Staying Stylish in Suburbia

Be Brave

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Allowing fearlessness to thrive while keeping our kids alive

Do you remember a time when you were fearless? Or maybe you had fears but they were so small that they didn't have the power to hold you back in any way. Whenever I think about that question I remember being somewhere around 11 years old. My family had just been given two horses to keep out in the field in front of our house. Needless to say I was thrilled. What little girl hasn't dreamt of having a horse, right!? The fantasy of riding through a meadow on a friendly steed (or mare as it were), hair streaming behind me like some mythical maiden. Magic! The only problem was that the horses we had been given weren't exactly well trained. One of them had never been ridden before and the other one was less than reliable. That wasn't going to stop me though. My sense of adventure and excitement overrode all other emotions or common sense. I didn't even wait for adult supervision. I had ridden ponies at summer camp before. How different could it be to ride a slightly larger less broken in version of the same? Never mind that we didn't even have a saddle or any reins. I made due with my jump rope, attaching it to either side of the halter and hoisting myself up to ride bare back.

In hindsight it sounds like a very foolish plan. But was it foolish or just plain brave?! If you think about it doesn't bravery usually contain a good dose innocence, ignorance or just plain stupidity. By that I mean that you have to allow for a little thoughtlessness in order to try something that if over-thought would be far too terrifying to attempt.

The crazy thing is that, that first ride I had by myself was FANTASTIC! Nothing went wrong and I had a blast living out my little girl dreams as we galloped around the field. It wasn't until later when I heard other people's reactions to what I had done and witnessed one of the horses bucking someone else off that my unwavering bravery began to wane.

Unfortunately that sense of self doubt only grew and by the time I was a teenager I was too intimidated  to ride alone and eventually quit riding all together. It was also around that time that I became too fearful to raise my hand in math class. There have been studies about this of course. Why so many girls in particular begin to loose their self confidence at a certain age. None of the boys in my pre-algebra class seemed ashamed to raise their hands and give a wrong answer. They weren't over thinking things whereas I had begun to do just that, especially having been told over and over again that math wasn't my thing. I can see now that the boys participation in class was just another form of foolish bravery. It gave them an edge in the learning process though. At least they were engaged whereas I had checked out.

Now as I watch my own daughter, who is so full of innocent spunk, attempting to do fool hearty things like swimming off into the deep end of the pool even though she doesn't know how to swim. I find myself both terrified and in awe of her bravery. The kid has no fear and it's my job to keep her from harm while allowing her to retain that fierce little spirit. My husband and I talk about that a lot. The balance between protecting her without holding her back. I don't want to be one of those "American Idol" parents that fills my child up with false hope about a talent that doesn't exist. That only sets her up for another form of heart ache. On the other hand I don't want to ever give her an excuse to give up on something just because it might be hard or scary at first. Some kids are born timid but she wasn't and I see that as a gift. Keeping that courageous confidence alive is so important even if it leads to recklessness from time to time. If fear is the thief of dreams then my hope for my daughter is that she will continue to laugh in the face of self doubt, running towards the deep waters with wild abandon.

What do you think? How can we as parents strike that balance between allowing the spirit of bold bravery to thrive while also keeping our kids practical and alive???


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