25 Apr, 2014
The things that scare us
Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life
Every month I drive to my mom’s place to take her to the eye doctor. It’s a daylong event that includes a 3 hour drive in each direction.
A few weeks ago we were having an issue with one of the tires on the family car. It had a very slow leak. We’d fill it up, and 4-5 days later the “tire alert” light would go off on the dashboard. And then we’d do fill it up again. We didn’t get it fixed right away because we were due to have the winter tires taken off the car anyway and wanted to save ourselves the cost. So we drove around with this slow leak.
It important to note that whenever the tire needed inflating, Mark did it.
I was en route to my mom’s place a couple weeks ago – a serpentine two lane highway that is frequented by monster 18-wheelers – when the light went off, alerting me to the tire issue again. Bad timing. I was tempted to ignore it but I knew that would have been a stupid move. So I took the nearest exit and pulled into a gas station. That’s when I realized I’d never put air in the tires before. I was a little scared. (I know. Ridiculous.) I didn’t know how to do it, and I was worried about blowing up the tire – actually BLOWING it up, like KABOOM.
I had to go into the gas station to get change (did you know air costs a DOLLAR?) and I was *this close* to asking the man behind the counter to help me with the tire. The words were on the tip of my tongue, but as I waited in line I chastised myself.
“SELF,” I said. “If you can’t do this, you suck.”
And then I remembered that I once promised myself that I wouldn’t let fear make my decisions on my behalf.
With change in hand, I walked out, and figured out how to do it (with a bit of prompting from Mark). I filled up the tire without anything exploding, and I even remembered to go back to the gas station for the little screw top cover for the nozzle on the tire. (HA.) As I pulled away and got back on the road I felt a little surge of triumph. VICTORY. And I did it myself.
Growing up is a funny thing. When you’re small, you have your parents around to show you how to do things and you trust that they’ll be there to lend you a hand and keep you safe, whether you’re learning how to swim, ride a bike, walk to school alone, or climb a ladder at the playground for the first time.
There’s a certain amount of daring that comes with being a child of a certain age, isn’t there? Kids have to continuously learn new skills as they grow older and develop and are able to physically do new things. It’s scary to climb that ladder and go down the slide at the playground, but it eventually becomes a little easier to climb and hurl yourself down the slide. You trust it will be ok in the end, and there’s a feeling of power that comes with that.
Scary things are scary because there’s an inherent lack of control over the outcome. A new experience – such as sliding down a playground slide – can end with a nasty surprise. BUT, our parents show us that if we do things in a certain way we can learn to control these situations a little bit and make them less scary.
And then we grow up. We master our arms and legs and improve our gross motor skills, and most ordinary things become less scary. We master our environment and become adept at controlling the outcome, or at least, predicting the outcome.
What happens as we grow up is that we fall into routines and don’t come across that many scary things on a regular basis. I wonder what does to our development and mental health.
There may not be playground ladders to conquer in adulthood, but there certainly are other scary things, big and small, whether it comes in the form of roller coasters, power point presentations, or asking your boss for a raise.
I’m no child development expert, but it seems clear enough to me. If we quietly help our children challenge themselves and conquer scary situations when they are young, they will be better equipped to deal with those roller coasters, underinflated tires, and meetings with their bosses later on in life, don’t you think?
If I can impart some wisdom to my children I would like them to know that when we challenge our fears, we grow as a person. We become better people when we challenge ourselves to do something scary: whether it’s inflating a soft tire or throwing ourselves down that metaphorical slide.
When’s the last time you did something scary? And how did you fare? Did it end badly? I bet it didn’t.