Facing Fear

While Halloween is this weekend and many are looking to be scared, my youngest was faced with a fear unrelated to ghosts and goblins, but something that had been haunting him for a while — riding a bike on public streets.

My son’s school has teamed up with an organization that has the students ride bikes to a destination within a few miles of the school one day a week. When they reach their destination they do a service project and then bike back to school. It’s been a great activity for the kids. My husband and I were curious how our son was doing. He had had a bad experience at a younger age when he biked on a public road accidentally running his bike into a car (I blogged about it previously). When we asked how biking went he gave short answers, and was vague. We started pressing him for further details and he confessed that he hadn’t been riding bikes with his classmates and had been staying behind at school with the teachers. We asked him why he hadn’t talked about this before, and he shared he had been embarrassed that he couldn’t do it. We talked through options: we could help him practice riding with us at home in our neighborhood to get him more comfortable, he could talk to his teachers about ways to help him get more comfortable. He didn’t take us up on our suggestions. Another week went by, another excuse why he didn’t ride.

The night before our son’s school was due to ride bikes again, my husband and I sat our son down. We stressed the importance of pushing his comfort zone, and his need to have success riding his bike. We told him our expectation was he would ride, and working through his fear was a skill he needed to develop, and that building it now, would help him when he needs to face uncomfortable situations in the future. He agreed he would ride.

I half expected to learn my son didn’t ride his bike again, but was pleasantly surprised when he texted me on his way home from school alerting me that he had ridden with the group the entire time. I was so proud of him, but what made me happiest was seeing how proud my son was of himself. He was glowing. What a wonderful moment to share.

What does your child fear? How are you helping them work through any fears?

How Will You Show Your Patriotism?

The Time magazine cover story this week is How Service Can Save Us. The article addresses the challenges military veterans returning from war have faced, and how working on service projects with other veterans has positively affected them. The article caught my attention because it touched on something that I think is important—service. As a parent I have often struggled with when and how to introduce my children to service projects.

I was raised in a family that taught to be grateful for what you have and give back to others—through your time, talent or service.  Before I had children I envisioned us working on Habitat for Humanity projects and rolling our sleeves up in parks pulling weeds or doing some other form of landscaping even when they were small. I still have that vision, but its been somewhat modified. The reality has been that service oriented activities haven’t made practical sense largely because our children are just now getting to the age where they are physically able to join in, and help out. I realized that if we went on a service project that required any physical effort and focus perhaps our family would better serve the cause by sitting out (or supporting in a different way—donating money or food, etc.). I don’t think the organizers would appreciate us chasing our kids or cajoling them, flowers would have gotten picked than planted in lieu of us doing what we came to do, help. Ultimately my husband and I have delayed this type of service and instead of looked for other ways we can serve our community (through community organizations we believe to, volunteering hours and donating money).

There is something about doing a service project that is very fulfilling, can be very rewarding and very energizing. It feels good to help. It feels good to make a positive impact. It feels good to do hard work and see the end result. While I still think my family may be a few years away from joining a more adult-friendly service project, we are going to start seeking kid-friendly ones out. In the Time magazine article they provide some websites to different service groups for anyone looking to pitch in. One mentioned is ServeNet.org and is described as “dedicated to promoting service among children and teens.” Sounds like a good site for us all to check out.

Patriot is defined by Merriam-Webster as “one who loves his or her country and supports its authority and interests.” As we celebrate our country’s founding this 4th I’m reminded that being a patriot and showing our love for this country includes service, whether you serve in one of our armed forces, or you serve your community where you live. I believe we are not born with patriotism but something we each grow into it.

How will you show your patriotism this year? How will you help your child develop theirs?