My kids know I'm scared!
I used to be fearless! I used to pet black cats, walk under ladders, fly to any destination, and laugh in the face of the fastest, twistiest roller coasters. Then, in my thirties, I began experiencing the tell-tale, textbook signs of experiencing a phobia.
My hands become clammy. The hairs on the back of my neck feel prickly, vision narrows, visual perception warps, my hearing becomes muffled, my heart pounds uncomfortably hard, and I feel nauseated.
Thank goodness I live in a state that is known for being at or below sea-level as my phobia is acrophobia, or the fear of heights.
For the record, I have never been harmed by being high off the ground. I have not fallen or experienced any trauma, but that is the nature of a phobia. A phobia is an excessive and irrational fear that may be accompanied by a sense of dread or even panic.
My girls know about my acrophobia.
As they get older, they want to do increasingly more adrenaline-fueled activities. In the last couple of years, they have gone skiing, rock climbing, jet skiing, boating, and flying down water slides to name a few, and I have been there for it all!
Our most recent adrenaline-packed activity was a high ropes course in Omaha, Nebraska. We all strapped into our harnesses and learned the double-carabiner safety protocols for the course. The courses were basically marked as beginner, tough, and hell-no.
The girls wisely chose the beginner course first. We zipped through - pun intended. The obstacles were challenging, but fun and doable. Feeling over-confident from the relative ease of the first course, the girls opted for a tough course next. It was T-O-U-G-H, all capital letters.
Two-thirds of the way through the course, Lily was paralyzed with fear. She needed to let go of both hand-holds to move her carabiners around a large wooden obstacle. She was vibrating with fear, her already-large blue eyes dilated to saucers. She wanted none of this.
On a high ropes course, there are two ways down. The first way down is to complete the course, the second is to initiate a “rescue.” Rescues are not fun. Rescues can be traumatizing. Needing to be rescued can shake one’s confidence to the core. I did not want this for Lily.
It took some coaxing, gentle prodding, intentional eye-contact, and lots of patience, but she tentatively reached up and unlocked her first carabiner. She cleared the first obstacle on that stretch of the course and moved to complete the rest. A few minutes later, and it was time for the free jump from the final platform.
I was scared. Palms sweating, heart pounding, cotton-stuffed hearing, quick breathing. But, I wanted to show Lily that you can be both scared and victorious. She knew I was scared. The girls know all about how acrophobia makes me feel. We work hard and intentionally to make sure our girls have the words for how they feel and sometimes, that includes transparency about our adult feelings.
“It’s ok, mom.” She encouraged from the element behind me on the course. I took the leap of faith, literally. As the air rushed past my face and the yoyo caught my weight to lower me to the ground, I released a loud and animalistic sound of fear. On the video, you can hear my grunt/yelp, followed by the laughs of other participants. Then, “Mom, you did it! You got this!” from Lily.
I might be terrified. My guts might be in knots. I might hate every second of the time in the high space, but what I would hate even more is giving in to my fear and missing out on adventures with my girls. So, I will continue to climb the trees to the ropes course, or the tower to the water slide. I will continue to let the girls in on my inner fears. And I will continue to show them that it is ok to be scared, but it is also ok to be victorious!
Picture: The dreaded final platform free-jump!
Picture: Lily feeling confident on the course.
Picture: We all made it back to the ground safely!