We find ourselves in the very frigid Midwest visiting our families in the small towns where my husband and I grew up. We try to avoid traveling “home” during the cold winter months, but with a family wedding this weekend, it was unavoidable. I’ll admit, it was kind of novel getting off the plane to the well-below-freezing temperature. The air felt crisp, a refreshing briskness. But prolonged exposure was less stimulating, more numbing.
In Illinois’s defense, it’s been unusually chilly, and we were actually hoping the temperatures would persist to preserve the recent snowfall. Eddie has been excitedly anticipating playing in the snow. Poor California baby, took a tumble the first day and was shocked by the wet, ice-cold snow on his hands. He surprisingly lasted quite a lot longer than I predicted he would once bundled up and out in the snow!
I grew up across the street from a large parking lot which made snow play absolutely magical. Once the snow plows cleared the area, my brothers and I and usually my Dad, would take shovels and sleds across the street to the huge mountains left in the once-grassy open space beside the parking lot. A snow fort/cave was always constructed. Looking back, I can’t say I did much to help build said structures. I do remember my Dad and older brother inside a large cave, digging into the snow mound and filling a plastic sled with snow, which I would then pull outside and down the hill to empty, over and over again. More clear in my memory are the many hours spent playing with neighbors in and around the snow caves!
Just like in my childhood, the very first frigid day of our visit, my Dad and brother set to work digging an opening in the mountain of snow. Eddie tooled around, looking very much like an astronaut in all his snow gear. While I headed back indoors with the very upset baby brother (though his initial interest in the new snow-covered experience was positive, he soon burst into tears as he tried in vain the brush the cold off himself!), Eddie was having a blast smashing snow balls with his booted feet and awkwardly waddling around the huge mountain of snow. Even after he got too cold and came in, my Dad and brother persevered to construct a large snow cave at the base of a tunnel snow slide perfect for a sled.
True to form, Eddie’s cautious nature prompted objections when Grandma and Grandpa took him out a little later to try the snow slide. They had to ignore his squeals of protest and quickly plop him on the sled and send it down the hill. “But I don’t like snow!” By the second run he reported, “Well…I kinda like it.” After his third sled ride he was squealing with glee and definitely wanted to go again!
Story of my life. I’m more than a little adventure-adverse, and often have to do a lot of self-talk and convincing before I’ll try something new and uncomfortable. I must have passed that on, whether via nature or nurture. The thing is, as I see it in my little boy, I often find it exhausting to need to convince him to attempt some new experience, even something I know will be wonderful like sledding (or ice cream, or summer camp, or play dough, or playing with a new friend). While I can empathize with his hesitancy, from my perspective it’s easy to see he’ll love it once he tries it!
And I’m more than a little embarrassed to see my own weakness in a new light. How many new things do I avoid doing or unduly stress about when, once I put myself out there, I actually enjoy myself (or at least see more benefits than first met the eye)? In order to teach Eddie the importance of pushing through and discovering something wonderful and worthwhile, I need to lead by example.
The thing is, by just forcing myself to try new things, I’m not really teaching him anything. Not unless I let him into the process, show him that I’m nervous and cautious, and maybe even afraid, but I’m going to work up the gumption, take a deep breath, and leap off that high dive! (So to speak. Or maybe for real.)
I can honestly say, looking back, I’m grateful for the times someone’s plopped me on the sled and shoved me down the hill, figuratively speaking. Some of my greatest life experience’s have been things I was too afraid to try at first! Mark Twain said, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” If we wait till we’re not afraid, we may never do it. Really, Eddie and I, and all those naturally cautious people out there, we have a gift, but if we’re not careful, it’ll also be a curse. Being aware of danger is good. Being crippled by unknown: not so good.
Here’s my goal:
- Teach awareness. Weighing the dangers is a good thing, and so is noticing when I’m motivated by avoiding what feels uncomfortable! Help Eddie call out what he’s afraid of, name it, notice when it’s keeping him from doing something.
- Teach ardor. Be enthusiastic! But understanding. Positive and encouraging! But sympathetic to hesitancy.
- Teach action. Ultimately, sometimes you just have to push through the doubts and discomfort and go for it. It’s hard! And that’s why number two is so important. The step of faith is made easier for my little guy and his limited perspective when I give a pep talk not a lecture.
It’s worth overcoming a little trepidation to experience exhilaration. Especially when we’re talking about sledding.