A lot of time my life is compartmentalized and my activities are separated from each other, but every now and then there is cross over in surprising ways.
Over the weekend we went to Mansfield Dam off Lake Travis with our friends Patrick, Jane and their kids Kyler and Brody. The sun kept playing hide and seek behind rain clouds and a few sprinkles fell as we parked our cars in the lot. I mentally noted the slowly winding ramp that led down to the water and wondered if we would ever get enough rain to raise the lake levels back to normal.
Henri and Patrick started walking through the trees, seeming to find the steepest hill possible to navigate towards the water. Jane and I exchanged looks. “There’s a smooth path back where we pulled in,” I offered. “No, Lisa, that’s the ramp for boats. This is the way to go down,” proclaimed my man. “But…”
But my ‘but’ landed on deaf ears and the kids were already scrambling down the rocky terrain after the men. A bunch of people were fishing at the water’s edge and my daughter, Rylee, was stripped down to her American flag bathing suit in 30 seconds. My son took disrobing a step further and went totally commando, splashing into the murky lake water with wild abandon. Not to be outdone, Kyler soon shed his diaper and the boys were engrossed in skipping stones across the water in their birthday suits.
The air blew cooler and it was time to vacate the water and head up the ravine. Going down had not been so hard, but looking at the steep, almost vertical climb back to the picnic area suddenly took its toll on Rylee and she got frightened. The white rocks looked daunting and dangerous and I wished my husband had listened to me about the taking the easy way down. But now there was no way back up but to climb with arms and legs and Rylee wouldn’t budge.
Patrick said, “it’s not so bad. See? Kyler can do it.” Kyler is 2 ½. Rylee is 4 ½. This did not make her feel better. Henri balanced our son and the beach towel in his arms and called down to her. “Just step on the little rocks, sweetheart.” The more we told her there was nothing to fear the more frightened she got and she began to cry. We watched the others approaching the top of the cliff and we were still next to the lake. Henri called down in frustration, “Just carry her!” “No,” I called back, “She’s 4 ½ and she can do this. Go ahead. I’ll stay with her. There’s no rush.”
Everyone disappeared over the edge and it was just my daughter and me. A bird circled overhead, casting a shadow on the rocks and I felt a few drops of rain fall on my skin. I knelt down next to her and looked into her tear stained face.
“You’re frightened?” I asked. “Yes,” she nodded. “What are you afraid of?” I questioned, tucking a loose hair behind her ear. “There are spiders on the rocks and they’ll bite me and I’ll fall and hurt myself,” she said quivering. “What if we step over here? I don’t see any spiders here,” I offered.
“No, I’ll fall.” She kicked her foot against the jagged boulder, staring down in the pebble filled dirt.
“Rylee, you know what? The other day I was really scared that I would fall too. I was doing push ups and I thought I’d fall and hurt my face but my trainer, Daniel, said he wouldn’t let me get hurt and you know what? I didn’t get hurt. And I’m not going to let you fall either.”
Raising her blue eyes to me, she considered this. “You get scared too?” It seemed as though the thought of me being afraid of anything never occurred to her.
“Yes. But I did it anyway, and so will you, because you can do this, Rylee. I won’t let you fall.”
She sniffled a little and looked uncertainly up the hill. “Ok.” Grasping my hand tightly she took the first step up a tall rock, not entirely convinced this was a good idea. But she kept going as I encouraged her along the way.
“You’re so brave, Rylee!” Look how far you’ve come. Almost to the top now!” She picked up speed as her confidence grew and suddenly we crested the top. Before we joined the other we took a minute to look down, the uneven rocks looking ominously serrated. “Look, Rylee. You did it! You climbed the hill even though you were scared, and I’m so proud of you.” Her face shone a crooked little smile, one forever etched now on my heart and I thought to myself:
If my four-year-old is brave enough to conquer her fears, so can I.
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