“Here comes a big one Nana. A REALLY big one! I love you Nana.”
“Look! It’s huge! Oh no! It’s coming! I love you Nana.”
It was like Carter was reading a script as we bounced through the waves on the Fox River. Crisscrossing the wakes following the holiday boaters and crashing through the wind-kissed waters created plenty of times for him to shout, “Look! A BIG ONE!!! We’re going to fly up! I love you.”
While you may think his exuberance was filled with confidence and reckless abandon, it was not. He was on high alert.
Four and a half year old Carter was firmly planted on my lap as we sliced through the river with my husband captaining the boat.
Carter’s just learning how to calculate the impact the waves will have on our new boat. Once we began to go fast, he’s calculated that the best place to sit is one someone’s lap. That’s where he’s learning to be brave. I got to be the lucky one on this boat trip.
Carter taught me something about being afraid, and he’s actually a lot further along in this being brave thing than I am.
Not only did he choose to be in close proximity with someone that he trusted, he verbalized what was going to happen by talking about the waves he could see. More accurately, only the waves he could see – his fears were based on what was real. He didn’t go off the deep end with all of the ‘what ifs’.
He was living in what was real.
I, on the other hand, am tempted to withdraw and go internal when I’m afraid. It’s as if talking about the ‘waves‘ out loud make them too real. I also learned early on that I shouldn’t let anybody know I’m afraid. And boy do I wish that I could keep my fears to what was real instead of creating this little world of all the horrible possibilities! Old habits die slowly, right?
But Carter did something even more profound.
He followed up his fear with his declaration of love for me. Perhaps he did it to remind himself that love = safety. Or love = trust? Or love does not include fear? “Perfect love casts out fear” made just a little more sense.
His hazel eyes widened whenever he spotted a new cluster of waves, and then he whispered that he loved me. It was only after he said those precious words that he broke out in a huge smile and then giggled with sheer delight as we soared over his ‘fear.’
Something else struck me on our high speed boat ride. Every little part of his feet, legs, arms, and hands were wrapped around me. Our limbs were two little pipe cleaners intertwined. It was more precious than I can explain. Together we felt secure. Little does he know that I’m still a little nervous on the water. But no matter. We were facing his fear together. And I believe that we both felt a little more brave and a lot more loved when we did it together.
Life won’t always look like the peaceful, serene photo my son Josh took after a day of boating. But, we can always choose to live a little more like Carter.