We are driving through hilly Galena, Illinois enjoying a family weekend when Jacey points out a long steep road straight ahead. I tell her that her great grandparents, grandma, and great aunt used to live up that road and that we will drive by their old house once we get to the top.
I hear a cry from the back of the car. I turn around and find Camryn shaking her head. She says, “I don’t want to go up that hill!” When I ask why she says, “It’s too big, it’s too scarrrry!”
I quickly climb to the backseat so I can sit by her and nod to my husband to keep driving. I hug her as we begin to ascend the hill. I tell her that I hear her and that I will stay right next to her as she cries and holds on tight.
Right before we hit the top she lets out a scream, but it quickly turns to silence as she catches a view of the other side. In front of her are trees, houses, flowers and a park. Her only word is, “oh”.
She looks down and then looks at me with a half smile, she seems embarrassed. But this is not a time for judgment or a time to tell her that her feelings were wrong or silly. I don’t want her to feel shame or guilt for feeling her fear.
Climbing that steep hill was like venturing into the unknown and her fear was valid and real. I say, do you understand that your mind told you the hill was scary because it was big and you couldn’t see what was on the other side? Feeling scared is normal, but sometimes we need to climb the hill to get to where we need to go. She nods, and like a kid that just rode her first roller coaster, she says, “ok….let’s do it again!”
Driving up the hill while holding Camryn was like the first time I walked her into preschool, the first time I helped her into a big girl swing, and the first time I carried her into a pool. They are new experiences and understandably scary, but they are life steps that need to be taken.
Before that hill came into view I had been sitting in the front seat mulling over some of my own thoughts and fears, going through potential outcomes and worse case scenarios. My daughter’s cry from the backseat was similar to my own thoughts of I’m scared, I’m stuck, I don’t know what comes next. It was an important moment, a teaching for her, a realization for me.
Driving up that hill was Camryn’s small step toward embracing the unknown, and for me it was a reminder of what I have already experienced and what comes next. Do I dig in my heels and refuse to climb the next hill, or do I let go and roll with it? Of course the unknown can lead to things I don’t want to see or experience, but sometimes it’s a place filled with trees, flowers, parks and a new level of self understanding.
As I move back to my front seat I am barraged by a series of questions and comments from Camryn – this new experience has left her exhilarated, full of energy, full of life. I smile at her and silently thank her for reminding me about my own journey, and as I turn to face forward the chorus to a recent pop song comes into my mind…..
There's always going to be another mountain I'm always going to want to make it move Always going to be an uphill battle, Sometimes you're going to have to lose, Ain't about how fast I get there, Ain't about what's waiting on the other side….. It's the climb
~ The Climb lyrics by Jesse Alexander and John Mabe, song by Miley Cyrus