Flying trapeze with the greatest of ease in Chicago

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WENDY CITY MOM. the parenting column.

If I told you that you could knock 10 years off your age in one afternoon, would you believe me? What if I said that you could also bond with your kids, learn a new skill, meet new friends, get a great work out and develop incredible self-assurance? Skeptics and naysayers should try flying trapeze. You’ll spend a couple of hours airborne, learning tricks that you never thought you’d be able to do-back flips, hanging upside down and making a catch with a partner-23 feet above the ground.

Trapeze School New York Chicago, located outdoors at Belmont Harbor in Lincoln Park and indoors at Broadway Armory Park, works with newbie flyers and experts, helping people learn what their bodies are truly capable of. And with a little grit and gumption, someone completely new to the sport of trapeze can take a deep breath, wiggle their toes to the edge of the platform, grab the bar and soar into the big blue sky.

David Sylvan has been doing trapeze with his daughter, Lena, since they first discovered a rig at Santa Monica Pier in 2010. Lena took her first class when she was only 7 years old. “Her emotional and intellectual development and growth clearly reflect these experiences, and the exposure to diversity in its many guises is certainly evident her personality,” said David about Lena. “I was more than happy to play spectator, until the puppy dog eyes forced my hand and I reluctantly agreed to join the class that day.” David was terrified. Lena was hooked.

Sylvan and his family are travelers, spending loads of time in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. Seeking out trapeze school opportunities has now become part of their family tradition while on long weekend trips in various cities. “It’s become our personal thing and even though I have to force myself over the fear-hump every time, her pleasure and excitement is worth the anxiety,” said David. “No matter which one of us is up on the platform, we have this ritual of briefly catching the other person’s eye down below in an unspoken connection that money couldn’t buy. If love for a child is defined by sweaty palms, buckling knees and waves of nausea, then I must be a doting father.” 

Linda McReynolds works at the trapeze school, which allows her to see how people develop new relationships through mutual support and encouragement and bolster old ones by trying something different together. Children, specifically, are able to relate to their parents in a way that puts them on an even playing field, building their self-confidence and strengthening their relationships with their parents.

“When kids get the opportunity to play along with adults, whether it be in sport, board game, or recreational activity, they often get discouraged that they’re not doing as well as the grownups, who are, of course, bigger, stronger, and faster,” said Linda. “But with trapeze, these factors aren’t so important. Children, with their natural flexibility and fearlessness, are just as likely to do well on the flying trapeze as their parents. It’s a fun way to bond as a family.”

Linda, mom to two kids, said that she wants to be a role model for her children, which extends further than teaching them about manners, nutrition and how to have a strong work ethic. “It also means showing them how to have a sense of adventure,” she said. “I think it’s important for them to see that trying new things can be fun, even if it seems scary at first. If there is something that they want to do, they shouldn’t let age, gender, physical limitations, etc. hold them back.”

Flying trapeze makes you feel younger, it’s true. Gliding through the air, flipping off the bar and landing in a net is an experience reminiscent of schoolyard days on the monkey bars. The confidence and pure joy that you will feel when you hang upside down and reach for your partner, that you’re really hoping will be there to catch you, can only be made better if there are people you care about watching you from below, baring witness to your bravery, and in turn by you doing the same for them when they step off the platform.

To find out more information about Trapeze School New York Chicago, visit