A month ago, Will (7 as of today!) called for Sarah from his bedroom upstairs. It was about ten minutes after he went to bed. The kids seem to always call for “mom,” which is not surprising, but I decided to give Sarah this time off. Up I went….
Will was not pleased to see me. The boys never are when they want mom. I am the “gluten free” version of their favorite bread – good to push around and play with, but not comforting whatsoever.
I asked Will what the deal was. “I’m scared,” he said. As any parent knows, this is a common refrain from kids. So, you have to decipher if this is real fear, or the kind the child conjures up to delay going to bed or delay some other duty. It became clear quickly that this time, Will was actually scared about something.
He could not put into words what it was — perhaps it was something he saw earlier in the day, I don’t know, but, knowing our son, I could just tell this was different. Maybe it was the long day, maybe it was the parenting podcast I had listened to earlier in the day, but I decided to handle the situation differently than I had before. As I sat on Will’s bed, I told him, “I get scared sometimes too.”
“Adults get scared?” he asked.
Yes they do.
I then explained to Will that fear is a feeling. It is not a bad or good thing, it is just a feeling. I often feel that feeling before I go to the doctor’s office for a big check up, or before a big flight to Europe — especially when the weather is questionable. Of course, some people call it by a different name, but in reality it is fear. The point about fear is that we work up the courage to act anyway.
By the time I was done explaining this, Will was already going to sleep. It was like all he needed to know was that it was okay to feel fear, and even better to know that Dad feels it too.
A couple weeks later we were at the local swimming pool. It was our big outing prior to my 7-day European business trip. Sarah had built this day up for the kids and had been encouraging Will to go on the new water slide with me for the first time. Always a little timid, he was not sure about it.
As we walked up the stairs to the slide, he was clutching my hand. Leaning in, I told him, “you’re going to feel fear up there. Even I will. But, we are going to have fun going down that slide, especially the bump in the middle that will bounce us into the air.” With that, he grinned.
And the smile I saw a few moments later, as our tube entered the lazy river upon completion of the slide, carried me all the way to Europe!
The next time you feel fear, realize it is only a feeling.
Ride the slide anyway!