Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Facing fears

Today my five year old daughter faced her greatest fear.....the dreaded waterslide. We have been swimming at a club for years, she has swum since she was two.....when she was about two, she began using the waterslides, she got scared one time, and would not even sit at the top any longer. My wife and I had tried numerous times to get her to go again, sure that once the fear was passed she would enjoy the slides again....but no go, offers of bribes of favorite toys, favorite meals out at her favoritie family restaurant, but no go....many talks about facing your fears, and the importance of not letting fear control your life, but no go. The top of the slide would induce such panic and fear, that we lost heart in trying to get her to become more accustomed to is, and thus less afraid of it. We gave up trying for a while to get her past her fear.

I do not really know what made today different for her, there was nothing special about the day, the old prompting to try the slide had rested since last fall with a few joking references over the winter...almost every day we swam in the pool with barely a look at the slides crouching there at the deeper end of the pool.

Today I just offered that if she wanted to go to Burger King to get a micropet toy, I could convince her Mom to take us there for lunch...if..she went down the water slide. We had a bit of negotiation, an attempt to do somethinkg a little less scary in order to get the desired reward, and when it became clear that only the waterslide would do, I made the offer,maybe Mom would go down with you if you wanted to go.....There was a new lifeguard on duty, who apparently did not know the rule which forbade going down the slides together, as other parents were sliding down with their children. A quick point at the little two year old girl going down the slide with her mother was apparently all that was needed for the bribe to take effect, enough courage was mustered to be able to make at least one attempt, with the safety of Mom of course, to ease her through the most scary part..the noisy waterfall at the top of the slide.

It was amazing, I do not know if it was more amazing to me then to her, but she loved the slide, up and down...over and over ..all by herself ...then finally upside down and backwards...she was invincible,elated, free at last from the one fear that limited her life for the past three years!.A simple little demonstration about what happens when we face our fears head on, with the support of those who love us, the elation the freedom on the face of the child has not faded yet, she is still dancing while she puts on her little ballet shoes and prepares for dance class.

Some fears, like this one perhaps, protect us when we are too small, or too weak , or too vulnerable to do what we fear. All I can say is when we can trust and let go of all but the supporting hand of our loved ones, and step into that which we are most afraid of, we find a freedom in our lives that is worth the risk.

Sometimes I think about how scary it must be to be five, to have kindergarten, and school buses, and growing and grown up life awaiting just around the corner, it is my hope that we all can find the courage we once mustered on our way to kindegarten for that first day of being on our own for the first time in our life. It is my hope that each of us can find the courage that we once must have had, and in reconnecting with that courage, we can manage to face that which frightens us here in our grown up world, and in doing so find the freedom to be who we are.

Be Well