Kacy Catanzaro on the qualifying course for American Ninja Warrior

How American Ninja Warrior Kacy Catanzaro changed the way my kids play

On a regular day, our walk home from the park will take about 20 minutes. That’s 20 minutes of admiring gardens, chasing butterflies, and stopping for sips of water, yes, but it’s still just 20 minutes.

Yesterday’s walk home took 45 minutes. I blame Kacy Catanzaro.

In July, this now-famous American Ninja Warrior contestant was the first woman to ever complete the show’s semi-finals course and the world has embraced her — calling her Mighty Kacy — ever since.

Whether she knows it or not, Kacy has single-handedly changed the way children play. My own, quite obviously, included.

Here’s how it happened:

When a friend sent me a clip of Kacy conquering the American Ninja Warrior semi-finals course, the first thing that went through my mind was that I had to show my kids.

I did. And our walks home from the park haven’t been the same since.

You see that boy on the garden ledge over there? That’s my 9-year-old getting ready to leap across to the other ledge that seems way too far away for him to possibly reach it. (He does.)

How about the little girl high-fiving the stop sign? That would be my 6-year-old daughter, who just pulled herself all the way up to the top.

And the 3-year-old stealthily maneuvering across giant rocks in someone’s garden? It’s my younger son, of course, devoting every ounce of concentration he has to balancing with every step.

It’s not just the walks home from the park, either. It’s doorframes in houses (I’ve even seen friends posting pictures on Facebook of their own kids doing this same thing). It’s the ever-so-jumpable space between hotel beds on summer vacation. It’s counters and tables and trees all calling out to be conquered. It’s everything.

Yes, there are parents who wouldn’t want their children even attempting these activities. Some who think it’s too dangerous, that their kids might get hurt, and it’s not worth the risk. But you know what? I love it.

My kids are strong. They are brave. And they are learning that taking risks and challenging themselves feels good. They might fall. They might get hurt. But they will get back up and try even harder the next time. They are mighty, just like Kacy.

On September 1, Kacy will be a lone woman competing against many men in the American Ninja Warrior finals (they air on NBC) and whether she wins or loses, I know three young people who will be cheering her on.

What I want my children to remember from watching Kacy is this: She doesn’t do well for a female. She just does well. I want them to see that success comes after hard work and determination and that — for a female or a male — it feels good.

So, here’s to children everywhere climbing doorframes. Here’s to them shimmying up stop signs and jumping across garden ledges.

And here’s to Kacy Catanzaro who has taught my children — and children everywhere — that determination and perseverance can make even the smallest people mighty.

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