Being Brave Is The Biggest Lie I Tell My Children

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Dealing With FearThe seat is sticky and strangely warm.  I fumble with the seatbelt before reluctantly giving up because hundreds of patrons before me have tied it into impossible knots. Despite my best efforts to distract myself, I note that the bolts above my head are rusted. My faith in the teenager behind the controls wanes as she chews gum, loudly, with her mouth open.  Does she know what to do in an emergency? Does she know what to do beyond “off” and “on?”

The seats begin to rise.  I have no idea where to put my hands. Do I laugh? I notice the toddler next to us is laughing, and frankly I don’t appreciate it.  It is then my daughter looks up at me, searching.  “This is fun, right?”

The seat starts spinning and I focus on the metal pole in front of me to keep myself from getting sick. “Totally fun!! This is great!! “ I choke out.  She relaxes a bit, and even mutters out a little “Weeeeeee.” And two minutes later, when our balloon ride death trap returns to our starting position, she asks if I want to ride it with her again.

“You bet!” I lie.  At least she doesn’t want to try the log flume.

I am a person with a ridiculous amount of fear and anxiety over seemingly mundane things.  While public speaking does not bother me, calling to order a pizza sometimes means I have to write post-its to guide my way through the experience.  Text messaging is literally the best thing that has ever happened to me.  I will drive through some of the sketchiest neighborhoods in Philadelphia without blinking, but if I have to drive on the interstate, I will scour mapquest to see if there are any other options because multiple lanes of traffic gives me stress dreams.  Giving birth did not give me much pause, but my dentist has to stop numerous times during a routine cleaning to check if I need a moment.  I prefer to think of myself as “quirky” but I am aware that I have issues that I need to address.

Having children put me facing my fears to the forefront.  I know what it is like to have a parent with anxiety, and so I was determined not to let my children know when I was afraid of things. My oldest is so much like me it’s almost eerie, except that she fears very little.  She stopped asking me to go on rides with her when she was three, and wanted sneakers with chunky soles so that she would be tall enough to ride roller coasters at five.  She has a normal level of apprehension about new experiences that she can usually talk herself through.  I don’t even remember her having separation anxiety as a baby. With her, the biggest fear I faced was just letting her grow and be independent.

Her sister, however, was famous for getting kicked out of the YMCA’s child watch due to her piercing screams when I would leave her.  My middle child- tiny, where I am tall; funny where I am sarcastic; loud where I am quiet, inherited one thing from me- fear. And for that reason, I have to fake my bravery until I can make it.

She is afraid of bugs, so I have to embrace them. You know what bug is awesomely ridiculous? Sprickets. Also known as “camel crickets” or “cave crickets,” they are large spiders that jump. When they would appear in our house when we lived in Virginia, sometimes doing fun and not at all horrifying things like crawling out from under the bathtub drain, I was careful to make my reaction measured and calm even if I was dying on the inside.  She and I would trap them under containers; talk to them, and set them free outside. If we can face sprickets, ants suddenly seem less intimidating.

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