Monday, July 27, 2009

Pushing Through the Fear

Today, I was reminded of a very basic fact of life—we all have fears. It began last Thursday when my sweet 8-year-old daughter faced one of her greatest fears, and I actually had to stand behind her and throw her smack into the thick of it. Literally. Our goal for this summer: to learn how to swim, face in the water and all. Living in a northern clime (until recently), our access to a pool has been limited by a number of factors, so we never really had the opportunity to follow through on those early lessons we took 2 years ago. Until we met Duster.

On our way to Duster's house, I kept hearing, "I don't think I'm ready yet, Mama. I'm just not ready. What if I'm not ready?" And when the time came to confront the little demon, Ghost Daughter drew on her gift of imagination to concoct a host of excuses why she couldn't stick her face in the water. "I'm too tire. No, really! See the bags under my eyes, Mama? Look at the bags!" Of course she had tried others, like "I'm too hungry" or "My eyes hurt" or "I have to go pee!" But Duster knew that wall intimately, having taught most of the population of Albany under the age of 50 how to swim over the years.

And yes, I stood there dumbly as this wizened kid-whisperer dunked my screaming child under the water over and over. I said nothing when my darling daughter cried out, "I'm afraid!" and Duster calmly told her that she was going to help her break through that wall of fear. Yes, I actually threw my own child into the deep end of the pool despite her collapsing in a soggy pile on the concrete and pleading with me not to. And yes, I held my wee little one as she vomited after a several triumphant treks across the pool with her head under water, only to beam up at me with her little, pale face full of pride.

There is no coaxing here. No polite chat or tender conversation about how she must learn to swim for her own safety and fun. It's one of those moments, those come-to-Jesus, life-changing moments. And that girl kicked butt! She couldn't sleep that night, she was so excited that she actually did it. She really swam under water! She knocked that wall down!

Well...maybe she knocked a few bricks out, but it's a start.

So, our next lesson was today, and we have two dear friends visiting from Pennsylvania to witness another triumph. And Ghost Daughter was thrilled to show off, at least she thought she was. Last night she woke up in the middle of the night with a terrible headache. After a dose of motrin, she tried to go back to sleep, but the two of us ended up parked on the couch from 3:30 on, watching the final round of the LPGA Evian Masters. Nothing could shake that headache.

The telling question came at breakfast, "Will we have to cancel my swim lesson?" And again at lunch, "Mama, I feel like throwing up...will we have to cancel my lesson?" No matter how great that first triumph, fear is a rascal that will lay a few more bricks in that wall if you let him.

I was a sensitive, loving mama who comforted her child, gave her some Sprite and some kind words...and then drove her to her lesson. When we arrived, she ran into bushes, screaming, "I have to throw up!" Again, I dragged my poor child to the side of the pool. She went in, however grudgingly, but in one turn of the pool, that glow of success was all over her again. And this time it stuck. She had kicked down the wall, pushed through the fear, and found her inner mermaid.

It's easy to get jaded as we grow older and forget the significance of early battles such as these. As adults, no one is going to throw us into the pool. It is entirely up to us, and we may even choose to walk away from some challenges...simply because we are too tired, or too hungry, or we have to pee. Or so we tell ourselves.

But I have that beautiful moment that just leapt up before me today. And so many more to come. And I will push through my own fear...just like that skinny little 8-year-old in the green polka dot bikini.


  1. Excellent post. Always good to be reminded that choosing to walk away from some challenges may not be in our best interests.

  2. Thanks, Deb. It definitely is a choice, and we often forget what rewards may await us when we make the right one.

  3. What a wonderful, charming story on overcoming fear. Loved reading it.

  4. Go Ghost Daughter!! Tough love is rough sometimes.


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