This post was originally published on the Huffington Post at http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/../../sarah-pool/my-fearsnot-hers_b_10121236.html
The other day I took my daughter to feed the ducks. I say ducks, but really they were swans, big, hungry, strong-looking swans. My daughter is tiny, the swans were bigger than her. But there she stood all 22 months of her, tossing bread off of this little platform toward the water, well it was a mouthful for her, mouthful for the swan. As I watched her you couldn’t help but notice her little arms didn’t have much range and getting the bread into the water required her to be very close to the edge of the platform and said group of swans.
As she took her time to toss the bread and eat pieces herself all I could picture was a hungry impatient swan propelling itself toward her to retrieve the bread for himself. I found myself in a Mexican stand-off with a swan. I wanted to pull her back and away from the swan, but I didn’t want her to be scared of the swan, which I clearly was. I didn’t want her to sense the fear I had and adopt it as her own.
Then there was the dog that came running toward her to jump up at her. I immediately yanked her up into my arms so she would be safe, but at what cost? The dog was friendly, he wasn’t coming to hurt or scare her but you wouldn’t have known that by my overreaction. Am I already instilling in her the fear of unknown dogs I have? And do not get me started on bees, they turn me into a deranged seal flapping about in a panic.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not a total wuss I am just not great with animals. But I don’t want this for my children. I don’t want them to tense up passing a dog, or jump up and run a mile when they see a bee. I don’t want them to be scared of anything. Fear can be crippling. It can dictate your life, where you holiday, whether you splash about in the pool on your summer holiday, or climb to the top of the Empire State or Blackpool tower and gaze over the edge. It is not surprising that I, or any of us for that matter, don’t want our fears and anxieties to be passed onto our little ones. Did you know the only fear we are born with is heights? No me neither. All our other fears are adopted as we navigate through life and seeing as those little minds can be so influential it is not really surprising. But how can I avoid this? How can I avoid my children inheriting my fears?
So what to do? What about the ‘do as I say and not as I do approach?’ I have tried this line of parenting and short of hiding in the cupboard eating a biscuit, it does not work, and why should it? If my not yet two-year old can see through it I don’t hold out much hope. Then I thought, or rather feared, that actually if I want to show my children there is nothing to be afraid of then perhaps I need to do just that. Perhaps I need to grow a pair and I need to show them. I realise that this is easy to say from behind my keyboard and should a swarm of bees come rampaging though the door I would want to hit the deck and cry but it’s got to be worth a try? Ironic really because it has been becoming a parent that has made me so acutely aware of all the dangers our day to day has to offer.
I don’t suppose it will be that easy, after nearly 30 years of avoiding the biggest dogs in the park it’s hard to envisage that one day I will happily let an Alsatian jump up on me and I’ll pet it’s ferocious looking snout. One thing I do know though, I will do give it my all, I will stand there and face my fear. If I falter? Well I have shown my children that I have put myself out of my comfort zone and faced a fear and that has got to be worth something right? So I am off to dust off my superwoman coat, clamber down from my perch and go feed the swans, wish me luck.