I have a lot of fears. I’d list them, but I don’t have enough room.
And I’m a pretty big fan of avoidance rather than confrontation.
Well, to the best of my ability, anyway, since sometimes I have no choice, thanks to my husband’s idea of summer adventures that usually include massive heights, wild animals, and freeze-dried foods—all of which are scary as hell.
Still, options usually include fight or flight. The first being the nobler and the latter being, well… me.
But then last weekend my teacher introduced a third idea in his weekly Sunday talk. One that will require a little more effort and take a little more time—but with over 20 years of practice, it’s one I could definitely relate to: parent.
Instead of retreating from or battling what I am most afraid of—I should parent my fear.
After all, I did give birth to these little monsters and they are certainly not going anywhere fast. Yet, why should they? These fears are a part of me, like it or not. In a way, they represent everything that I value and hold dear—along with the very real risks that threaten their existence. Because nightmares are just dreams gone bad.
Yet perhaps, if I care for them the way I cared for a couple of other “monsters” I’ve managed to rear, they too will mature and grow to do great things and accomplish much in time.
My teacher said, parent my fear. So speaking as a mom, these might be my five most valuable pieces of advice:
First, make an effort to get to know them. Enter into a nurturing relationship from a place of empathy and love. Get so close to every worry, concern, and anxiety and become intimately familiar about what motivates, triggers, and appeases.
Second, introduce them to the world and provide as many learning experiences possible. It’s so tempting to keep them sheltered and hidden, but in doing so, I also stunt their growth. And yet, no need to force too much, too soon.
Third, accept each fear. Unconditionally. Love each for who they are not who you wish they’d be. This doesn’t mean I give it permission to ruin my hike by refusing to cross that hanging bridge above the canyon—but I do acknowledge that it is daunting. Because, it is.
Fourth, pick my battles. So you see, there are times of both fight and flight. Sometimes, I must give in to the fear. Heck, there are times what scares me should scare me—and I should listen to its tale of caution and back away. Other times, I need to look it square in the eye and say No.
Because fifth, remember—I am ultimately in charge. I am the parent and my fear is the child. We all know what happens when those two roles get confused and it ain’t good for anyone. The can have a voice and I will listen. But to live in my house, the last word has to be mine.
Through the years, we will learn and grow together. There will be bumps along the way and I will make mistakes. But we are in this together. Not because we have to—because we want to.
And if I do my job right, my greatest fears will one day grow in to my proudest moments.
Plus, maybe one day they’ll eventually decide to move out.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel