not try to move on my knees and then encouraged me to slowly and gradually make myself slide forward. In a few minutes I was out as I had learned to use my senses. My mother never admonished me for this mishap. She was a tower of strength to make me learn the hard way the difference between panicking and keeping my cool and using my head.
My Children Exploring Climbing the Trees and
experiencing the nature in Dec 2018 at Islamabad Farm
May Allah give my mother the best of abodes in the hereafter. Aameen. She was a tower of strength and taught me through these natural activities how to conquer my fears and systematically, one step a time, try to overcome the situation from adversity. I had tried to teach my children, and scores of my nephews and nieces and their children to explore climbing up the trees, and experience the adventure of climbing the mountains. We have taken scores of our children at my school L2L Academy to outings where they can experience the trees and feel the exhilaration of conquering their fears. See one such experience 


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