A Lesson in Letting Go of Fear

I took my newly-minted eight year-old to the park yesterday to ride her bike. The snow had melted, the sun was shining and she was eager to be reunited with her bike after such a long, hard winter.

Teaching her to ride her bike and riding with her has always been her father’s job (I’m not a confident biker and I’d always rather walk on my own two feet than balance on two wheels.) As I wrote here, if it wasn’t for him, she’d have never learned for I was always too fearful, terrified she’d fall, scared she’d hurt not just her knees but also her confidence.

Oh, I was so wrong.

It wasn’t her who needed to conquer her fears, it was me.

She set off on her bike yesterday, pumping those pedals, the wind in her hair. “Be careful, don’t go too far out of my sight,” I cried out. But it was already too late. Her hair was streaming out behind her, her helmet getting smaller as she accelerated away from me down the path, picking up speed. Though I couldn’t see her face, I knew she was smiling from ear to ear.

She rounded the corner. I could still see her flying like the wind. And then, she was out of sight, around another corner.

I listened acutely for for the high-pitched wail that I would surely hear as she’d crash off the bike and hurtle to the ground. I hastened my already speedy pace, desperate to catch up to her or at least spot her in the distance.

A glimmer of stranger danger dangled on the edge of my nervous system, taunting my imagination with every parent’s worst fears. Yes, there were lots of people at this park but maybe among them, there might be one with ill intent, looking at her that way?

What if she gets scared when she realizes she can’t see me, I worried? I picked up the pace even more, blisters forming on my sockless-in-shoes-for-the-first-time-since-winter feet.

Panting and sweating and on the brink of panic, I rounded the corner and stared into the distance, squinting to make her out among the swarm of adults and kids walking, biking and skateboarding on this beautiful spring day.

Suddenly in the distance, I spotted the shape of her helmet, her long hair, her knees moving fast up and down, zooming towards me. Triumphant, happy, cheeks aglow. “Mama!” she cried. “I was pedalling so far, so fast. It was so cool.” She grabbed a sip of water and took off once again, yelling that she’d meet me back at the park entrance.

And it was then I realized.

She’s now a confident bike rider. There was no fall, no wail, no grazed knees.

She knows how to get out of a stranger’s grip. She’s a blue belt in karate – she can punch and kick and shout, really loudly.

She knows my cell number, we’ve talked about what to do if she’s lost, what kind of adult to find.

For parents, fear is a constant. Fear that we don’t know what we are doing, fear that we’ll screw up, screw them up. Fear they’ll get hurt. Fear they’ll get lost. Fear of strangers. Fear they won’t accomplish what we – and they – want to achieve.

Yesterday, for me, was a solid lesson in letting go of some of that fear and replacing it with confidence in my child. Confidence in her abilities and smarts. Confident that her father and I have equipped her with many of the tools to succeed. Fear will always be there, but as I learned yesterday, it’s my problem, not hers.

The 5 Senses of Motherhood

Nobody warned me just how physical parenthood would be. It’s like a full-on assault on the body and soul, every single day. Physically, it takes its toll too, and I’m not just talking droopy boobs, bags under eyes and the inevitable extra pounds around the middle. Five consecutive years of lugging a newborn, then a toddler, around—usually on my left shoulder or hip—have pretty much wrecked my neck, vertebrae and  rotator cuff. Aches and pains aside, it occurred to me that motherhood has a meteoric impact on our five senses, and even heightens them.

1. Sight: I used to stare at every millimeter of my newborns, fascinated by each tiny detail on these creatures that my body had made. Eyelashes, freckles, lips, the fragile maze of their ears, toes, fingernails. My eyes would—and still do—drink in these details. Fast-forward a few years to crawling, cruising toddlers that you can’t take your eyes off for a nanosecond for fear they’ll climb a book case or eat a bug. These days, I watch my kids with less obsession and with more amusement and curiosity, observing how they interact, socialize, wrestle, role-play. As I tuck them into bed every night, the images of their sleepy, happy faces—hungrily reading, eager for dreams— are seared into my brain.

2. Smell: Remember the sweet smell of the head of a newborn baby or a toddler, fresh from the tub, wrapped in a towel? And the nasal assault of a blow-out diaper. Pee-soaked clothes during potty training. Puke in the car seat. A mother’s nostrils smell it all!

3. Sound: Oh, the torture of listening to your baby crying during the night as you attempt to sleep train him or her (and not cave.) Or that moment when you first hear your baby say “mama” or “dada.” Not to mention being able to identify your kid’s cry in a crowded playground. I love the sound of listening to my daughter’s carefree singing. Of course, there’s also blocking out the whining, the negotiating, the bickering. Oy!

4. Taste: Kissing away salty tears. Licking the brown smudge on your fingers, confident it’s chocolate and not … Finishing off their half-eaten mac ‘n’ cheese or soggy cheerios.

5. Touch: The tickle of their breathe as they whisper in your ear. The feel of their small hands clasping yours. How they tug at your arms when they want to go that way but you need to go this way. The intensity of a hug. The way they prod at your boobs so as to get your attention (or is that just my kids?) Tickle fights!

And let’s not forget that other sense —a mother’s intuition—that nigglye feeling in your gut that something’s bothering your kid, that warns you he’s about to barf, and alerts you to an imminent meltdown so you can activate diversionary tactics.

Yes, in addition to our  supersonic five senses, we mothers are also endowed with many super powers. And you know what? It’s all good.

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