Brave

Were you brave as a child? If you were, what helped you be brave or kept you brave?

I was like many and easily scared as a child. It didn’t take much. I recall having nightmares after watching Scooby Doo–darn those adults in those monster costumes trying to scare those meddling kids! I was also scared of roller coasters–just the idea of them made my stomach do flips, or roller skating on anything other than a flat surface–my younger sister used to roller skate down our steep driveway without any fear, I was in awe. I wasn’t big into taking risks and sought out safety.

My youngest son has had a heightened sense of fear in the last six months. Things he didn’t seem bothered by before, now are concerning for him. He is very vocal about his concern and his desire not to attempt the following: roller coasters or anything fast, being within hearing range of thunder and lightning, and swimming. Since I too shared the fear of roller coasters as a I child, I understand where my son is coming from. Fear of thunder and lightning I understand too. We don’t get it much here in the northwest, so when it does happen, particularly when the storm is intense or close, it can be scary for anyone. Swimming is a bit more puzzling. He’s been in lessons for a while. He is just learning to swim on his own and hasn’t shown any sign of not liking class. When we took him to class, his anxiety surfaced and he shared what was bothering him. “I don’t want to go into the deep end.” “Why would you go into the deep end?” I asked. “You and your teacher will decide where you go in the pool. Just tell him you don’t want to go in the deep end.” He seemed to think about this for a second, but the fear was still there. “But what if I have to jump in, and I can’t touch the bottom?” I tried reassuring him again. “The teacher is here to help you swim and keep you safe. They won’t ask you to do anything they don’t think you’re ready for.” He was still nervous as he entered the pool, but quickly realized the teacher didn’t have any plans to take him to the deep end, and was soon enjoying the class.

This reminded me of an incident over the summer. We were at a community splash park, where they have water spraying, and tipping buckets. Our son was eager to go to the park, but wouldn’t come out from under the shelter to enjoy himself when he saw dark clouds in the distance and heard the low rumble of distant thunder. It was sunny where we were, the rain clouds were far away, and my husband and I (and all the other parents there) were keeping an eye on them. My older son took off for the splash park and was having a blast. My younger son looked at me after a few minutes of watching his brother and the others kids playing and said, “Mom, I’m going to face my fear.” He got up, and ran into the splash park. He was giggling within seconds, and having a great time with the other kids. My husband and I looked at each other–wow, did he just say that? we thought. There was a pride in both of us. That he was willing to recognize his own fear and want to overcome it was inspiring.

Our son is still vocal about this fear, but we’re now able to talk to him in terms he understands. Do you want to conquer your fear? we ask. We remind him how good it can feel to be brave and do something he might not think he’s capable of, but we do. It reminds me as an adult, we too have fears that we each face–taking risks, standing up for ourselves, working through stressful situations, illness, and the list goes on. It’s a scary world out there sometimes, but we have an opportunity to do something about it. When faced with a scary situation how do you conquer your fear? What helps you to be brave?

Thanks, Coach!

Have you ever struggled to get better at something you thought you should already be good at?

I have, and it’s no fun, whether it’s struggling to do a new task at work, or unsure of how to handle a new childrearing situation. I catch myself thinking why don’t I know how to do this? and because it’s easy to convince yourself that no one else is sharing your struggle to think is something wrong with me?

I saw my son experience this very struggle with his new soccer team. While he understands the fundamentals of the team, learning strategy for how to move around other players and the rules on the field are still something new to him. He became frustrated in a practice and the coach came over to talk to him. My son expressed his disappointment in his lack of knowledge and ability to execute what he was being asked to do. This came in the form of an emotional outburst that was a culmination of his frustration. The coach wasn’t having any of it. He told my son to listen to what he was saying or get off the field. My son promptly walked off the field.

