I thought we had given fear a swift kick in the rear eight months ago, but it took me all of 3.7 seconds to realize I was wrong.
His voice was quivering; his pedaling was slow; his knuckles were pasty-white; and his excuses were abundant.
“I think it looks like it’s going to rain, Mommy. Let’s just turn around.”
“I think this bike feels too wobbly for me.”
“Let’s just go get my ‘yittle’ bike and ride that one.”
“I don’t think I want to ride this. My legs are feeling too tired.”
My boy was scared and truth be told, I felt annoyed.
Why did he have to fall on that stupid
“hill” curb in July?
Didn’t we can that fear in August when we finally experienced “Peace on the Hills?”
Are we seriously going to have to deal with this bike-riding fear for the rest of his bike-riding days???
I really can’t deal with this; this is bordering on ridiculous!
Attempting to channel my inner counselor, I mustered some empathy within the recesses of my irritated soul and said with an encouraging voice, “Come on, Caden. You can do it, buddy. I know you can!”
Surprisingly, he got back on his bike.
But then we came to a “hill” that looked just like the “hill” he had fallen on in mid-July, and the fear came roaring back.
“I don’t like this!”
“I can’t do this, Mommy!”
“Let’s go back home!”
I wish I could tell you that I, once again, channeled the compassionate counselor, but I didn’t.
I channeled my inner drill sergeant and shouted, “That’s enough, Caden! Get back on your bike right now! Stop your whining and start pedaling.” And then to add a little extra fear (because you know how effective DOUBLE FEAR is), I barked, “It’s going to rain and we’re going to get caught in a thunderstorm if you don’t start pedaling!!”
I promise it was looking slightly ominous.
And yet again to my surprised eyes, he got back on his bike and started pedaling.
As he continued on at a record-slow pace, pedaling like a great grandma and slamming on his brakes every six seconds, I started to feel guilty.
Haven’t I, too, had moments when I have seemingly “conquered” a fear that returned, recycled, or reared its ugly head at a later time?
Fear of Failure 101, 201, 301, 401, 501, 601, 701…
Doctor Phobia 101, 201, 301, 401, 501, 601, 701…
Haven’t I spent years and years and years working through some of the same fears…over and over again?
People-Pleasing 101, 201, 301, 401, 501, 601, 701…
Obsessive Thoughts 101, 201, 301, 401, 501, 601, 701…
I know EXACTLY what it’s like to struggle with fear…and then to conquer it…and then to struggle with it again…and then to conquer it again…and then to struggle with it again…
His fears aren’t my fears, but they are his, and I was being unfair.
“Hey, buddy. I’m sorry that Mommy is being impatient with you. I know that you’re scared, and it’s okay that you’re scared. Sometimes our fears don’t go away right away, and sometimes our fears even come back, but we just have to keep pedaling.”
As I said those last words, it dawned on my insensitive, unaware self that he had been doing exactly that.
Sure, he was not as confident and as fast as I had wanted him to be, but he had never stopped pedaling.
All along, he had been pedaling through his fears.
And when I had been gracious with him, channeling my own inner battle with fears and quieting my own unfair expectations of his battle with fear, that’s when the pace changed.
With a word of encouragement, a vote of confidence, and a normalizing reminder, he got back on that bike (for the third time) and pedaled so fast that I was practically running to keep up with him.
All…the…way…home, my boy pedaled through his fears.
After we had returned home and documented his second “hill victory” with another picture, I asked him what he had learned about fear, and this is what he said.
“I learned that fear can stick around.”
With a big smile and a humbled heart, I wrapped my arms around him, applauded his efforts, and affirmed his insight.
Because tomorrow, fear might still be sticking around.
And the day after next, he might still struggle to get back on his bike.
But today, he pedaled through his fears.