I’ve been thinking a lot about what I used to call “Adventuring,” at least internally, when Turkey and Bunny (and eventually the rest of the Fab Five), were little. For over 20 years, I’d pick a place to go where we could have an adventure. Sometimes, it was really simple, like going to the pet store at Chesterfield Mall of blessed memory so we could see the puppies. But sometimes, it was something bigger, something that would take me out of my comfort zone, and to understand what I mean, I need to throw it back even farther, 30-plus years ago to my own childhood…
One summer, my family was on vacation in Wausau, WI. And we visited Rib Mountain. Now, mountain is kind of a generous term, but it’s the midwest, so we take what we can get. But I’ve always been afraid of heights, so even a baby mountain was a lot for me. And there was an observation tower on top of said “mountain” that I was encouraged to climb to admire the view.
I don’t know if I made it even halfway up. I do know I didn’t make it to the top. And it bothered me for literal years, even decades, that I had given up due to my fear. So when Turkey was a baby, and Ryan had to go to Wausau for a meeting and asked if we wanted to tag along, I knew exactly what I was going to do. I drove straight to Rib Mountain, and found the observation tower, which was pretty much just like I remembered it. I strapped young Turkey into the baby carrier, and started the climb. I faltered along the way…my fear of heights certainly hasn’t dissipated with age, and it has maybe gotten a little worse. But every time I wanted to turn around and head back down, I looked at Turkey, who had no idea what was going on, but who was completely dependent on me, and knew I had to do it. I had to finish that climb and show him that I could do hard things, things that scared me, and not give into my fear. And we did. I made it to the top, enjoyed the view for the briefest of moments, and then promptly hastened back down to terra firma. Just knowing that he was watching me made me a little braver!
That’s the first time I really went on an adventure with one of the children that forced me to stretch myself, but it certainly wasn’t the last. I’ve gotten behind the wheel and made drives that I don’t enjoy so we could do something fun and interesting. I’ve allowed myself to look silly in public (Hello…I did the Cha-Cha Slide not once, but twice on our vacation last year!), to have a good time. Most recently, when we went to Disneyland, I did a lot of things that were new and scary and uncomfortable to me, from getting on a plane for the first time in over 20 years to dealing with a layover in an unfamiliar airport in an unfamiliar city to getting an Uber for the first time to figuring a cancelled flight, and also a delayed-until-the-next-day flight. That whole trip was really about us having one last big adventure together before they move out and start creating their own adventures.
I have my limits. I don’t go on scary roller coasters. I don’t begrudge anyone else the enjoyment, but I won’t put myself through that. Much as I love being there, I will not drive in the city of Chicago. I’ll take public transportation and walk until I have a hole in the sole of my shoe, but I won’t get behind the wheel. Boundaries are important. But I refuse to let fear dictate what I can and can’t do, and I hope that over the years, even though they may not have realized what I’ve been doing, I’ve shown the children that it’s ok to be afraid, but that you can’t let that limit you, especially when it comes to doing something you love. I hope someday they realize our adventures weren’t just about going new places and learning interesting things and having fun, but also about putting yourself out there and learning how to be brave and bold.