My daughter taught five year olds at church yesterday, which necessitated bravery she never expected to need in a church basement.
“Mom—I had to kill a spider today! Myself! Those little kids were watching me, and I had to be the big girl. But . . . I. Killed. A. Spider!”
If you knew child #3, you would know that’s a level of bravery somewhere between getting in a shark tank and taking a bullet for her mother. I’m not going to speculate on which of those would be easier.
It made me remember my own moment of bravery beyond expectation.
For twenty-some years, I was a baby about needles. No, not a baby. Babies may scream, but they’re basically immobile passive creatures. I, on the other hand, was the only kid to kick the doctor giving me a measles shot so hard he had to do it again. I suspect some level of spite may have been involved in his do-over.
I whimpered, whined, crawled under exam tables, and clasped my arms together like an armadillo facing a jaguar rather than have a single needle prick. Let me tell you, it’s a tough squeeze to get under one of those tables when you’re almost thirty.
Until the day I went to get my blood drawn and toted along my little girl. Not quite two, child #1 watched as I rolled up my sleeve and prepared to be the last gladiator standing. As I saw the nurse approach me with the needle of doom, I had one of those parent moments. I realized what would happen if I dissolved in terror. She would, too.
She would never understand that it was a momentary terror for me that would be over quickly. She would only know that mommy was scared out of her mind and, seeing that, she would assume the worst. She would know, in her little on-year-old mind, that these people were torturing mommy, and the end of the world was at hand. Terrified as I was of needles, one thing that morning was far more important to me. Not to cause my little girl terror of her own.
I had to be the big girl. I had to face that needle without flinching and not let her see the fear. (If this, incidentally, is where she got her strange fascination with phlebotomy, I claim no responsibility.)
I had given no thought until that morning to the effect my fears might have on others. Since then, I’ve given it a lot of thought. You have to when you’ve got three kids watching you. If you fear, they fear, and I did not want that crippling my baby girls. Not that I’ve been a textbook example. Ask them how I feel about making phone calls or talking to strangers. They know. Some things you just can’t hide.
So the question today is—who’s watching you when you don’t know it? Who’s taking his or her cues by what you run from? Or, possibly, what you kick and scream and dive under tables to get way from? Someone is.
That made me sit up straight and smile through the fear, and you know what? That stupid fear of needles disappeared. Because when you stop allowing yourself to anticipate something in terror, it almost always loses its power. Which was a good thing, because between three kids, a thyroidectomy, and a kidney transplant, Iv’e been stuck with needles approximately 90 million times since then. Diving under that many tables is not an option.
I suspect my daughter will kill a few more spiders in her lifetime, and now she knows she can. Someone was watching her, and she needed to put them first in that moment.
I hope realizing that someone is watching you deal with the things you fear helps you sit up a little straighter today and smile through it. It works—I promise.