Fear. A four-letter word.

Fear is a funny thing. It protects us from doing stupid things, like jumping from rooftops into tiny backyard pools. It makes overcoming an obstacle, like delivering a speech in front of a class, so much more of an accomplishment. But it also prevents us from doing things that might grow us, might teach us something, might make us feel brilliantly happy and alive. I hate fear, and unfortunately, I spend a lot of time avoiding the sensation. I guess it’s not a bad thing that I fear heights, because that’ll keep me from jumping off rooftops, but some of my other fears have held me back. And my fears seem to be rubbing off on Cari.

Yearly, the local Catholic church and school puts on a massive carnival, complete with colorful, cheerful rides, ridiculously unhealthy food, and the prerequisite carnival games in which winners can take home a sad little goldfish, at least for one night anyways.  The carnival always looks way more fun than it actually is; the spiraling lights tempt, even me, to come and spend more money than I should, and I always come home feeling a little dirty; physically, because I always wear flip flops and the carnival grounds are all sand, and emotionally, because the carnival is like one big glut of food, rides, and games.

This year, Cari caught a glimpse of the carnival one day on our drive home from school and must have read the sign declaring the dates of when the carnival would be open, because on Saturday night, when Stu, Cari, and I drove home from a late dinner, she perked up at the pretty lights and declared that she wanted to go.  She was certain that Sunday would be the last night.  Stu, of course, said that he was interested in taking her.  True to form, I said I didn’t want to go, but an interest in photographing the spectacle encouraged enough enthusiasm for me to agree to go for an hour and a half.

A word about Cari: we don’t often like to share with her what our plans are.  She is very much her mother’s daughter, because once she knows that some event is tentatively planned, she will insist upon knowing all of the details.

“What are we doing this weekend?” she’ll ask.

“Well, on Saturday, I thought we could go to the Spring Fling at Mrs. Lynn’s church.  Then on Sunday, we’ll go to church.”

“What are we doing after Spring Fling?”

“Well, I’m not sure.  We should probably clean the house and do some laundry.”

“Are you working at church this week?”

“No, baby, not this week.”

“Who are we having lunch with after church?”

“I don’t know, Cari, we haven’t made plans yet.”

“What about after lunch?  What are we doing then?”

It’s hard to deal with a child who insists upon knowing details when I don’t always have the details.  On the weekends, I relish my peace.  I recharge all the energy I’ve spent during the week dealing with my high maintenance students and don’t always have the brain space to deal with my own high maintenance child.  So Stu and I are VERY vague about our plans, often hiding plans from her until we’re literally on our way.

So when we let it be known on Saturday night that we would consider going to the carnival, that’s all she wanted to talk about.

“I can’t wait to go on the Ferris wheel, Mommy!”

Well, the carnival didn’t turn out quite as we expected. After making a deliberate pass through, to get an idea of what was available, we bought Cari a $20 armband so she could ride all the rides she wanted. But my baby–my eight year-old, nearly as tall as some grown-ups baby–only wanted to ride baby rides. And she wasn’t allowed… She was too tall. What rides were left were big kid rides, rides like the Hurricane, a super fast, dizzying Dumbo-style ride that had Stu calling out for it to be over, bumper cars, the classic favorite, and of course, the Ferris wheel.

After riding a few rides and eating a slice of pizza in the shadow of the Ferris wheel, Cari decided that she was too scared to ride the Ferris wheel


7 thoughts on “Fear. A four-letter word.

  1. Allison, Being a parent is an ever changing role. Beyond core values that you teach and remain constant, everything else about be a parent changes it seems with the breeze. You will watch Cari’s courage and fear change daily, and trust me you will spend a lot of time scratching your head in wonderment. She is learning and relearning her limits everyday. You just need to adjust accordingly. Love Dad

  2. Oh, poor, dear! I’ve never heard of being too tall for a ride! I mean she’s eight, they should have let her on anyway!

    I’m sure she’ll ride the Ferris wheel one day, when she’s ready. It’s like a right of passage.

    • I tell you what… If they say she’s too tall, she’s too tall. That stuff is for safety.

      I just hope she doesn’t avoid stuff because she’s afraid. That would be tragic.

      • You’re right, I didn’t think of it that way. I was always the one that was too small to ride, I know it’s not safe then, I didn’t think of the opposite problem!

        I hope not too, becuase then you forget to live. And that would not be good.

  3. Aww…mine was a tall one too, but just short enough to fit on the kiddie roller coaster at a theme park in New Hampshire (the season was short, they weren’t too exacting). The thing is–she was tall, but still very young, and by herself in that car–she didn’t know how high the highs were or how low the lows might be. So, as she passed us by, all we heard was “help me, help me.” And, of course, the ride operator wouldn’t stop the ride for one little girl lest he disappoint all the other children. I suspect that single experience scared Karen off carnival rides for life!

    It’s good that Cari knows her own limits. If all goes well, she will follow her instincts rather than the crowd, and end up a better and safer person as a result.

    • Oh no! Poor Karen! This is a such a sweet response. My girl sure does know her mind. You’re right, I do hope she will follow her instincts and they will keep her safe.

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