As a parent, it’s hard to watch your child struggle with something. While part of me wanted to go and talk to him about what I just witnessed, it felt like this was something I needed to let the coach handle for the time being. I didn’t want to undermine the point he was trying to make, and I didn’t want my son to think I thought he was failing or not doing things right. I could already see he was really disappointed and down on himself. I could almost hear what he was thinking, why can’t I do this? Why isn’t this coming more naturally? What’s wrong with me?

The coach waited a few minutes and then came over to my son who was close enough for me to overhear the conversation (but not right next to me). The coach asked him why he was sitting on the sidelines. My son replied, “Because I’m terrible and can’t do the drill right!” The coach bent down so he could get eye-to-eye with him and explained, “You’re a kid. You’re job is to learn. To get better at something you have to practice. Do you think Rinaldi never practiced? He practiced all the time. You’ve got to practice to get good at anything,” he continued, “My job is to show you what you need to do, and when I see you not doing something right, it’s my job to show you a better or different way.” He finished, “You’re not terrible, but you won’t know that unless you get back in there and try.” My son seemed to take his words to heart, but wasn’t convinced. The coach then added, “if you don’t practice, you don’t play in the game,” which was enough to get my son back on the field.

The coach and I made eye-contact and he mouthed, “I got this.” And sure enough he did. My son listened more carefully throughout the remainder of practice and even scored a goal towards the end of the practice game. You could see his confidence grow. His expression reminded me of my own experience when I’ve learned something I’ve struggled with, finally getting over the hump and realizing I can do this. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with me after all. It feels great.

I’m thankful that the coach helped my son through his challenge. Not all coaches would have done that, but in my opinion, the good ones do. Struggles are going to happen, and as much as we’d like to help our child, it will sometimes fall to a coach, teacher, leader or a friend’s parent that they respect. As much as I am present with my child, others being present–really seeing my child and helping them see their own potential–will be a big part of his experience growing up. I’m thankful for those who have already played this role, and those that will in the future. Thank you!

Who helps your child work through things they struggle with? Who is a mentor or role model for your child?

Stretch Goal

As a child, did you ever push yourself, or have someone encourage you to try something new? How did you handle doing something you weren’t comfortable doing?

I was encouraged periodically during my childhood this way, and I always experienced the same feelings: fear (what if I’m not good, what if this is a disaster), nervousness (I want to do well but am afraid I may make a fool of myself and people will laugh at me), and curiosity (what if I can do it? How cool would that be?). While my fear and nerves would initially deter me from taking on the new challenge, curiosity almost always won out. I had to figure out if I could indeed accomplish the new task or not. Even if I wasn’t perfect, or great, being able to say I did something new successfully (even in the slightest way) was a real confidence booster for me.

My oldest son recently joined a soccer league. He’s been playing soccer since he was young, but has never played in an official game. He knows how to play soccer, but doesn’t understand all the rules (my husband and I didn’t play soccer growing up ourselves, so we’re not much help here either, unfortunately). My son was reluctant to go to the first team practice. “I don’t want to go, I don’t want to play soccer,” he said. We reminded him that he was committed, we had already paid for him to play when he said he wanted to sign up. We inquired further, “What’s really going on? You love soccer, and have many friends that are on the team. Are you nervous? If so, that’s normal. Most people get nervous when they are trying new things.” You could tell he was thinking about what we were saying. I added, “The coach’s job is to teach you. He’ll help you learn the rules of the game.” My son seemed to find some comfort in this. I finished with “You might even have fun.” He still was nervous about playing, but was becoming curious about whether he might be able to play on the team, and enjoy it.

As he and my husband left the house to walk down to the field I felt for him. I know that nervous feeling, that uncertainty that comes with trying something new. I knew he would be fine, but hated that he had to experience it. No parent wants to see their child suffer. Yet, I knew he’d grow from it, and gain confidence in the simple act of showing up and trying. My husband said about ten minutes into practice our son was all smiles and his worries seemed a distant memory. It was comforting to hear.

How do you experience trying new things? How do you encourage your child to try something new?