FEAR OF FLYING: LEARNING FROM OUR KIDS
This article first appeared in Boston’s The Jewish Advocate in September 2015
By Miriam Porter – Advocate Correspondent
At the beginning of the summer, I wrote about my son Noah facing his fears and going into a haunted house at the amusement park for the first time. Little did I know that later this summer the tables would be turned and he would be the one encouraging me to take risks.
Noah and I recently went to Tree Top Trekking, located at Heart Lake Conservation Area. This zip line and aerial game park is about an hour from our home in Toronto, and we were super excited to spend the afternoon zip lining through the trees high above the ground. At least it seemed like a good idea when I booked it. That morning I made a picnic lunch, found the insect repellant, sunblock lotion and everything else people pack to spend the day in the forest – I was prepared. The only thing I wasn’t prepared for was the fear of the event itself. So there we were after we completed our safety orientation, strapped in, hooked up, and helmets securely fastened. Noah and I were standing on a wooden ledge high among the treetops – the view was spectacular – and I started to panic. What if my rope broke? What if Noah’s did? Am I crazy to be doing this? The zip line was 1000 feet long and 75 feet above the ground at its highest point. Did I mention it was also over water?
Our patient guide kept reassuring me it was totally safe and there was another guide across the lake to ensure we landed safely. But I was having some serious second thoughts. I meekly suggested to Noah that maybe we shouldn’t do it after all. But he would hear nothing of it. He confidently said he was definitely going across the lake and I should too. I told him he’s more than welcome to zip along but I should probably climb down the ladder to wait for him. My wise son said encouragingly, “Mommy, you’ll regret it if you don’t try! And if you don’t do it, then we won’t be able to say that we did it together!” He had a point. Ten more minutes of me trying to find another way off this treetop, but there weren’t a lot of options.
Finally Noah said, “Just go for it and jump!” He smiled at me and took off into the air. I watched my baby (not such a baby anymore at age 9) fly through the air over the lake. My little bird was safely on the other side and it was my turn. I held my breath, said a few mumbled prayers and fearfully stepped off the ledge into a world of unknowns. But within seconds I knew I had made the right choice. It was awesome! I was seriously flying like a bird! Sure it was scary, but the feeling of freedom that came from soaring high in the air and the freedom from within that I really can do anything (and that I didn’t wimp out in front of Noah) was equally as good. I faced my fear.
Jewish tradition teaches that as parents we can be powerful role models for our children. We can show kids how to treat people and animals with love, respect, kindness, compassion and to follow our dreams in life. The Talmud explains that a child speaks the way they hear their parents speak, so the lesson is of course to choose our words wisely as they may be repeated.
Judaism notes that a child’s most important teachers are their parents. In fact, the Hebrew word for parents is horim and the Hebrew root word for teachers is morim,which sound very similar. That is no coincidence, since as parents we are teachers too. Many Rabbis have stated that the most important teacher a child will have is their parents, and use these Hebrew words as examples of that.
So let’s try and be role models for our children, face our fears and dive into life – whatever that means to you. For me it meant flying like a bird along a zip line to join my son on the other side of Heart Lake.