BENGALURU: “I’ve changed my mind,” I yelped “I don’t want to do this anymore.” My mother tried to soothe me, but I wasn’t in much of a mood to listen and kept insisting that I wanted to go back home. I was on my way to the hospital to have my first baby. I was scared.
I have a great many phobias: heights, small spaces, long flights, tripping over something and breaking all my teeth. Phobias that hurried words alone cannot alleviate. Yet, I am always telling my children, “Don’t be scared. You can do it.” or worse, “You’re being silly. Go on and try.”
Being a parent has forced me to confront my fears: pushing a baby out of me, failure, losing control. When I realised I had no right to tell my children to get over their fears when I was making little effort to confront my own, I decided to try and change that.
I am petrified of insects, but my older son loves them. I have learned not to flinch or scream when I see a six-legged creature, but hunker down with him to get a better look at a preying mantis or spider. Now, my skin no longer crawls at the sight of a slug, and it’s something we both love to do: find insects and look at them.
My fear of heights is legendary. I hate going to the top of monuments to look at panoramic city views. My stomach feels like it’s going into free fall and I am convinced that the foundations and walls will crumble and we will all soon be dead.
But when my son wanted to go on a ridiculously high water slide, but was hesitant and a little afraid, I volunteered to go too. It wasn’t fun being at the top of a 60ft high, almost vertical free fall drop. And I won’t lie, I held on a good few minutes more than I was meant to before the attendant gently prodded me to let go. But the adrenaline rush we both felt was worth it.
Over the weekend, we took the boys and their cousins indoor climbing. We’ve been many times before and, I am always chastising the kids for giving up halfway up a climb and saying unhelpful things like “Hey! Try again. It’s not hard.” I realised I had no idea how easy or hard it was since I had never done it myself. It was hard people.
There was one particular climb called ‘Stairyway to Heaven’ (maybe they should rethink the name) that my older son is always hesitant to complete. I could finally see why. I told myself after a somewhat humiliating 35 minutes of climbing that I would never again tell the kids: “Why are you scared? Just do it” again. So the next time your child doesn’t want to get into a swimming pool or is begging you not to let go of the cycle, think of the one thing that makes you scared and how you would want someone to talk to you at that moment.
Also, as all photographic evidence proves my ass looks huge in a harness. That’s a new pathological fear I now have: “Things my butt looks big in.”