Fear and Courage

Around bedtime…

Me: Daddy will tell you a story. have you heard of the Three Little Pigs?

Xan: No.

Me: Okay, Once upon a time…

One pig later…

Me: … and the big bad wolf said, I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your…

Xan: Daddy, I don’t want this story. I scared.

Dear Xander,

In the course of spending time with you, one thing I had not anticipated was how you would deal with fear. As a child, your father built up quite a resilience to things that go bump in the night. Thanks to the television viewing habits of some of my sisters, I was very much exposed to horror movies, graphic documentaries that are banned in 42 countries and shimmery, scantily clad Solid Gold dancers.

That was not to say I had no fear; I can name 2 right off the bat for you – household lizards and cockroaches. With the lizards it was generally easy to get over; understand their function in the home as pestbusters, leave them alone to do their thing and in return, they generally don’t bother you. The cockroaches, however, are a whole different ball game.

It’s bad enough they run across your feet when you’re not looking. They even have a tendency to stare at you when you’re innocently clearing your bowels in the toilet. But when they fly – oh for the love of all that is holy, when they fly

It took me a good 30 years to overcome this fear, and what got me here was a 2-step process: first, your mother, and then, you.

Your mother also held the same opinion of cockroaches as I did. After we got married, I was knee deep in trying to assume the role of the man of the house, and had to psyche myself into believing I was relieving the fear of a more important person than myself, and that a cockroach in my hand is much better than a cockroach in my wife’s face.

After we had you, and a child seat was installed in our car, we found ourselves contending with a cockroach problem in our car. I started off freaking out every time I had to get rid of the six-legged freaks on a regular basis, but then I applied the same psychology to the endeavours; that I wasn’t doing it for me, I was doing it to keep them off of you. I didn’t just get used to it after that; I was getting very good at it (though I still jump when the damn things decide to fly).

I’m telling you this because you need to know: be it lizards, cockroaches or the Big Bad Wolf, we all have fears, and they will haunt us, whether we like it or not. The thing I took 30 years to learn is that avoidance is not the answer. To confront your fear, acceptance is your first step, because with any and all things, once you accept something, the inclination to avoid it disappears.

Next comes reasoning. If your fear is getting in the way of what you want to accomplish, focus on what you want to accomplish instead. If you want to protect your biscuits from the cockroach, just remember it’s your biscuits that you’re protecting; the cockroach will just be collateral damage. And if you want to hear the ending of the Three Little Pigs story, just remember, as with all stories, there is an ending; the Big Bad Wolf is probably gonna get it for eating the accomplished stonemason pig’s 2 brothers, and you need to find out if justice is going to be served.

Courage is not borne of a lack of fear; it manifests from an acknowledgment of that fear. If you live by that understanding, nothing will stand in your way.

Love, Dad

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