fear vs. joy

There is so much to be scared about as a parent. It would be easy to spend all day being scared, nervous, and frightened.
Of illnesses.
Of accidents.
Of strangers.
Of fire, disaster, war, flooding, or earthquakes.
Of burns on the stove, bumps to the head, fevers, colds, and chemicals.

Certainly, parenthood has turned me into even more of a worrier. Part of mom-brain is the ability to envision the worst case scenario – of every scenario, constantly.

Still I’ve tried, despite the danger lurking around every corner, to parent without fear.

My daughter is trusting and open, joyful, spirited, friendly and loving.

And while I would give my life to protect her, I refuse to hold any of her light back because of my own fears. I suspect that for the rest of my life I’ll hide my fears from her (most of the time) – just as my own parents did with me.

My goal is to parent with joy. By no means do I get this right all of the time – I find it hard to be joyful when I have to fight to get Evy into her carseat, which as of yesterday she has decided is the devil. There are plenty of moments when joy gets lost. But many challenging parenting moments get easier when I remind myself to find the joy. We sing and dance through making dinner. I slow down, find patience, and let her help me whenever possible. We laugh and make faces at lunch. Mostly, I try to be more like her.

There’s a line in Rent: “Why choose fear?”
It’s a choice, every time.

Everywhere we look, there are things to be fearful about, whether we are parents or not. We can make wise choices, do the best we know how to do, and then try to let go of the worry. Get out of the house. Scrape our knees, get our hands dirty, and learn how to get back up.

Holding back fear will get harder as she gets older, ventures further from me, and tests her independence. I want to keep her safe, but I don’t want to keep her sheltered. I want her to share her joy, explore the world around her, be confident in her abilities, and learn what she’s capable of.

Am I going to be freaking out inside a little bit the first time Evy climbs a tree? Probably. But I spent my childhood climbing trees. I fell out of a couple, resulting in a scraped nose, a bloody lip or two, and plenty of bruises. But those trees are a part of me. If I close my eyes I can feel the bark against my palms, I can smell the leaves, those days spent sitting in branches are in my soul. I want that for my daughter.

For now I’ll focus on taking deep breaths and letting her go when she ventures down the big slide at the playground or picks her way up and over rocks along a trail. Someday I’ll be trying to keep myself calm  as I watch her climb a tree, walk on stage or try out for the swim team, learn to drive, and take the car out on her own. Can I parent without fear the whole way through? No way – but I can do my best to teach a bit of healthy fear while making sure we embrace life with joy.

Some outside resources on the benefits of risk and challenge in childhood:

  • Tim Gill, “Putting risk in perspective” – Of course, it is absolutely right to be concerned about children’s safety. But this concern has to be tempered by a recognition that exploration, adventure and uncertainty are at the heart of the process by which children get to grips with the objects, people and places around them.”
  • Last Child in the Woods is a great book about getting kids back into nature and away from technology and ultra-managed environments.



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2 responses to “fear vs. joy

  1. Very thoughtful and beautiful post. I love that you are very aware of trying to manage that fear with her need for experience. When you see her climb her first tree keep reminding yourself of your wonderful memories… and that kids are bouncy for a reason. ; )

  2. Mehna

    Beautifully written! I am just starting on this great adventure called parenthood, but I hope that I too can parent with joy. My parents were really good about keeping most of their fears to themselves and letting us explore the world fully. I hope I can emulate them!

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