DiaryDad and his sons are learning fear can be conquered.
Fear and being afraid are two concepts I have had to deal with as father in so many ways. For myself there have been the fears that come with becoming a father, for my kids there have been the opportunities to help them face the unknown. I have been thinking quite a bit about the concept of fear and the act of being afraid. So many voices in our world are reminding us to be afraid, politicians are speaking to our fears, terrorists exploiting them, and the news profiting from them.
All of this highlights an opportunity that we as parents can offer our kids, we can teach them not to let fear and doubt control them. Fear exists, doubt exists, and we can’t change that. We are empowered by our ability to conquer our fears and that is something we desperately need to pass on to our children. They have big problems to face in the future, climate change, terrorism, etc… and to do so they need the tools to face them. We need to teach them to be intelligent, clever, free-thinkers, and above all brave. Fear should be an obstacle to overcome, not and insurmountable problem or paralyzing agent.
A few years ago I got my son his first skateboard. For the first few years he just goofed around on it, he skated a little here, and a little there. He never really stuck with it very long before his skateboard found it’s way back into the hall closet. About 16 months ago his interest kicked into a higher gear and wanted to try his luck at a local skate park.
When we got there the first thing he wanted to try was a ramp, and he wanted to do it all by himself. He was a little timid and sure enough he took a tumble on his first attempt down. His pride was a little bruised and he decided to go about the park avoiding the ramps and doing the things he already knew how to do. All the things he wasn’t scared of.
Once his little ego had mended a bit he started to skate up onto the ramps a little and then hop off (in an attempt to avoid an embarrassing spill again). That was my signal to get in and push him a little, to give him a chance to face his fear and not give into it. I had him get back up on the small ramp (where he fell) and told him that he had to commit to it all the way, or he would fall off every time. I told him that is how I learned, and that as crazy as it sounds it really works. I told him that he had to face his fear and commit to conquering it. I promised him that once he did he would not be scared anymore. I told him, “you just have to do it once”.
Nervously he made his way to the edge of the ramp. I offered encouragement and reminded him that speed was his friend. I told him to commit to the attempt, that he needed to go and go fast, gravity would do the rest. He took a deep breath and took the plunge… and he made it. He made it down the ramp and past his fear, there were no tears, just boatloads of pride… for both of us.
Next thing I knew he was right back up on the ramp doing it over and over it again… Just as I had promised him, there was no returning to the fear he had conquered.
Before I knew it he was asking for help on the bigger ramps, the confidence gained by making it down a ramp that had thwarted him now buoyed him up to try others he hadn’t even considered possible.
We never look at an elite athlete or award-winning performer and think, that person should be giving into their fear or self-doubt just a little more. We celebrate the fact that they are bravely doing something that others do not have the courage or drive to do. that courage to go farther or push harder than most is what makes them great. Hopefully what we gain from their examples is what might happen if we engage our own ability to set aside fear and doubt in pursuit of our dreams.
Which makes you wonder when is it that the fear of failure really sets in, when does doubt become a crippling agent for our dreams. Kids seem to have that spirit to conquer fear inside them… especially when given the right encouragement (especially by their parents). I’m not sure when they start to let go of that, but I intend to help my kids keep it alive and strong. I have a feeling that it is that ability, to set aside fear of failure, that can make us great.
I don’t think to be without fear means not to be afraid or have doubts, I think it means to set them aside, to conquer them and come out stronger for it. I think that is something that the world needs us to teach our children. We need them to be intelligent people of action. We need them to be people unfettered by their fears who know if they face their fears they can conquer them and look forward to a brighter tomorrow.
Photo Credit: the author.