Fear is a big deal at our house right now, and dealing with it creeps into nearly every aspect of daily life. It’s gotten to the point that the kids are paying to accompany each other on the trip down the hall to the bathroom. It’s cute, funny and interesting to me that they’ve come up with a practical solution to this problem. I’m just curious as to how this market will develop between the almost-3 year old and 5 year old. Maybe this new development will take some of the strain from the parents of having to drop anything and everything at a moment’s notice to make the trip.
I’ve dealt with fear for a long time in athletics. I can still remember stepping onto the wrestling mat for my first match at age thirteen. Terrifying. At nineteen, I remember the first time I did a roped rock climb. Only twenty feet off the ground, I was unable to go any higher due to lack of technique and grip strength, but also mentally unable to let go and trust the rope. Paralyzed. Standing on the start line of my first distance event, a half marathon, I had the inescapable feeling that I had no business being there.
But I finished that first race, and went on to compete in an Ironman. Clinging to the wall that first time, my forearms finally gave out, I hung on the rope and eventually climbed much higher and harder. I lost that first wrestling match, but went on to win many. I survived.
At a primal level, of course, this is what fear really is: a survival tool. It is there to remind us to evaluate our situation and to make a decision. It can also be used rationally to clear the mind and focus. But once a decision is made and a safe path is chosen, the next step is commitment and execution.
How can we, as parents, teach and instill this in our children? Of course we can’t expect our kids at this age to work through fear rationally. We can tell them a predator is not lurking down the hall and we can go with them and show them time and time again, but that is clearly not enough for them to decide that the fear signal can be ignored.
Reid did have two breakthrough moments recently. He finally climbed all the way to the top of the climbing wall. A couple of weeks before that we went lift skiing for the first time. Faced with a much longer and steeper slope than he’d ever seen before, I heard him mutter to himself, “I am brave and I am strong” before pushing off. Yes you are, kiddo.
But the breakthrough that we’re most looking forward to is the simple one: going down the hall by himself. And that 50k run I’m signed up for this afternoon? I have to admit that I’m more than a little nervous about that.