I climbed a mountain and cried at the bottom.
You’re supposed to cry at the top of your climb, right? If not cry, then at least you should breathe a sigh of relief, pat yourself on the back, or take a selfie.
I think that’s the rule? I’m not sure. But I didn’t do any of that.
I climbed to the top of a fairly tame mountain in the Adirondacks with my barely six-month-old son strapped onto me and my husband carrying our two-year-old. Throughout the climb, my daughter was offering me periodic words of encouragement. “You can do it, mom-mom,” she shouted. So I kept climbing through the panic and exhaustion that I hadn’t anticipated. Then I sobbed with relief when we made it back down.
I was scared, and it sucks. I wish I had a more eloquent word to use than “sucks,” but it perfectly summarizes the distress I feel over my own fear.
Throughout the climb, I had waves of anxiety rush over me. My husband (with his long legs and can-do spirit) seemed perpetually confused by my uncertainty. His encouraging words related to my having climbed this same mountain only a few years prior and that I was psyching myself out. Both true. Both not the point.
The point was that fear was winning, and my anger at that fear made the whole thing so much worse. So when we reached the bottom, and I cried, and my husband asked why, I finally managed to express (in between sobs) what was happening in my head.
“I want our daughter to be fearless like I once was, and that terrifies me,” I told him.
Yes, I was scared of falling and hurting my son. Yes, I was afraid of my husband falling and hurting my daughter. Yes, I was frustrated that after having two kids, climbing a mountain tires me out more than it did in the past. And yes, I am a little more afraid of heights than I used to be.
That’s all true, but also not the point.
The point is that I used to love roller coasters, climbing mountains, taking on a new challenge, etc. I seriously considered getting my motorcycle license, and I would have skydived if the right opportunity arose. I want my daughter to be that way, and if I am being honest, I want it to be me that shows her how to be that way.
I want to be a fearless woman teaching her to be a fearless woman.
But I am not sure that will be possible. So I cried. Because motherhood has given me a sense of mortality that I didn’t have before and fear that I don’t want but know I won’t get rid of.
So how do I teach my daughter to be fearless despite her sometimes seeing me scared even when my words say otherwise?
I’m figuring that out.
I think the first step is that we climbed a mountain together.