My Kids Turned Me Into A Coward
"It's okay, you take the big kids on the water slide, and I'll stay here with the babies." I wanted to go down the waterslide too, but I knew I wouldn't enjoy it as much as my husband would. If I was perfectly honest, thrill rides had always scared me a little. So, if one of us needed to miss out, I could spare myself the effort of working up the courage.
And so, that day, as I splashed in the kiddie pool, my world became a little smaller. It hardly mattered, that one moment of side-stepping a chance to be bold.
Except it didn't end with water slides. I stopped riding roller coasters. Someone had to stay with the children. I quit skiing. I stopped riding go-karts. I didn't venture into the deep end of swimming pools. I never felt sure enough that I could support the child clinging to my neck at those depths.
I used to like taking risks: facing my fear, taking a deep breath, and going for it. But raising five children shifted my priorities. If someone had to go without dessert, or put off a haircut, or stay home with sleeping children. I always volunteered. It's what mom's do. It's not a big deal.
Until, you wake up one day and realize that in addition to nobly denying yourself little things to better serve your children, you've let a piece of yourself die. You haven't done anything that scares you in a decade. Moms are fantastic at sacrifice, but traditionally pretty crummy at risk-taking.
I could tell I was becoming a bit of a coward little by little. I didn't love it, but life was too busy with potty training and carpool to plan any "get out and try something terrifying time."
The good news is that even though kids make our lives smaller for a while, they also expand our world. A day comes when they grow up enough to want us to take risks with them. The same mothering spirit that tells our children, "Go ahead and have the last slice of pie, I had plenty" will kick in at just the right moment, and we will hide our nerves and inspire our children to be fearless. We will take risks we never imagined because our children are young, wild, and free, and they want to be wild with us.
Last week, I drove go-carts again; it had probably been over ten years. I'm not going to lie. I feel embarrassed by just how much they frightened me. What if I take a turn too fast and we spin out? What if someone runs into our cart and the impact tweaks my neck? I'm probably too old for this kind of nonsense.
But my eight-year-old son sat next to me, strapped in tight, begging me to go fast. So, I smiled at him and hit the gas. We passed someone on the track. My fear dissipated. The thrill returned, and my world expanded just a little.
So, if you are walking the shallow end of the pool this summer with a baby on each hip, remember that a day is coming when those same sweet babies may ask you to get a tattoo with them or skydive, or backpack across Europe. Right now, it seems like something you'd never do, but all these years of practicing putting your desires on the backburner will come in handy when it's time for you to resist your reasonable desires for stability and safety. You will step up to the edge, thankful they can't hear your pounding heart. You will plaster a smile on your face. And you will take the plunge with them.
Amy Noel Green is a conference and keynote speaker. She is a writer and game designer who has received international press attention for her work on the video game about her son Joel, That Dragon, Cancer.