Lessons in Fear From a 20 Month Old
I’ve written about my sister, Haley, before. You’ve read my words. You know she is my best friend. She is always there for me. I hope I am always there for her. She was born near the end of my junior year in high school. This means we have a unique relationship. When she was little, I was one of the adult figures in her life. Thankfully, we’ve navigated the shift to equals, to friends, fairly elegantly.
My sister had a baby in September 2016. A baby girl. Haley’s intent was to invite me into the delivery room. I’ve never had a baby and this was her way of gifting me a little glimmer of that experience. Things didn’t go as planned, and I didn’t get to be in the room. But, that doesn’t change the fact that I continue to be honored by Haley’s thoughtfulness. And I somehow feel more a part of the life of my niece, Clara.
When Haley was little, she called me Sissy. Nobody else was ever allowed to call me Sissy, but if it was Haley, I totally melted. How appropriate then that Clara now calls me Aunt Sissy. And, yes, I continue to totally melt.
Yesterday Haley and her husband were invited to a social function and asked if I could watch Clara. #1: Haley dropped everything a few weeks ago to take me to the doctor, etc. I owed her. #2: I love Miss Clara more than I can even put into words. The opportunity to spend several hours with her was enough to make me cancel a date!!!!
I thought Clara’s visit would be a good opportunity for my first dip in the pool at my apartment complex. She and I got dressed, slathered up in sunscreen, and made our way down to swim. She has this blow up floaty thing that makes swimming with a baby so much less scary. Except she was scared. So, we just floated around. She clung to me. I eased her into the water. We learned how to splash (very lightly), we said hello to the other kids, we got used to the water. I took her to her “floaty” several times and she adamantly shook her head no. She was afraid.
After about 30 minutes, we made our way back over to Clara’s floaty toy. This time she seemed just a little more curious. This time, she had an audience of people cheering her on. She looked at me, she looked at her toy, she looked at her audience. I knew it was time. I gently lifted her into the seat and slowly lowered her into the water. She let out a tiny whine for just a second, and then she looked at me and smiled. She reclined back and took on the aura of a princess. Nope, not scared. Yes, just feeling regal.
Clara just needed a little time. She needed to adjust to the cool water. She needed to know that Aunt Sissy was there to protect her. She needed a little bit of encouragement from new friends. And when she faced her fear, she discovered a little bit of luxury and a whole lot of fun.
And isn’t that how it always is? Fear is always bigger in my head. When I face it, with the help of people who love me, I always discover a greater experience of life.
May little Miss Clara teach us all!