Some Things are Scary
October 30, 2015

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “In order to learn the important lessons in life, one must each day surmount a fear.” Each day, each of us does face fears – things that make us anxious or uncomfortable. These fears are different for each of us. For me, speaking in front of a large group of people drums up some anxiety. Driving into DC does the same.

At our all-school meeting on Tuesday, I read a book called Some Things are Scary (No Matter How Old You Are) by Florence Parry Heide. She lists a variety of things that might be scary for some, like “Stepping on something squishy when you’re in your bare feet”, “Being on a swing when someone is pushing you too high,” or “Looking in the mirror while you’re having a haircut and they’re cutting it too short.” Personally, all three of those are scary to me! As I read and looked around the young audience, some children nodded in agreement while others smiled in confusion (the thought that’s not scary! written all over their expressions).

My son was a particularly risk-averse child. He never liked the swings at the playground and heights frightened him. To be fair, haircuts frightened him, too. Raising him (not that we are near finished with that – he’s only 12!) was a constant balance of figuring out when to back off, and when to push him. We never wanted to give him too much control, nor did we want to traumatize him by pushing him too far, too quickly. Parenting is not easy, but we are responsible for preparing our children for their futures…and that can be an overwhelming task.

Just as teachers spend their days scaffolding the learning and development of children, parents must do the same. Scaffolding, as the term suggests, is the provision of temporary support while children reach the next level of comprehension or skill acquisition. There is no discrete formula for this, as each child is different in each situation.

Little by little, as parents and teachers, we guide our children forward. We help them traverse a myriad of ever-changing systems, putting one foot in front of the other, even when something feels a little “scary”. The lesson we teach? That they can do it!

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