“C’mon, Mommy! Don’t be a scaredy cat,” pleaded my almost seven-year-old daughter as we stood at the bottom of the steps to an indoor water slide.
“Olivia,” I replied slowly in my most rational voice, “I really don’t feel comfortable doing this. Why don’t we ask Daddy to go down the slide with you again?”
“No, YOU!” she demanded. Ugh. This was just like that time at the state fair this summer when she convinced me to ride the Sky Glider – the ride where passengers sit precariously in unstable metal benches with only a metal bar holding them in while swaying what has to be millions of feet over the top of the fair grounds. I didn’t show my fear then when she wanted to go on that ride. I wanted to be brave for her, and not let my irrational fears project onto her thoughts, discourse, and overall sense of self. So I sucked it up, slid into the metal bench and closed my eyes, all without saying a word. But this water slide was different. It combined three out of four of my irrational fears: heights, slides, and water. The only thing missing in my irrational fear set was an escalator going down with steep sides.
But, back to the water park. Just after her insistence that I go with her, my husband walked by with our two-year-old daughter clinging to him, one arm wrapped around his neck while sucking her thumb on the other hand.
“Ride the slide,” he said, “You have a brain tumor. Live a little.”
So there that is. I was diagnosed with a meningioma brain tumor back in May, and I’m having surgery to remove it. I’ve done as much research as I possibly can about this. These type of tumors are over 90% benign, they occur mostly in women, they tend to grow faster during pregnancy, the prognosis is typically better compared to other types of brain tumors, and even Sheryl Crow has one that she is just watching and waiting, and so does Scott Baio’s wife. I’m not trying to downplay these tumors. They certainly can cause significant effects depending on the size, location, and grade. But I guess in the brain tumor world, if you have to have one, it’s best to have this kind.
But this post isn’t about my tumor. I’ll be fine. I know I will. It’s about how at that moment at the water park, I realized that I had to face my one true fear: leaving my girls and not being there for them while they grow up. My irrational fears could be somehow mitigated by learning from my daughter how to be brave.
What a switch this has been. Five years ago, she was like her little sister and was clinging to me or my husband as we encouraged her to walk into the zero entry pool without fear.
“Okay, let’s do this, Olivia.”
“Yay!” she exclaimed and up those stairs we went. With every step up, though, my fears increased. I hauled the tube up begrudgingly while she bounded in front of me, her Hello Kitty swim suit and pony tail still dripping wet from her previous slide ride, leaving drops of water on the stairs for me to follow. When we got to the top, I froze. I turned to the mom and her daughter behind me and said, “Go ahead,” and they did. Olivia crossed her arms, looked down dramatically, and huffed. The indifferent teenager with black hair working the slide that day looked at me and said slowly, “It doesn’t go fast.”
At that moment, it’s almost like I had to physically move aside my scaredy cat and push her out of the way, so I could shakily enter the tube. Olivia quickly climbed in front of the inner-tube and as I locked my legs under her arms, I realized that there’s no going back. She was holding me down. We’re doing this! I closed my eyes and felt the “swoosh” as we took off, but the best part was hearing Olivia scream with delight.
My fears melted just then – just then in that moment as she as having the time of her life, I learned again how important it is to be brave, and perhaps most importantly, that bravery is something we have to cultivate and nurture, especially as life gets more complex and well, life stuff just happens. Somewhere, somehow in adulthood, I let fear grip me. To be honest, I’m terrified of surgery, but I liken surgery to that water park slide, as strange as that sounds. I know I’ll make it out of surgery. I know I’ll come home and embrace my girls and color with them and make play dough snowmen, and build cities out of blocks for our Shopkin army – all things we did when we returned from our weekend at the water park. I just have to close my eyes and relive the sensory experiences of the first few seconds of that water park slide. Because being brave really comes down to living a little, or maybe living a lot.
I have to admit, I’m a total sucker for those posts that reminisce about our kids when they were little, how quickly they grew up, and how we need to cherish those last moments – those last nursing sessions or those last requests to “play with me.” But, I’ve come to realize what I enjoy the most about being a mom is something I never expected, or even read, about parenthood: my children are teaching me the fundamentals of what it means to live life to the fullest, and how every year things just keep getting more and more exciting.
Thank you, Olivia, for the reminder.
* I had surgery on December 1st to remove my meningioma brain tumor. I was terrified of surgery but found strength through my daughters. Thankfully, everything went just fine!!
**Special thanks to our Guest Blogger, Mirra Anson!!