Not too long ago, I had to pull out the ladder to retrieve an overly large stick that had been tossed on to the roof.
From the moment I started climbing, my seven-year old started trying to convince me to let him join me on the roof.
I gave him all the usual excuses. He’s not old enough. It’s not safe. I said no. His mom would kill me if I let him up there. You know the list. If you haven’t said them, I’m sure you’ve heard them.
He wasn’t buying any of it. Finally, my frustration won out.
“Listen kiddo,” I said as I walked across the roof. “I can’t let you climb on the roof, or do anything that dangerous, until I see you can focus better.”
“I can focus,” he said.
“When you’re climbing – whether it’s roofs or cliffs – you can’t forget what you’re doing. You have to stay focused. You can’t get distracted. You can’t daydream. You have to stay totally focussed.”
“I can focus, Daddy!” he shouted. “I can!”
“You can,” I said. “But sometimes you don’t. When momma asks you to put something away, you get halfway there and then forget what you’re doing. Right?”
I stepped carefully back on to the ladder and climbed down. “I know,” I said. “But sometimes isn’t good enough. Forgetting what you’re doing when you’re standing on the roof can get you seriously hurt. Once I see you focusing better, we’ll talk about climbing on the roof. Okay?”
He didn’t like it one bit, and who could blame him? I’d been way too heavy-handed. Feeling guilty, I folded the ladder up and carried it through the house and into the garage.
When I came back, I found the big guy clinging to the drain pipe, already about five feet off the ground, and progressing steadily upwards toward the roof.
Now that’s focus.