Last week Steve and I took the kids to the amusement park at Circus Circus called the Adventuredome. It was here that I learned a very valuable lesson about how my own fears could hold someone else back.
In the past, our daughter, Emily, would go on all the kiddie rides (she’s 7) and she adored them all. Our son, Kyle (nearly 4), was afraid of most of the rides, including half the kiddie rides, so he just went on a few. But this time, Steve encouraged Kyle to go on more of the kiddie rides, and he loved them! He doubled the number of rides he was willing to go on. He got really scared during the kids roller coaster ride so we knew his limit.
Then there’s Emily. She’s intrepid. She likes to go on the water ride that has a big drop at the end. But that’s as far as she goes into the world of adult rides.
Then there’s me. I get motion sickness pretty easily so I was just tagging along being the pack horse and the soft place to lie on when one of the kids got tired. I didn’t mind as I love being out with my family.
Steve loves thrill rides. So sometimes the kids and I would sit and eat some popcorn while Steve went on one or two of the adult rides. He always asks Emily if she wants to go on them and before she can even reply I always say, “No no! Those are way too intense for her. She’s not going on those until she’s at least 10.” When Steve said, “Let Emily answer” she would look to me, see my worried face, and say, “I’ll go on those when I’m 10, Daddy.” And that would be the end of it. That’s right. I protected my child from having a horrific experience on a ride that was obviously too intense for someone her age.
Such a good mama, right?
I don’t know how it happened, but after another trip around the park, Emily decided she wanted to try a ride that spun you around while also spinning you upside down. 4 degrees of freedom here. Right-left spin, and up-down spin. I nearly lost my own lunch just thinking about what that would do to me. But we weren’t talking about me were we?
Steve was encouraging her and I was adamantly opposed. But Emily decided she wanted to try it and she was technically tall enough, so I reluctantly agreed. As Steve and Emily stood in line I could feel my body chemistry change to worry, fear, and stress. I didn’t want to feel that way because, let’s face it, it feels awful! I’d learned in the past that I could choose my emotions so I decided to practice it at that moment. I had a conversation with my higher self (HS).
Me: She’s going to get sick on that ride.
HS: You don’t know that for sure.
Me: I would if it were me.
HS: It ain’t you now is it?
Me: She’s so little. What if she falls out?
HS: Not likely. She meets the height requirement with 3 inches to spare.
Me: Is she going to be alright?
HS: What’s the worst thing that can happen?
Me: She gets sick.
HS: Is that the end of the world?
Me: I guess not.
HS: Whether she gets sick or not, how do you think you’ll feel about this day 5 years from now?
Me: Probably won’t even remember it 5 years from now.
HS: Tune in to yourself 5 years from now and look back on this day. How do you feel?
Me: I feel fine. Obviously not feeling fear or anxiety for her at that point.
HS: Feel fine now then. Take that future feeling into you right now.
I did. I was suddenly able to shift my perspective and see the coming event as an event that had already passed. It was surreal. But the cortisol left my body and I felt my body chemistry going back to a state of equilibrium. They still weren’t even on the ride. I totally released my fear. It was like blowing it into the wind. I released my attachment to the outcome. I decided not to decide in advance how things were going to turn out. I decided to just let the situation unfold without dragging me along for the ride.
They got on the ride. The ride spun my child in more directions at the same time than she’d ever been spun. I was still okay. They got off the ride and my daughter ran to me with an excited smile on her face and said, “That was awesome! I loved it, Mommy. I wasn’t scared at all!”
Steve confirmed that as soon as they got off the ride she proclaimed she wanted to go on it again. Someone with motion sickness wouldn’t have said that. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. There were still a lot of rides in the park that I thought were too intense for her, but I was glad she had the experience.
Kyle was bored so I decided we would go have some lunch while Steve and Emily went on a few more rides. As Kyle and I were sitting in our booth at the restaurant, Steve called me on his cell phone and said, “We’re in line for the roller coaster.” Holy Crap! Why did you tell me that? I didn’t need to know that. I could have gone to my grave not knowing that! You couldn’t have told me after you got off? My higher self said, “You’re fine. Remember?” I told him to make sure her head didn’t snap forward during one of the upside down turns. He assured me she would be fine.
When Steve and Emily joined us for lunch Emily reported that she had loved the roller coaster and that they had gone on it several times. Several times? Gee. Not only that, they had gone on the inverter, which spins you around and hangs you upside down for several seconds at a time. My 7 year old then proclaimed, “Mommy, you are such a chicken. There is nothing wrong with these rides. Why did you tell me not to go on them?”
And then I realized with a pang of regret that I had allowed my own fears to hold Emily back. Without ever testing her limits I had made rules preventing her from seeing how high she could jump, how far she could go. I crippled her right out of the gate because of my own experiences and my own fears. How often do we do that to our kids thinking we’re protecting them from danger, from having a bad experience?
After lunch we saw some circus acts (very safe) and then Emily wanted to get back into the amusement park. I really wanted to go home. We normally spent 3 hours in the park and we’d already been there 7. Kyle was really bored and so was I. I decided she could go on 2 more rides and then we’d have to call it a day. She cried as we left the park, telling me she hated me because she wanted to stay longer. I didn’t expect her to be crying and hating me. I think she was upset because she’d just tested her wings and I was telling her that flying practice was over.
We got home around 5:30pm. Emily was still upset. Steve said, “Emily, I have a little bit of work to do and we have to have dinner. But if you want, I’ll take you back to the park to go on more rides.” The park didn’t close until midnight. I protested saying she would be way too tired and why bother driving all the way back out there just to go on a couple more rides and drive all the way back home. But Emily was too excited once the offer had been made. She said yes. And I again had to remind myself not to inject my fears onto this child.
Steve and Emily want back to the park around 7:30pm. They didn’t come home until after midnight. Emily went on every ride in the park and wasn’t afraid of a single one. She didn’t get tired. She never got motion sickness. They basically had to kick her out of the park because she didn’t want to leave. On the drive home she said to Steve, “That was the best…day…ever!” And it was. For her.
And in a way it was for me as well. I learned that there is a time to let your kids test their wings. Protecting them from potentially bad experiences may actually prevent them from having empowering experiences.
The next day at school Emily told her friends about her Circus Circus adventure. Even the second graders were impressed that Emily had been on all the adult rides. Their mommies wouldn’t let them go on them. Bad mommies. Emily had street cred the entire day. There was a huge shift in her confidence level. She reminded me of her Daddy, totally fearless and willing to try new things.
The lesson I learned that day was huge. I’ve had to re-evaluate and rethink a lot of rules I’ve made for Emily. My baby is growing up and ready to fly and I almost clipped her wings. Reminds me of my own mom who was afraid of everything and injected the fear into me daily. Maybe I can break the cycle.
Are your fears holding back someone you love?