“What should we do to help ourselves not be afraid?” I asked Rudy while waiting to get on the “Timber Terror”, Silverwood’s fastest wooden roller coaster.
“Nothing. We should just let ourselves be afraid.”
I looked in the eyes of my sensitive little boy and stood in awe of his wisdom, so far beyond and so deep.
I am an extremely emotional person. My whole life I have been teased for being “too sensitive”, “too nice”, “too dramatic”, “such a baby” and so on and so forth. When we had our boy, I made a promise to never label my son with those phrases. Instead, I have encouraged him to honor his feelings, listen to what they are telling him about his situation and/or surroundings, and follow his heart to his next step. He really responds well to this and it works well in day to day situations like when he tells me, “I just need 4 1/2 minutes of alone time right now.”, or in bigger social situations when he says things like, “There are just too many ‘Hellos’ here. May I leave?”. We have honored him in these feelings, so they don’t seem like enemies. His feelings are part of him, this part of our family. And, as a bonus, when the feelings are ones that can be a bit annoying to grown-ups, (i.e. whining, sassiness, anger, etc.) by letting him live in those moments, he almost always sees how annoying they feel even to him and that guides him out of them much quicker than if we had used trigger phrases like, “Oh, shut up and quit whining!” Or, “What are you so afraid of. Quit being such a baby!”
So, when he suggested we go on this roller coaster, both he and I not loving heights the way we do, and knowing it was the fastest and oldest coaster there, AND, did I mention his FIRST real coaster, I just excitedly agreed and we ran to get in line! He kept looking up as the train went further and further up the track and into the sky, only to plummet down to the ground below, with 30 or so screaming humans on it. His eyes got bigger and he kept holding his belly. “I’m so scared, mom.” “Me too, love. We can turn back anytime.” He just shook his head and pursed his lips together tightly. Ok. We were in it…
The line moved pretty quickly, a good thing too because, as Tom Petty always said, “The waiting is the hardest part.” We had chose to sit in the middle, as it seemed the “safest” part, being all nestled between the front-cart thrill seekers, and the kids in the back cart who just wanted to see if it would jump the track at all. No thank you to either. Right before we got on I was trying to make him laugh to distract him from his true feelings, a tactic I grew up using from both sides of my family. He looked perturbed with me. “I’m just trying to help distract you.” I said. “Well, you don’t need to.” he gently told me. “Well, then what should we do to help ourselves not be afraid?” “Nothing. We should just let ourselves be afraid.” 2 deep breaths later, we were on. I offered my hand, he declined. “I’ll let you know if I need it.” (Every mother’s favorite moment, by the way…hoping you could hear my deep sarcasm) and, up we went. The first drop, his little arm wove into mime and we were a locked unit of terror and laughter and unbridled joy, the kind that can only be truly felt when you’ve sat with your fear, acknowledging it’s purpose within you, then let it go…all the way down the coaster tracks.