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10 Times When My Kids Have Forced Me To Face My Own Fears

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After nine years in the parenthood game, I’ve come to the conclusion that, while motherhood has changed me, I’m not a lesser iteration of myself. If anything, having kids has been a mirror with which I see the truest parts of who I am, and forced me to reckon with how I want my kids to see me. That is both exhilarating and terrifying. However, it's only one of the many times my kids have forced me to face my fears. I think I shared a lot of other moms’ fear about how motherhood might change me, too. I think it's normal for moms to be afraid we’ll lose something substantial, essentially sacrificing the version of ourselves we have spent the majority of our lives cultivating in the name of motherhood. Turns out, that initial fear has been the least of my worries as a parent.

Winging it makes me anxious. I’m a Type A person, so I like to be as informed as possible. So much of parenting is being able to accomplish various tasks throughout the day without much planning at all, though. So, no matter how many books I read or fellow moms I grilled for tips, nothing truly prepared me for motherhood. I’ve never embraced the practice of making it up as I go along, but after almost a decade of being a mom, I’m getting used to it.

Whenever I’ve been afraid of something and then done it anyway (hot yoga, online dating, cutting my hair off), I’ve never regretted it. If it didn’t work out, it at least taught me what not to do. By the time I’m done raising my kids, I’ll probably know what I’m doing. Until then, however, here are some times my kids have forced me to face my own fears, because parenthood is the scariest:

When I Joined A Moms' Group

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I am what you consider an extroverted introvert. In other words, I can deal with social situations just fine, but it usually takes all my energy to get through them and I need to “recover” afterwards.

I wasn’t initially enthusiastic about joining a local moms' group when my daughter was born, but after spending the winter indoors with her during maternity leave, I realized I needed some support. I still consider the moms I met in that group nine years ago my friends, even if our children aren’t, and I know I can reach out to them at any time for anything, like borrowing a car sea or getting career advice. We shared the experience of navigating motherhood in its earliest stages together, and that has bonded us for life.

When I Took My Daughter To The Emergency Room On New Year’s Eve

It's pretty normal to worry about experiencing the moment you have to rush your kid to the hospital, and then it becomes a reality. With no doctor’s offices open on New Year’s Eve, and our 7 week old unable to keep breast milk — her sole source of nutrition — down, our pediatrician advised us to take her straight to the ER.

The emergency room, you guys, on the drunkest, most accident-prone night of the year, in New York City, is not where you want to be with a newborn. Still, there we were, getting X-rays of her stomach and trying to get to the bottom of her chronic vomiting. We all survived, and she will never remember that night, but I can recall every moment in vivid detail. The verdict? She had a cold.

When My Daughter Exhibited Separation Anxiety

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My second child started daycare when he was just 11 weeks old, so he doesn't really know an alternative. My daughter, however, started preschool when she was 2, and was very aware of the difference between that scenario and being home with a babysitter. Still, we need to be a double income family, and that requires me to work outside the home.

So dropping her off at school, when she was a toddler, never went well. She begged for another hug. She pleaded for me to sit with her for just one more minute. She always watched me go, which pulled on my heartstrings like a damn anchor. I never wanted to be the mom whose child felt like she was being abandoned and, yes, I was.

When My Son Walked Into Traffic (Twice)

It was just a series of unfortunate events that led to my 13-month-old son wandering into the middle of the street. His 3-year-old sister had wedged past the stroller I was trying to navigate through our building’s basement door, and my options were to either let go of her and risk her being locked in on the other side, or to try to hastily prop open the door with the stroller while momentarily taking my hands off my ambulatory son. In choosing the latter, my son broke free and made a gleeful run up the ramp and towards the sidewalk. I didn’t reach him in time and barreled right into the middle of our busy Queens street. It is sheer luck there wasn’t a vehicle heading down our block before I snatched him out of harm’s way.

Then it happened again, a year later, when he ran away from me in an attempt to ditch preschool.

The amount of gray hair that grew on my head between those two events should go without saying. (Hell, I'll say it: it was a lot.)

When I Spoke Up For Myself When I Just Wanted To Hide

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I hate confrontation. It took having kids to summon the bravery I needed to speak up in situations where I was being ignored or passed over. Without kids, I let the ballsy guy behind me at Dunkin Donuts call out his coffee order over my head, even though I was next in line. I was annoyed, but more afraid to say anything.

That all changed when I became a mom, because I was no longer speaking for myself. I was speaking up for my kids, too. They needed an advocate on the class trip or help expressing their desires to a clueless authority figure. I can’t fight all the battles for them and they have to learn to speak up on the playground. However, they can only learn that technique if they see me, as their parent, model it.

When I Discovered My Son Had A Deadly Food Allergy

My son was not even 2 years old when we found out he had a lethal peanut allergy. I had given him a granola bar that contained peanuts since we were out, he was getting hungry, and we were at least an hour away from lunchtime. I just had him nibble on whatever snack I found in my purse, which is what I was giving his 4-year-old sister, too.

Suddenly, my son's eyes swelled shut and he broke out in hives. He started clawing at his skin and I knew there was something serious going down. We were eight hours from home, visiting family, so we rushed him to urgent care, where they dosed him with a serious amount of medication to counteract the effect of the unknown allergen. It was terrifying.

Thankfully, we are all still alive, thanks to a subsequent diagnosis and his constant companion of an Epi Pen, to tell the story.

When I Promised To Go Down A Waterslide With My Son

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Despite being a lifeguard, the water terrifies me. It’s a powerful force, even for those of us who are strong swimmers. Still, when my 5-year-old son begs me to go down the waterslide I have spent the last half hour watching him fly down, and I promise him that I will do it just once a summer, I can’t go back on my word.

In the end, his smile is so worth the gigantic wedgie I get from hitting the water at that speed.

When My Kids Couldn’t Ride A Roller Coaster Without Me

This past summer, my 6-year-old son outgrew his fear of thrill rides, but didn’t outgrow the height requirement. He had to be accompanied by an adult to ride “The Viper” on a trip to an amusement park. Lucky me, I was that adult. I made it through the two minutes of terror by keeping my eyes shut and screaming the entire time. I’m positive that ensured his safety.

When I Walked Out Onto A Building I-Beam

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At a museum exhibit recently, my 6 year old had no problem walking about on a 4 inch wide metal beam, one story above the ground, as part of a construction site simulation. He was in a safety harness, hooked into a pulley system above, and with an attendant standing by. But still, seeing that caused my heart to jump into my throat. In also made me realize I had to do it, too. Not only did he really want me to try it, so I could experience what he just did, but I felt compelled to show him that if he wasn’t afraid I wasn’t going to be either.

In these moments, when my kids displayed bravery, I felt they looked to their parents to do the same.

When I Hosted My Daughter's Birthday Party

There were 29 kids soaring through the air, intent on colliding with each other, after stuffing themselves with pizza and cake. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

(There’s a reason we never held group birthday parties again.)