Yehoshua was due for his shots. My memory of him was that of a baby who waltzed through the appointment without much of a hue or cry. Shots were done, and we would move on with absolutely no stress. This time however, he whined and moaned before, during and after the shot. Three people had to hold him down!
It was not the pain, it was the fear of the pain that escalated the situation.
A 16 month old will walk through a wall without any worry…He will fall and get up a hundred times with a smile, but the moment you respond with a “shout” or “goodness!”, everything changes. He has seen and learnt that there is danger lurking beyond, out to get him.
And the next time, he will look at the world with caution. He has figured the idea of fear.
Caution is great, but a little more and the fear will overpower our every action.
It will define whether we will swing without care, take a huge leap into the water or feel the wind in our hair. Or it will decide that we will hold back, stay on the edges, and roll up the shades.
In our head, we do umpteen number of things. We are the heroes of our graphic novels. We can ride the horse, drive through the jungles, battle an army, and outwit and defeat the bad guys.
In reality, however, we hardly ever step out of our comfort zones. We refuse to knock at the neighbour’s door and share a good word. We pretend that the art class, the dance class, the music class was not suave enough for us. We refuse to look up from the phones lest we have to say the first word or smile at the stranger. We shy away from asking that question that could tag us ‘uncool’. We behave like we are too old, too good enough, too smart, too sorted to want to do something new, something challenging because in truth, we are afraid.
We are afraid to fail.
We are afraid to disappoint.
We are afraid to fall.
We are afraid to lose.
We are afraid of pain.
We are afraid of rejection.
And these fears, we carry their burden through our lives.
I know that my children were once brave, possibly like you and I were too. A part of them still is.
Their instinct is to try something new, to experiment, to climb a little higher or throw a little harder. But with time with us, they figure fear and failure. They battle between their need to attempt something and their courage to take up the challenge. They say no, even if their mind wants to say yes. Their instinct is to take a leap but they have learnt from us to hold back.
Yehoshua now ‘hates’ maths. A few minutes into the lesson, he goes back to “I forgot how easy division really was”…but once again, a few weeks later if we attempt division, he will start with with “I hate Maths. I can’t!”
Fear has creeped in. But they have to court it, to get past it.
To allow our kids to be afraid and to encourage them to move past their fear is our challenge as parents. And since they won’t say what they mean, most often, to break that cycle is challenging. “I can’t. I won’t.” for example is what my kid says for anything that he doubts himself about.
To make the right inference about their words, their fears and their boundaries is our job.
And children never do as we tell them, no matter how eloquent our lesson.
They do what we do.
Yehoshua learnt to be afraid of bugs, insects and lizards from me. He also figured he had to save me from the lizard that made its way into our home, just like Thomas does for me every single time.
Maybe that’s how we can break the cycle of fear. By letting them see our journey through and past our fears and vulnerabilities as sincerely, as honestly and as truthfully possible. By allowing them to see us powerless but undefeated.
We face our fears and they learn to build courage.
They learn to overcome and overpower their doubts.
And whenever they have to choose between holding back or taking a leap, they make a choice not because of their fears, but despite them.
They figure that needles are painful, but they know that they can make it past.
They learn that the water is possibly cold and uncomfortable but we just have to dive in to figure if it could be fun too!