I distinctly remember a story my husband told me about a text exchange he had with my mom a few years ago. We were still dating and were about to go on a South American trip that culminated in diving in the tumultuous (yet extremely diverse) Galapagos Islands. First, picture my mother who faints at the sight of an injection going through my skin (It was so bad, the doctor had to give her MY lollipop!). Then think about me telling her how excited I was to be wearing 5-inch thick wetsuits (I looked like a Teletubby I kid you not), swimming extremely strong currents, chasing after Hammerhead sharks and possibly schools of fish my size. On top of which, we were going to live aboard a boat with a bunch of strangers for a week in not-so-friendly sea faring conditions. We were “traveling the world” – yes, it was the phrase I used – hopping from Brazil to Buenos Aires, Santiago Chile and then finally to Ecuador, all in three weeks. In retrospect, it’s amazing she was still standing after that conversation.
At the airport while we checked our bags, my husband (then boyfriend) says that my mom sent him a text message wishing us a safe flight and to please not be so adventurous on our adventures (read: please don’t throw caution and my daughter to the winds). He said he replied by saying thank you for allowing me to go on this trip. At which point she replied, “I had no choice. Wild horses wouldn’t stop her.”
Years later, on yet another “adventure trip”, my husband and I went diving in Australia’s Great Barrier Reefs and visited the beautiful (BEAUTIFUL!) country of New Zealand where I decided to bungee jump off a 434ft high bridge hanging over a ravine. I came home and proudly showed the video to my mom who again thankfully, did not die of a heart-attack on the spot.
Now as the Teletubby diver and the bungee jumper, I could not understand how my mom could not share my excitement and thrill for the once-in-a-lifetime experience (side note: Haunted Houses and the like are not in my adventure repertoire). It was fun, it was safe… what’s not to love about it all?
I fast forward into the present where as clichés and karmas would have it, I am now the mother of a little 3-year old daredevil in the making.
In our most recent trip to Busch Gardens Florida, Sam was absolutely fascinated by the roller coasters. She repeatedly said, “I want to ride that one Mom!” Again because of her reading abilities, she would pick the rides that she wanted to go on and, a lot of it involved airplanes and gliders and all those contraptions that lift my darling baby into the air off the safety of the ground. Her daddy of course was all about the experience and kept telling me to let her go; but I surprisingly found myself buckling and triple-checking to see if it was safe. At one point I froze right after I strapped her in 4 times, that the ride attendant had to wave her hands in front of me and shoo me out so she could start the ride. I tell you, I have never read so many ride guidelines in all my life.
Sam, we think, was born without fear. She scales the bounce house ladders alongside kids twice her size and she does it all by herself. Thinking back at those times that I let her, I can’t help but shudder; if she had fallen, she could have easily been trampled on, and it would have been a long, long fall… ugh! I can’t seem to let go of her hand near bodies of water either, because she will not wait for me before running straight into a wave that is about to crash over her head. And while most toddlers would gasp up in fear and be traumatized by the experience, Sam welcomes it and thinks it is fun. It is quite ironic if you think about how she shies away from attention, yet has absolutely no fear when it comes to these things.
A quick reflection presents me, freaking out enough to cause heart palpitations, light headedness and sweaty palms. I tell you this no-fear thing does not do wonders for my “aging gracefully” process. What happened to me? The me who wasn’t afraid of heights, who wasn’t afraid to try something new and exciting, who loved the thrill of adventure?
Motherhood does do that to you huh? And while I can genuinely say I want my daughters to experience whatever it is the world (or Busch Gardens) has to offer them, I instinctively feel that protective pang that wants me to hold onto them forever, just so that they don’t fall or get hurt to say the least.
Then again, it is one of those things where there is only so much I can do. Particularly at Sam’s age, she is expressing her desire to do things “by herself” without my help whatsoever. This sends me on a roller coaster of emotions. I want to be there to see it all and be a part of the fun, but it is hard to just stand back and watch. Yet sometimes, I can’t let my fear get in the way and I know that she has to learn it on her own, so all I can do is stand back and watch. It is bittersweet when she doesn’t even look back. It’s good practice I suppose, and God knows with the way things look, I am going to need a lot of it!
Click on the image to view the actual rope bridge crossing.