As we pulled up the to the pediatrician’s office, I could sense my six year old’s fear. He shivered in his booster seat like a puppy headed to the vet. And it wasn’t because he was cold, since the first week of October in Alabama felt like August anywhere else. He was afraid to have his blood pressure taken.
“Mama, what does blood pressure have to do with my allergies anyway?” I told him I didn’t know, which was true. He posed a very good question. Still, I was confident that the allergy doctor knew much more about his vitals than I did.
I assured him it would be over in a minute and bribed him with the promise of ice cream if he didn’t spaz out when the nurse cuffed his arm. He liked that deal and promised to be brave. And he was brave.
Wow! Turning six must have been a major turning point for him. Only a few months before he put on such a performance at swimming lessons that I wondered if he would do better in drama lessons. On second thought, drama would be a waste of money since he was such a natural.
Similar to the blood pressure battle, I had told my son that the last day of swimming lessons would culminate in jumping off the diving board. I usually err on the side of warning my kids beforehand when I know something might cause them to freak out. But boy, did I regret that warning.
Every day leading up to the last day I could sense a subtle fear in him. Even as he mastered swimming across the pool and finding rings at the bottom, he would casually glance at the diving board and cringe a little more each time. Then, on the way home, I would get tons of questions about the diving board, along with excuses as to why he shouldn’t attend the final day of class.
Friday came soon enough, which meant it was time for him to face his fear. He was uncharacteristically quiet on the ride there, but I could see tears welling up in his eyes. I looked in the rearview mirror and his sad baby blues met my tired brow. Once he saw my face, he started crying so hard that I decided to pull over and try to calm him down so that we wouldn’t show up looking like a basket case. (Even though baskets can float, I decided he would be better off at least looking brave.)
“Mama, you don’t understand. Grownups are never scared.” There it was. His usual excuse of how grownups don’t understand. I had assumed this rebuttal would come in his teen years, but this kid beat me to the punch by about a decade.
“Yeah, Lane, I do.” I was almost as shocked as he was to hear that come from my mouth. I knew my fears but I didn’t like to admit them. Not one to show my feelings (or weaknesses) I choose to not focus on things that bother me. I have always been good at taking chances, so everyone around me assumed I was fearless.
Truth be told, I was afraid.
Parked in a ditch, I began my own therapy session by telling my son all the things that scared me. Sometimes I worried about money, and other times I worried about juggling family, church, friends and work. And all the time I worried about being a “good enough” parent to his sister and him. Most recently, I worried that when I finish the novel I’m writing nobody will want to read it—or even publish it.
I ended by telling him that the only thing keeping me from living in total fear and the only thing that pushes me to try is my faith.
See, that’s the cool thing about faith. We don’t have to put faith in ourselves, only in the One who made us. If I tried to do anything without God, then I would fail. But when I put faith in His strength, then fear suddenly subsides. Now that’s something worth celebrating with ice cream.