A friend and I were hiking recently. We were talking about fear. Specifically, about fear, children and dads. My friend and her family had been mountain biking together. After their ride, her kids approached her and said, in so many words
When my boys were young, I remember learning very quickly that if they fell and we just smiled and picked them up, they would smile back. If we freaked out, they freaked out. They were clearly taking their cues from us, their parents, and we were programming their current and future reactions.
When our boys started skiing, I decided that I wanted to avoid programming fear into them. I would ski with one of them on the run of his choosing. The boy had complete control of our agenda. If he wanted to stay on a green or blue run all day, no problem. And if he told me that he was ready to try something harder, no problem, even if I didn’t think he was ready. I didn’t want to tell him “no, you’re not ready” and program him with doubt. I wanted to project my confidence in his ability to choose his own challenges.
In almost every instance I can recall, each boy knew when he was ready to progress. We didn’t push them nor hold them back and consequently, both boys are uber-confident in their ability to ski anything of their choosing. (The key here is that they each choose what is right for them. Boy #1, who is bigger and stronger, sometimes tries to force Boy #2 to do things he isn’t ready for and the results are often less than optimal).
As they’ve grown and we have moved into other sports and activities, we’ve tried to maintain this sense of autonomy and confidence. We’ve not always been successful. When I went through a fearful mountain-biking phase this year (2 endos, a torn muscle and a cracked rib), my younger son picked up on my anxiety and adopted it as his own. Could I do it again, I would have kept my anxiety to myself (and not fallen off my bike so often). Even at the age of 11, this young man is still an impressionable, partially blank slate and as his parents, we have to be careful what we let him hear. Even though I don’t always succeed, I need to watch every word.
Talk about scary? This responsibility is one of the most frightening things I know.
© 2010 – 2011, braveskimom. All rights reserved. Any use or publication of content, including photos, requires express permission.