Out of the corner of my eye I saw my eleven year old lifting her younger sister onto her shoulders today. I almost passed out. I’m not kidding. I had to command myself to breathe, to relax, to let go.
It’s a little problem I have, this freezing with fear from time to time. Last spring, in Kenya, I watched a kid climb to the highest branches of an enormous avocado tree. I couldn’t watch, but I couldn’t not either. I held my breath until he found his way back down again, safe and sound and still in one piece.
And, I exhaled and inhaled and exhaled again, tension leaving with every bit of carbon dioxide I released.
My kids prefer to go to the playground without me.
I’m not joking. They know I cringe every time they climb the ladder to the slide. They rolls their eyes every time I have to stop myself from saying, “Slow down!” or “Not so high!”
It’s not that I don’t want them to climb; it’s that I can’t control whether they will fall.
So I control the only thing I can: my breath.
I started doing that in high school when I went through a period of extreme chest pain. My doctor once looked at me and said, “Breathe.”
I said, “I am” through completely clenched teeth.
Controlling my breath controlled the pain. It was my way of having some say.
Except I didn’t. With my attempts to take control, I was forfeiting my ability to relax, to release, to rest.
I still am.
Because when I freeze in fear as I watch my children try things, I miss the joy of seeing them succeed. I react too quickly when they stumble, and I often frighten them in the process.
So, I do like my doctor did, and I say to myself: Breathe. Relax. Rest.
Instead of trying to control the outcomes, I try to control my fear. I remember the feeling of soaring on a swing set, of slipping down a slide, of trying to see for miles from the top of a tree, and I know I don’t want to take those experiences away from my little ones.
I remember the pain of failure and the lessons I learned from it, and I know I don’t want to protect my children from that painful professor. I want them to learn from winning and from losing.
I remember adventures I’ve had that would have been lost if I had flung myself at the feet of fear, and I know that I want the journey of their lives to be exciting and full.
So I breathe and pray and pray and breathe. In and out and in and out. Drawing in the grace to go forward, releasing the desire to turn back, to hold on, knowing that God holds them in his hands just like he holds me.
I’m joining Kate and the Five Minute Friday community today! Join us! You’ll find an encouraging group of writers and some great posts to read each week!
Andrew Budek-Schmeisser says
This is great, Charlie. Your honesty and transparency in talking about the way you face fear and anxiety will help a LOT of people. Great job!
#2 at FMF this week.
Thank you, Andrew!
Stephanie (@wifemommyme) says
You remind me of my husband. He is very much a “be careful”, “not too fast”, “watch out!” with our son. I’m more of let him learn and see what the outcome is. Of course I don’t want him to hurt himself but more than anything I want him to explore freely.
Great post, and I love your comment about learning to control the fear instead of trying to control the outcomes. There are definitely situations where I need to do that too.
I thought you were talking about me for a minute. I nearly stifled my children from learning valuable lessons for fear they might get hurt. They’re all adults now and I still clinch my teeth when I breathe. I love your insight. Thanks for sharing.
Michele Morin says
Breathe and pray sounds like a good strategy for parenting — and for living!
Ashley Rowland | HISsparrowBlog says
Thank you for this post. It’s just what I needed!
Starla J @ Pressing In and Pressing On says
Thank you for sharing this over at the Grace & Truth Link Up Party.
Beautiful post. I think that’s a great way to approach fear in parenting. Definitely pinning to pass the message on. 🙂
Thank you! And, thanks for sharing the post!