“Only a fool is not afraid,” Mrs. Whatsit told him. (from A Wrinkle In Time by Madeline L’Engle.)
When it comes to parenting, we have a lot to fear. Here is a short list of the fears I’ve collected from parents over the years (my own are included):
- I’m afraid my child will get made fun of.
- I’m afraid my child will feel stupid.
- I’m afraid my child won’t love reading.
- I’m afraid my child won’t have friends.
- I’m afraid my child won’t like sports.
- I’m afraid my child will be mean.
- I’m afraid my child will become addicted to video games.
- I’m afraid my child will see pornography.
- I’m afraid my child will be lazy.
- I’m afraid my child will become pregnant or get someone pregnant.
- I’m afraid my child will try drugs and alcohol and become an addict.
- I’m afraid my child won’t mature well and will become self-absorbed.
- I’m afraid my child will be rude in public.
- I’m afraid my children won’t find their passions.
And then they get their driver’s license…..
Some fears are built into our psyche as vital for our children’s survival. It would be foolish to ignore these fears. (A great read on these instincts is Gavin De Becker’s The Gift of Fear.)
But acting out of fear when our children’s lives are not at stake can rob them of poignant learning moments and more joyful living. So how do we tame that fear-based self especially if conquering our fears may be the best gift we give our children?
Two thought processes have helped me. First, I recognize three traps parents tend to fall into that trigger fear:
- Needing to be in control.
- Needing to be right.
- Needing to look good to others.
When I feel anxious, angry or fearful (knowing that anger is often a cover-up for fear) I pause and try to name the root of my bad feeling. Which trap am I falling into? I can then work on healing myself rather than projecting my fears onto my children. Only then can I be fully present with them as calm and proactive rather than emotional and reactionary.
Second, I think about the Hero’s Journey in relation to my parenting life.
Do I prefer to stay in my comfort zone in this situation so I don’t have to change or grow? Or am I ready to step out into an adventure of the unknown?
At Acton Academy, we don’t ask parents to disengage. Rather, we ask parents to engage bravely and lovingly by leaning into their children’s journeys without protecting them from entering the dark caves of struggle. Acton parents understand what Joseph Campbell meant when he said, “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”
The view on the other side of fear is one that includes the light shining from our children’s eyes as they discover the treasure of their inner gifts. It is a bright and happy place to be.