Teaching CourageThursday, July 28, 2011
The Self-Aware Parent
This week guest blogger Deb Casey shares her story of facing fear and finding courage - for herself, and for her children.
Iʼm standing on the 10-foot high platform looking down at the water and asking myself why Iʼm so afraid.
I remind myself that what Iʼm really afraid of is the fear Iʼm facing, not the jump itself.
I have a life jacket on. Iʼm not going to drown. Iʼve spent the entire day in the water, and many, many days before this.
Iʼve jumped off this thing before. My 13- year-old nephew Spencer did several backflips off the platform a few minutes ago (and one very nice belly flop...). My 8-year-old daughter Ellie and her cousin Nina have spent the morning trying to land on their water noodles as they jump of the platform.
So now itʼs my turn.
Why am I up here?
Because of Ellie. Because she said to me, in an attempt to face her own fear, "Iʼll do it if you do it, Mom. Iʼll even go first." And I agreed. I wanted her to get over her fear. And off she went. Three seconds flat. Up the stairs, off the platform, into the water. Huge smiles everywhere.
And now itʼs my turn. Iʼve been up here for going on 10 minutes now. Iʼm trying to quiet my fears, my mind, slow my heart. Every time I feel the peace coming over me, shouts of "you can do it Mom!" and "just jump, Mom!" interrupt me and bring me back.
My sister watches with a grin on her face from the dock, knowing I can do it and trying to keep the kids quiet so I can focus. Sheʼs seen me do this before.
When we were about 10 and 11 years old I freaked out just sitting in the water in Lake Geneva. I was afraid to be in the water. I would never get in the lake. Never.
But she was trying to water ski and was having trouble getting up, and I was getting overheated, so I finally chose comfort over fear and got in the lake.
The boat drifted. It drifted so far that my dad had to start up the boat and bring it back around to us. My sister tried to keep me calm as I flailed about in my life jacket trying to chase the boat.
Years later at the Lake of the Ozarks, as a young adult, a married woman without kids, I sat holding my baby nephew and, for at least the thousandth time, watched from the back of the ski boat as my sister waterskied. Holding Parker in my arms, I saw as he watched his mom, his eyes wide.
I realized my children were never going to see their mom ski, never going to see their mom having fun in the water, never going to play with their mom in the water. And they were going to learn fear from me. My fear.
My heart racing, I made a decision. As she got back into the boat, I said, "Iʼm ready, Amy. Itʼs time." Without a second for me to change my mind she jumped back into the water, got my skis on me, and stayed with me as I tried time after time to get up on the skis, finally successful.
Did I love it? Not really. It was fun. I enjoyed it. But I donʼt crave it. It doesnʼt inspire me.
Getting over the fear was the accomplishment. That inspires me.
So here I am again, same place, years later. Now a divorced woman with four young children. Facing the fear of financial burdens. Facing fears of being alone. Facing fears every day, but facing them with strength and peace. Can I jump off this platform?
Yes. I can do it. I can do it because I promised Ellie. But more importantly, I can do it because I am not afraid of fear.
I might be a little afraid of heights, but fear? No. I wonʼt teach my children my fear. I will teach them my courage instead.
I jump. I hit the water. Did I love it? Not really. It was fun. I enjoyed it.
But Iʼm probably not going to do it again. It doesnʼt inspire me.
Seeing the grins on my childrenʼs faces? Hearing them clap and cheer? That inspires me.
Deb lives in Elmhurst with her four children. She is a freelance professional specializing in strategic planning, marketing, and project management. Contact Deb at firstname.lastname@example.org.