Monday, February 14, 2011

The Magic In Boldness

When our daughter Josephine was a preschooler, we took her cross country skiing. She enjoyed it until she got to the first, very slight, slope. The moment gravity took charge of her, she froze-up, burst into tears and was done for the day. No matter how much we cajoled, that was it, she was done, and given that she's now 14 and still has absolutely no desire to hit the slopes, it appears she may be done forever.

It's intimidating to arrive at this familiar place to find strange 
equipment and strange people behind this door through which I
normally barge.

She never cared much for her trike and as excited as she was for her first bicycle, she had a similar response, although she can now ride one, albeit not gladly. Skating, sledding, roller coasters, anything that makes her feel in any way physically out of control sent her into a panic as a young child. I was never exactly a daredevil myself, but as a parent it used to alternatively drive me crazy and worry me. Why isn't she braver? She's going to have to face her fears some day? Am I doing something as a parent to cause this?

Even though I was told it was picture day and I'm even
dressed for the occasion, this is not what I bargained for.

Parenting is a skinny limb sometimes and we all find ourselves out there alone, especially when it seems that no one else has our "problem." As I shared my concerns about her courage with others, they would either give a "so what?" shrug, or let me know how lucky I was to not have a kid who was forever throwing herself down hills or climbing onto roofs. But, as Goethe wrote, "There is magic in boldness," and I wanted my child to have access to that.

Those guys are big and those lights are bright. Doesn't anyone else see what's going
on here?

New parents are idiots, of course, we all know that. My daughter now regularly acts, sings, plays her guitar, and speaks in front of audiences, demonstrations of bravery that far surpass anything I displayed as a teenager. As she said to me when she was about 8, when I was losing my patience with her reluctance to just "let go" and ride her bike, "I'm brave about other things, Papa, just not this."

Mom's assuring me though, and of course I trust her implicitly.
If she wants me to sit on this box and smile, maybe I can
do it.

I realize now that I shouldn't have been worried about my daughter's fears, we all have them, most of them unreasonable and overblown. Most of them, most of the time, can be avoided, but there come times when we need to face our fears, be bold, and learn to overcome them. Josephine finally did that with her bicycle. She can ride it, but just as people who fear audiences can pull themselves together to give a speech, she'll likely never ride her bike gladly, although it's nice to know she can if she must. And that's okay. The important thing is that she knows she can do it, and that's where the magic comes in.

Hey look at this! I've faced my fear. I might not ever gladly pose for photos,
but at least now I know I can do it, and that's the important thing!

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Play for Life said...

So many people give up just when they're about to achieve success. If we could see what lay on the other side of the mountain our ascent would be so much swifter but just like Josephine and the boy in your photos we get there in the end ... I guess all great achievements require time.
Donna :) :)

rosesmama said...

I also have a girl who is cautious with her body and, having been a daredevil tomboy myself, worried my share. One day I realized that she would one day be an *adolescent who is cautious with her body* and thought that that might be a very good thing after all. My girl is a fearless reader and musician, so she has her own realm of bravery as well, one in which I wish I had half her confidence.

Let the Children Play said...

I've a Josephine at my house, only he is a boy named James. I was an idiot new parent and equally worried about his reluctance to ride his bike, and no interest in skateboards and the like.

At the end of last year I had the pleasure of watching my bold boy give a speech at school with natural ease and finesse that had the audience in genuine hysterics. I can ride a bike, but I can't do that.

Leigh @ Toasted said...

This line is brilliant: Parenting is a skinny limb sometimes and we all find ourselves out there alone, especially when it seems that no one else has our "problem."

I reckon we all know inside what's a challenge worth facing and what just aint that important. I reckon trust our kids' own judgement is a challenge worth facing.

Danielle (JK teacher) in Vancouver said...

I think that I may have found the Goethe quote in more detail and thought I would share as it lends more of the poet's words in support of your blog posting, I think:
"Then indecision brings its own delays,
And days are lost lamenting o'er lost days.
Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute;
What you can do, or dream you can, begin it;
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it."

I also once saw a sign (outside a hardware store, I think) that read: A year from today, you'll wish you started yesterday.

This message has always translated in my mind as "Get going on those things that are stopping you!" and I try to enact this when I am dragging my feet.