The topic for this week’s blog hop is: Remember the time you got really scared
I had my three children in a three and a half year time span. Having them all so close in age was a major challenge when they were pre school age, but has meant that they have been able and willing to do the same sorts of things at the same time over the years. As they have got older, the small age gap has made life easier for us all.
I gave up my full time job when it became clear that I would be unable to leave my babies in anyone else’s care. The cost of childcare for three children would have been huge and I wanted to experience every minute of their development myself. I was fortunate in having the choice of staying at home to be with them, and thus to be able to care for them in the way that I thought was best.
My husband and I have always been reasonably active and this continued after we had our kids. We would take them for days out to play parks, gardens and beaches where we could run around, kick a ball and picnic in the open air. I was always strict parent whereas my husband was fun parent. I would insist on sunscreen, hats and healthy food while he would run around, join in on the climbing equipment and slides, and build massive sand structures for them on the beach.
My kids were active and able, learning to swim and ride their bikes pre school. I bought a single seat stroller but, once the kids learned to walk, insisted that they do so. Sometimes this meant that it took a long time to get anywhere but this was fine. I used the stroller for luggage or to confine a naughty child rather than as a means of transport. Given no other option, the kids would walk as required.
When my daughter was eight and my elder son seven they went away for a week to a PGL Summer Camp; I think that I was more nervous about them going away from home so young than they were. They must have enjoyed it though because they opted to go on several more such camps in the coming years. They took a cousin along on a couple of occasions, their younger brother when he was old enough to join them, and then went on several PGL weekends with their various Scout groups.
My husband read up on the activities available and wanted to join in. I must have been feeling particularly loving towards him at the time because I agreed.
We booked ourselves in for a Family Active Multi Activity weekend. The rest of the family were full of excitement, especially as I had surprised them all by agreeing to not just go along but to take part in everything offered. For once I was determined to be fun parent; to step outside my comfort zone and give things a try.
Did I mention that I am afraid of heights? I coped fine with the quad biking, the archery and the fencing (although it felt icky putting on the damp, sweaty, protective fencing clothes provided), but when we moved on to the climbing activities I could feel my nerves tingling. I told myself sternly that all the safety equipment made falling unlikely; I was not going to make a fool of myself.
Determined to honour the promise that I would try everything, I made it half way up the climbing wall before declaring that I had done my best. Both boys were up and down the wall like little monkeys and my husband was in his element. My daughter shares my fear of heights but also coped with a limited climb.
We moved on to the trapeze and again I managed to get about half way up before calling time on my attempt. I was actually feeling quite pleased with myself for getting so far without panicking. On this equipment I had to let go and swing on the safety rope in order to get back to the ground. I did not feel comfortable with that lack of control; these challenges were getting harder.
However, so far I had held it together and, although I was being laughed at for wimping out before I had gone particularly far off the ground, at least I had taken part as promised.
My undoing occurred on the Giant Swing. For this activity two participants are strapped in, side by side on low slung, canvas seats. The swing is then hoisted up to a maximum of thirteen metres above the ground before being dropped. There is a free fall of a few metres before the ropes tighten and the contraption starts to swing. Because of our relative weights, I was asked to sit alongside my husband. He, of course, ignored my pleas to only be hoisted a short way up and called for us to be taken as high as we could go.
Thirteen metres up, dangling on a rope whilst sitting in a cut out sack I realised how truly terrified I was, but it was too late. I tucked my head in, closed my eyes and felt the drop. At this point, my animal instincts for survival took over. Apparently the cry I let out reminded one lady of the pain and fear of childbirth. The sound resonated around the site.
When the instructors were able to get to me they looked almost as scarred as I felt. I was pulled from the seat and collapsed, curled up in the foetal position on the ground. I realised at that moment that some things are not worth pushing yourself for. I could live with being the boring parent so long as I didn’t have to do such a thing ever again.
My husband was due another swing (each participant had two tries) so grabbed a son and went again while I recovered. I became aware of strangers watching me, looking concerned. Shakily I stood up and made my way up the steps to help pull the rope that hoisted the swing to start position.
Something in me had changed. The guilt that I was made to feel when I acted selfishly by not doing what others wanted had been assuaged. On the final day, when we went to a nearby lake for raft building and kayaking, I sat the activities out on the side.
There have been times since when I have been persuaded to do something that I have felt uncomfortable about, and regretted afterwards that I did not refuse to take part. So many times I am expected to do what others think I should. As I experience these events, I learn that I need to say no and to somehow make myself heard. I cannot take sole responsibility for other’s happiness; I do not wish to live my life by other’s standards.
I have a fear of letting those I love down, but I am learning to listen to my own inner voice and to insist that I have a right to have my needs considered when decisions are made. My fear of heights may be no more rational than my discomfort in certain social situations, but being forced to partake because this makes things easier for others will not always work out as expected. My cry may be internal but can be just as desperate and perspective changing.
After our Family Active weekend, my husband volunteered to help out at a couple of group activity weekends that our children took part in. They all enjoyed these events while I enjoyed staying at home. We are all different. Accepting that will make life more pleasurable for everyone.
To read the other posts in this week’s blog hop, click on the link below.