“Stop, you’re scaring me to death!” the elderly woman yelled as I jogged past.
“What?” I know my jogging is not pretty, but really, how rude…
I look up, getting ready to tell her off when I see why she’s yelling STOP! Her protests are for a little girl; I’d guess to be about 5-years-old.
“Don’t worry. I know how to do it,” the little girl confidently said as she threw her leg over her pink and white bike. Off she tottered, picking up speed as she went.
As I turned back to look, the woman really seemed scared to death. Being a mom and a grandma myself, I knew exactly how the woman felt. Having launched a few kids into bike riding myself, it was apparent it hadn’t been too long since the little girl’s training wheels came off.
Wobbling side to side, the girl was picking up forward momentum. Faster and faster, she peddled while her glitter-covered handle tassels fluttered and a mop of long curls flowed out from under her helmet. “I can do it! I can do it!” the young girl proclaimed to the wind. “I’m doing it! Look, Grandma, I’m doing it!”
Now, the little speed demon is halfway down the block. The woman continues her protests, “It’s downhill, stop, you are scaring me to death!” she yells again at a markedly increased volume as the girl comes to a busy corner. I take off down the hill to get to the intersection first.
While catching up to the courageous little moppet, I yelled, “You did it!” I joyously shouted with a smile as she came to a perfect stop at the corner. She turns and looks directly at me. “I know I could….” she beamed.
I beamed too. All while hoping the protesting woman wouldn’t scold her. Most of our limiting beliefs are embedded throughout childhood from someone else’s view of an experience. I can think of more than a few that float around in my head— fears that tend to be installed in my familial culture.
As counter-intuitive as it feels, this was the time to compliment the courageous kiddo that she stopped at the dangerous corner. And, it’s the time to have an honest conversation that you were frightened. Don’t just give them instructions or, worse, condemnations.
It’s tough to balance keeping them safe and encouraging them to challenge themselves. Too often, the fears and judgments that are set within us are through others’ life experiences. Their old and perhaps updated realities can become our reality and can take a lifetime to undo.
What would you do if you knew you could?
p.s. I know grammatically, “I know I could….” should be “I knew I could….” But she said, “I know I could.” I like the faux pas; it fits a 5-year-old.
*Adapted from original article published October 6th, 2012