I look at my children, and I see myself in them.
I see my nose, my eyes, my freckle patterns. There’s my analytic deconstruction. There’s my dry sense of humor.
And then I see it, and I hate to see it: There’s my fear.
Few things are worse for a parent than watching your children deal with their fear.
In one case, the fear kept one of my daughters up most of the night. She was worried about how she’d perform in her school’s spelling bee, which she earned a spot in each of the last three years. Each year, she’s been up most of the night before, worrying and crying.
What’s she worried about? She fears looking stupid.
“Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are our own fears,” Rudyard Kipling once wrote.
I remember those days, thinking the whole world is judging your every move. You set up impossibly high standards for yourself, and all you can do is fail.
Life became so much easier when I stopped fearing what I couldn’t control. Take me or leave me, that’s your choice, and I have no control over that.
I see the fear in another daughter when it comes to playing basketball. She’s rather tall for her age, and she’s talented on the court. She plays some of the most tenacious defense of anyone I’ve ever seen.
Yet she’ll get herself all worked up over another team’s “tall girl.” In her mind, that other girl towers over her, when in most cases it’s a draw or she has the advantage.
“Preparation is the enemy of fear,” the British Army once promoted.
She has the information and ability to be ready for any opponent, once she gets her own worries out of her head. We work with her to see how everything she’s learned can help her minimize someone else’s advantage.
Fear is a powerful motivator, capable of stopping us from pursuing things we know are good in our life. Leaving it unchallenged just continues the status quo, though.
There’s a picture in our kitchen with a hot air balloon painted on it with these words: “What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?”
My one daughter overcame her fear, eventually falling asleep and participating in that spelling bee. She didn’t win it, but she lasted longer than many people in it did. In hindsight, she acknowledges it wasn’t that scary standing in front of a group, spelling words she knows.
In the other daughter’s game, the girl she feared turned out to be human after all. She played good defense and made some stops. She admitted after the game she felt better than most weeks because she felt confidence in herself.
Few things are better for a parent than watching your children overcome their fear.