My biggest weakness as a parent is that I worry too much. (And I swear in front of my kids. And I don’t have very much patience at bedtime. And I’m disorganized. But I worry the most about worrying too much.)
I’m not much of a risk taker, and I’m not much of an athlete (though I used to be a damn good runner and I promise that Couch to 5K post is coming soon!). But what I want for my girls is to be absolutely strong and confident in their bodies, and to be willing to take risks and even fall along the way. And to do this, I have to step back. I have to worry less, or at least more quietly, so I don’t pass that fear along to them. I managed to do it in the baby panda moment with Lucy a couple weeks ago, and I’m trying to stay in that mindset. But it’s not my natural parenting approach.
One of the best parts of camping, for me, was having the chance to step back and really appreciate T’s parenting. He is not a worrier. He inspires me to be braver, for myself and for my girls.
On the advice of the local farmer T met when he took the girls raspberry picking, we went hiking at a nearby natural area/park: forest, trails, a creek that spills out into the bay. Dorothy wore her headlamp the entire time, because MOM! We are exploring on an adventure! Lucy didn’t get it at first (She kept saying, “Why are we just walking around?”) but she liked the idea of getting her feet wet in the creek, and she liked the possibility that there might be wild animals.
All told, we hiked about a mile and a half, including barreling through a couple of very muddy stretches with the jogging stroller, but the highlight for the girls was the balance beam: a log across the creek mouth, just waiting for little feet.
Not surprisingly, they both immediately wanted to walk across it. And because T was there, and I had the camera in my hand, I could just step back.
You guys? I married the best dad in the world.
Because I would have said something like, “Yes, but hold my hand and be careful and not too fast be careful keep holding on you can do it be careful don’t fall,” and inched them across a few times before the worry overtook me and I tried to shift their focus to something with less propensity for a sad, wet ending.
But he walked alongside them, and reached up to help them balance when they wobbled, and told them he knew they could do it.
And then, he told them they could do it all by themselves, and he squatted down by the end of the log and watched and cheered while they stepped carefully across on their own. No hand holding, no drama. If he was worried, he didn’t show it.
They beamed when they reached the end and he swept them up in big hugs. So proud. So excited. Mama, can we see the pictures? Did you see us do it? Can we do it again? Did you see how I held my arms out to keep my balance?
My mind is always racing a hundred miles ahead to the worst outcome: they fall, get wet, we don’t have a change of clothes, they have to walk half a mile in wet clothes and they’re crying, it’s better to just hold their hand and keep them from falling. The worry clouds my vision.
It’s like he can see them clearly in those moments of risk, no cobwebs of what if, no fog of but what about.
Just an awesome dad, and two brave girls, and the sunlight on the water, and their small steps across the balance beam.
And a sleeping baby.
This post is the third in a series about camping. You can check out the first post, about why camping was so much easier than I expected, and the second post, about our camping journal. Someday I promise I’m also going to write about Couch to 5k training.