“Hell no!” I thought while looking up at Asterix Pass, a short Class 4 scramble at Smith Rock State Park that would take us to the west side of the cliffs (see pictures above). My husband climbed up to take a closer look. “Come and see” he beckoned “we can totally do this”. I crawled up and looked over. It was treacherously steep, the kind of fall that would result in broken bones… or worse. I could feel my pulse increasing, hands getting sweaty and breathing getting shallower. I gasped for air. “No, we are not taking our kids over this!” I replied firmly.
“How did I end up here?” I wondered curiously, as I peeked over the steep ledge of Asterix Pass.
You see, I have fears. Yes, me. You might not guess it but it’s true. Nature is full of things that scare me. A crash in the woods has me searching for bears, or a gush of strong wind has me looking for potential tree fall. I have a whole list of things that make me uncomfortable: bears, ticks, snakes, falling rock, rushing water, lightening storms, wind storms, wildfires and aliens. Joking aside, about the aliens that is, my fears tend to revolve around my kids getting hurt, or getting injured myself and leaving my kids stranded. Sound familiar? The interesting thing is, I don’t remember being afraid of these things before I had kids.
Sometimes I look at other ourdoor-sy parents and wonder: “Do they have these kind of fears?”. I suspect that many (if not most) do, but it’s not something that’s discussed often. Maybe some adventuring parents are embarrassed to admit it, maybe some have figured out a good way to work through their fears, or perhaps some don’t have any fears at all! (please email me if you’re one of these parents!!).
One thing I’ve learned over the years is that fear is powerful and good, it primes our bodies to take action, quick-like. It also helps us prepare and learn, which are very useful skills. I’ve also discovered that we tend to fear what we don’t know. When our brain detects something unfamiliar it says “Whoa now! I’ve never encountered this before… it could be dangerous!”. It’s during times like this that I’ve discovered the importance of showing myself (and my brain) that there’s nothing to be afraid of.
I looked over Asterix Pass with shaking knees, and then back at my children. “I’m going first” I stated. We used our rock climbing knowledge, skills and gear to set up a safe way over. I took a deep breath and smiled at my kids. “I’ll be on the other side to help you, you’ll do great”. This year I’ve been challenging myself to be fearless, to say “yes!” to some of the things that scare me.
The climb took a mere five minutes for me to complete and my kids followed, one at a time, barely skipping a beat. “That was fun!” my two older kids exclaimed, and surprisingly I had to agree.
Despite my fears, getting outside with my kids and doing crazy things with them, like rock climbing and hiking in the alpine, is very important to me. Why? There are so many reasons! One is teaching my children that it’s alright to feel scared sometimes but not to let fear hold them back from exploring our beautiful world and trying new things.
If fear holds you back from getting outside with your kids here are a few helpful tips:
Start by exploring a place that feels safe to you like a park, beach or an easy trail. When you are ready for something a little more, try something close to your comfort zone: a new trail, a different park. When exploring uncharted territory ask another family or adult to join you, join a family hiking group (check Facebook for these groups in your area) or let someone know where you’re going. Also, empower yourself by learning how to be safe in nature by reading books, taking a course (like Outdoor Mom Academy), reading articles online or learning from others.
And, just for the record, I wouldn’t recommend taking on Class 4 scramble with your kids unless you have the equipment and skills to do so. ?