I looked down as my feet stepped up on each slippery rock. My daughter following closely behind as we climbed the path to the cliff jump at the pool. Her eyes locking with mine, joy-filled at the sense of adventure about to take place.
Moments earlier I had bounced off the diving board into the pool. My daughter followed as I cleared the ladder. A feat she couldn’t do last year. We were riding on adrenaline and I was full of pride at her accomplishment.
The cliff jump was an escalation of adventure and it seemed like a good decision at the time. I’m the mom—I’m not supposed to be afraid. Right?
I thought about how or if I’m supposed to show my child my own fear. I don’t remember growing up knowing my parents’ fears. Well I guess that’s not true. I once put a dead toad on my mom’s minivan dashboard. True story. She’s afraid of toads. All kinds it just so happens, dead or alive. So yes, I guess my mom did disclose her fear to me.
I’m afraid of heights. And I haven’t told my daughter.
So there I was standing on a pool cliff jump. Looking over the sandy rocky wall down at the pool. The kids below had cleared a path. The only other adults around poked their noses up from their books and likely wondered what on Earth an adult was doing up there.
I turned around and told her the truth, “I don’t think I can do this.” “Come on Mom, you can do it,” she said.
And I did it. Because she said I could, and for some reason I believed it too.
I jumped and swam to the side. And I looked up. My daughter, just a preschool string bean, springs off the rock, pops up from the surface and craves more.
I’ve been indulging her this summer.
I jump off the swimming rock cliffs, ride the rollercoasters and hold tight on zip lines.
I close my eyes.
My stomach drops.
I get motion sick.
My fear of heights isn’t gone. But we can’t stop talking about these adventures and the “remember when” moments are all I care about right now. Frankly, I’m scared of the next activity she is going to inevitably propose. But I don’t tell her. I smile when she retells the stories. I choose to treasure the feelings after, not the fear and anxiety leading up to the experiences.
Her helping me through my fear has helped me be a better mom to her during her fears. She’s afraid to walk in her classroom each morning, so I take it slow which often means I’m late to work. Meeting new friends at a play date is hard for her, so I let her hold my leg. I don’t push her off or say things like, “Don’t be shy.” I support her through her fears because she has taught me how to support not shove someone with fear.
It’s a funny parenting moment when your child helps you overcome fear. The parent becomes the student and child becomes the teacher. We trust that we each can help each other through our fears. And we do.
Until the next adventure, I’ll be smiling thinking about how she taught me to be brave and conquer my fear one pool cliff jump, rollercoaster ride or zip line at a time.