THIS I BELIEVE
(There are some things you shouldn’t teach your children)
My mother was afraid of everything, including the evil eye. I was a quick study. Without a word spoken, by simply squeezing my hand too tight, or opening her eyes too wide, I observed and understood that danger was ever present.
The result of this training is that I’m afraid of almost everything. And if there isn’t anything apparent to be afraid of, I just worry about what might happen. My list of fears is long and boring. I’m afraid of ocean waves and the dreaded undertow. Anything fast is out – cars, boats, amusement rides. For work sometimes I have to take photos from a roof top. I can do that only by crawling on my hands and knees – the height makes my stomach flip. The woods as everyone knows are filled with snakes, bears, lions and other dangerous creatures. Traveling to remote locations, far from home, family and friends, can trigger panic.
When I had a son, I was determined not to teach him to be fearful. Most of his life I was a single mom and I didn’t know exactly how I was going to do that.
When my son was in elementary school I enrolled him in a swim and dive team at the University of Miami. One day they had all these little kids climb up the high dive and they were instructed to “jump like a pencil”. I could barely watch I was so scared. When it was Joshua’s turn, I watched him climb the ladder hand over hand. All the children were in line, so there was a child on each rung of the ladder waiting his turn. I watched Joshua climb very slowly, continually looking back down the ladder. When he got to the top he didn’t walk out to the end of the diving board. He stayed still with his hands tight on the rails. His coach told him he was next. It was clear to jump. But he didn’t move. Everyone waited.
Finally I yelled up – “What’s wrong?” Without looking down he said, “I’m scared”. Against everything I believed, (with every nerve in my body screaming and my deceased mother’s voice yelling “Don’t let him do it, he could get hurt – this is crazy, he could break his neck”) I heard myself say, “That’s o.k. — jump anyway”. And without looking down Joshua walked to the end of the diving board and jumped like a pencil.
Joshua recently climbed the highest mountain in Antarctica. He is graduating from medical school and is working toward a career as an ER doctor. To me he is pretty fearless.
I’m still trying to work on myself.
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