Learning new tricks
By Robin DearingLast summer we took the kids to Disneyland and California Adventure. This vacation was a big deal for us. Normally we visit family or go camping around here. So flying to Anaheim and staying in a hotel for a week was a big departure for us. Margaret was 5. She was old enough and, more importantly, tall enough to go on most of the rides. She was very excited about her first Disney adventure ... That is until we actually got on the rides. After getting off of the Matterhorn, Margaret stood firmly, arms straight at her side and gasped, "Why do they scare children?" And she was scared. Scared to tears. We literally took her kicking and crying on to some rides. I would smile and reassure the ride operators that she was just tired but very much looking forward to enjoying their fine attractions despite her pleas to be removed not only the ride but the entire state of California. But she ended up enjoying many of the rides. But not all of them — she never developed a taste for roller coasters or any ride that had characters with "mean eyes." She did, however, find a passion for rides that moved in a circle ... slowly. While exasperated at her fear, I remembered being scared of certain amusement park rides myself when I was her age. So instead of forcing her on rides she didn't want to go on, we repeated the ones she liked over and over again. And we had fun. Margaret is not fearless; quite the opposite, she's probably more fearful than most. We know that about her now. So we try to make sure she's prepared for new things. But most importantly we encourage her to overcome her fears and learn that trying new things and being brave is exciting and rewarding. This summer those lessons have born fruit. Every year we get season passes to Lincoln Park pool. Every year Margaret talks about going down the water slide. She's been tall enough for a couple of years but she always chickened out of actually going. Last Sunday she decided enough was enough and she was going to conquer the waterslide. Bill, Margaret and I climbed the (many) stairs to the top of the slide. We peppered her with encouraging words. It was decided that I would go first and wait for her at the bottom. Her dad would stay with her until it was her turn. I took my turn (this was also a first for me this summer, in that despite the fact that I go to the pool several times a week, this was the first time I'd actually gotten my suit wet this summer) and waited at the bottom, peering up the slide. I was expecting that she was going to be, at best, scared and making her patented fearful grimace; at worst, she was going to be crying. She surprised me. Margaret was all smiles. She loved it and spent the rest of the day climbing the stairs and gliding down the slide. It's one thing to see her growing taller and leaner with very speeding year. It's another thing to witness the emotional growth that is shaping her as whole person.