What my daughter taught me about courage

Three months ago, Sofia and I were walking through the park after a run, when a family passed us on their bikes. The youngest child looked to be around Sofia’s age, and was pedaling as fast as his training wheels allowed.

“Sofia, you haven’t been on your bicycle in a while. You should go on it,” I said.

“But, Mommy, you remember, last time I fell and I hurt my cheek and I cried. I don’t want to fall again.”

That incident happened last fall, and Sofia had adamantly refused to to get on her bike since then. No amount of coaxing, prodding, or bribery would make her change her mind. I felt horrible. The last thing I wanted was to have her miss out on the fun of bike riding (like me—again, long story) because she was afraid.

I don’t like to think of myself as a fearful person. Like everyone else, I’d like to believe that I have a reasonable amount of risk-taking and chutzpah in me. Some will remind me that it takes a bit of courage to go to college on the other side of the country, an go to the Big Apple to live and work. Then to move across the country to a city you’ve never been to before—kind of risky, now that I look back on it. But, back then, it was just me. Plucking up the courage to do things was easier when I had to just think about myself. Now, as a mother of two, I’ve felt a different level of anxiety and worry—not just in regard to my family, but other parts of my life as well.

About a month ago, I asked Sofia whether she would try getting on her bike again. She looked at me, somewhat tearfully, but agreed to take ten pedals as long as we stayed on the sidewalk. We were on her bike for all of a minute before she insisted on getting out and going back inside. Then, the next week, on an unexpectedly cool day, I asked her if she wanted to go for twenty pedals. Lo and behold, she surprised me by saying she wanted to go all the way to the park to play. She not only pedaled there all by herself, but sped down the sidewalk like a little racer!

As I approach the end of my “maternity leave” to start something new, I have to keep in mind what my little one taught me about finding the courage to work through fear:

Objects in the mirror appear larger

Oftentimes we play back the incident that led to our fear or unease, and with each replay it gets bigger and more insurmountable. We psych ourselves out. Sometimes you need to take a breath and regain perspective.

It’s okay to admit you’re afraid

Fear has a tendency to isolate us. We worry that others will think less of us if we voice our anxiety, so we keep it to ourselves. Telling someone what makes you fearful can make you realize you’re not the only one, you’re not crazy, and you can be bigger than it.

Find your cheerleaders

Asking for help and support never hurts. To get to the park, we have to go through a few dips in the sidewalk where neighbors’ driveways start. The slight angle was what caused Sofia to take her tumble. She asked me to put a hand on the handlebar whenever we encountered a dip, and though I barely put any weight behind it, the extra feeling of security gave her the confidence to keep going.

It takes as long as it takes

I always say that my little girl does things in her own time; it’s no use trying to hurry her into doing something. I wonder if we should be as forgiving of ourselves. Sometimes we just aren’t ready. Sometimes we need to just do those ten pedals before calling it a day. Then, suddenly, we find that boost of courage we’ve been waiting for to just do it and break through.

One of the many joys of being a mom is having the chance to re-learn things as your children grow, and perhaps change yourself for the better. While I’m definitely nervous about next week, I’m confident that I’ve done all I can to prepare and I’m ready to continue to show my daughter what a working mom can be.

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