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What My Kids Teach Me To Do When I Am Scared

Watching my son sail off into the sunset on his skateboard, I am reminded of not only his first introduction to the art of shredding but also prompted to look deeper at the way in which I approach fear.

My son first picked up a skateboard around the age of three, or maybe younger, after getting mesmerized by his friend and neighbor deftly maneuvering his own board repeatedly up and down our street.  You can see the two of them, years later, in this video during their excursion to the skate park.  Hearing the wheels on the pavement and sensing my son’s curiosity pique to the point of no return, I felt my own fear expand.  He’s too young.  He’s going to kill himself.  I’m crazy to let him do this.  How will I ever explain the ER visit to his grandparents?  Instead of riding my thoughts, I came back to my son’s exploration.  I owe part of this ability to leave my panic curbside to my good friend, Rachel, the mother of my son’s friend, who regularly inspires me by giving her campers room to grow at their own pace.  Motivated by a mix of intrigue and concern I’d appear tight, I let my son try it.

He loved it.  Again, I surprised myself by running out to buy a skateboard.  The board sat unused in the garage for about two years.  Each time I saw the board I judged myself for the purchase and I judged him for acting in a way that I decided was fickle.  What am I gonna do with this thing now?  Why’d I have to pretend I was fun?   In an effort to put it to use, I became the type of parent I hate.  We’d set out for family strolls, and when my son would ask if he could bring his bike, I’d suggest in my forced-faux-inquisitive-fooling-no-one-voice, “Why don’t you give the old skateboard a try?”  My attempts at pushing garnered me a repeated, “Nah,” from my son.

I called on the advice of Dr. Jeri Quirk, psychologist and educator, who reminds me, “Children have an innate sense of what they are and aren’t able to do, if we simply give them the space to explore.”  In Jersey terminology: back away from the board, mamma.  So I did.  I accepted the board for what it was, and indoctrinated it into the annals of items in our garage that would one day find a home in the home of another.

Then, one day, the board, my son’s interest, and my own perspective were swept up by the winds of change.  Preparing our dogs for a walk, I heard my son rifling around in the garage.  Moments later, he appeared, board-in-hand, ready for the family walk.  I said nothing.  Moments later, without any instruction, dude was on top of the deck, riding down the street.  Seeing this, something inside of me shifted.   I started to think about fear, and how it can either ride us, burrowing us deeper down into the depths of our can’t-do mindset, or we can harness it, as meditation teachers  Trungpa Rinpoche and Pema Chodron recommend, and, like my son and daughter teach me every day, use its energy to live our dreams. 

Watching my son lightly glide across the black top, like he does in the video on the link, I was inspired to face my own fear of the board – one I had harbored since grade school.  I thought of the one and only time I had tried a friend’s skateboard, an experience that was short-lived and culminated in me lying flat on my back on the ground and swearing off any future board interactions.  Looking at my son living his freedom, and feeling my deep longing to try to do the same, I felt that familiar sensation of fear surging through my body.  It made my skin crimson and hit my stomach like an ocean wave.  I paused, picturing myself falling almost thirty years ago. 

I knew intimately what it felt like to ride this memory, but I wanted to know what it felt like to ride the board.  So I ignored my terror of ending up in body cast, stepped on the board, and sailed screaming and laughing down the street.  “Sick, Mom!” I heard my son say in the distance, watching me take flight.  We smiled at each other, stoked.  ~Karma Mamma

This is an accompaniment to a video on my blog. You can view it here.

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