My family took a trip to the Grand Canyon when my youngest son was three years old. The Grand Canyon is breathtaking! It’s more beautiful and vast than pictures can show. I was taking in the view and quickly became overwhelmed by the BIGness of it all.
The adults on the trip were outnumbered by the children. As we hiked down one of the trails for our first time, we realized how steep the drop is. If you fall over the edge of the trail . . . Well, let’s say that’s not something we want to talk about here.
I began to feel the all too familiar twinges of fear.
The older children were enjoying the hike and admiring the size of the canyon. My three-year-old son was running around like a crazy person (as three year olds do). He was not cautious of the edges or worried about falling. My son was leaping, jumping, skipping, and whatever else his little legs could do.
He had absolutely no fear.
I was terrified.
It’s not that we had not taken precautions. We had purchased a cute little backpack with a leash attached because we knew how he liked to run. But my mind kept thinking of what would happen if he managed to fall over the edge. What if the hook broke, the leash fell off, or the backpack slipped off? There’s no way the little toddler leash would act as a belay! There was nothing for me to do at that moment except listen to my fear.
I carried him right back up the trail to the top and didn’t put him down until we were far enough from the edge that he could not run straight over into the deep Grand Canyon.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I want my children (or anyone, really) to be afraid of everything. For instance, when my oldest son refuses to go into a room because “it’s dark and scary” without attempting to turn on the lights, I have absolutely no patience. However, being afraid can be healthy in some situations.
If fear leads to caution that protects you or someone you love from obvious danger, then fear is doing its job!
When fear is irrational and unconnected to logical or realistic circumstances, then fear is not healthy.
Sometimes, it can be hard to tell the difference between useful fear and irrational fear. There have definitely been times when my fears have helped me be a good mom or a good teacher. There have been other times when I looked like a complete idiot because I acted (or refused to act at all) based on a fear that didn’t make any sense to anyone but me.
In times like that, it’s really great to have someone in your corner, helping you see what’s realistic and what’s just in your head.
Until my little guy grows into his fears (or lets his fear grow into him), I’ll keep working to be in his corner, stopping him from taking those impossible leaps. Someday, he’ll be ready to take those steps (or leaps) on his own.
Originally published May 2021.
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