Vail Novice Father: Tapping into an evolutionary need |

Vail Novice Father: Tapping into an evolutionary need

Kelly Coffey
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado “-My year old daughter is on the brink of walking ” watching her go through a progression of more difficult tasks to get to this point, I’m reminded of the kids in the skate park near my house in Colorado’s Vail Valley.

This walking progression has been a process that lasted months. She ticked off tasks like sitting up, crawling, climbing up steps. In between those big milestones, she made a number of smaller, intermediate accomplishments. By accident? No. She enjoys challenging herself.

Once she mastered one milestone, you would see it in her face: “What’s next?”

Now with the warmer and longer spring days, I often take my daughter for a bike ride through Edwards. We pass the skate park filled with kids working on their latest tricks. I see in my daughter the same motivation that I see in these kids. One kid learns to ollie. The next thing he wants to do is ollie over a step. Got that down, time to work on a kick-flip. There are so many variations of tricks in skateboarding that someone will spend hours a day in one confined area working on one trick over and over and over. Once a trick is mastered … time to amp up the degree of difficulty.

Here’s my daughter’s Tony Hawk equivalent: A few months ago the Kid pulled herself up onto her feet for the first time. She used a very stable table with a nice ledge she could get her fingers around. It was the perfect height. It was stable. She could hold on easily. All factors came together and she reached a milestone: she stood up.

The Kid was pretty impressed with herself. But it only took a couple more tries before she got bored and wanted to freestyle. As she held on to the table she would pick up one leg. She would let go of one hand. She would bounce. Soon she was walked around the table, sliding her hands along the surface for stability.

Eventually she started looking for other ways to pull herself up: a rocking chair that required her to adjust for its unsteady nature or a wall with no handholds at all. Now she scoots around on a pushcart toy. And each time she grabs on she’s looking for some new freestyle move to make it more challenging.

Watching the Kid for any amount of time and I realize that the things she’s already mastered is old-hat to her. She’s always looking for what’s next. It’s the new challenge ” even at age one ” that drives her.

With my daughter and the skaters, I see that there is an evolutionary imperative at play. My daughter has to want to challenge herself. It might be play to her, but it’s survival for her genes. Without that desire to challenge herself she would never learn to walk or crawl or hunt wooly mammoth.

So that’s why skate parks are so popular. They tap into an evolutionary need.

The Kid learned how to crawl up stairs a long time ago. She quickly figured out how to get all the way to the top of a flight of stairs. It didn’t take long for her to lose interest, and for weeks she had no interest in our staircase.

But wait, weeks later she’s back into climbing up our stairs. That’s because she recently learned to climb down stairs. She only gets herself to the top so she can practice getting back down to the bottom. It’s the what’s next.

The last few times she’s tried it with a flip-flop in her hand. Tony Hawk’s got nothing on her.

Kelly Coffey is a novice father. He shares his mistakes, fears, and laughs along his journey to figure out how anybody could possibly raise a child. Submit comments to

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