Recently, as part of a Facebook discussion group, members of my high school class were discussing the art of raising daughters and granddaughters. I’ll note here that I went to a private, non-sectarian, academically-oriented, all-girls school and I graduated in 1972. My former classmates include lawyers, doctors, professors. And so on.
The question was raised: how do you raise daughters and granddaughters to be fearless. Immediately, of course, I changed the question to raising fearless children, because I honestly think of both of my kids (who are now adults in their early 30s) as fearless. Later when I discussed it with Stacia, however, she pointed out that she’s not fearless, but that she does things anyway. The correct idea, then, is not fearless; it’s brave.
I was stumped by the question, to be honest; I really have no idea what Jay and I did right when we raised our kids. They’ve turned out brave, smart, energetic, and a pleasure to be around. Stacia’s theory is that we provided opportunities, gave them some choices, and expected them to choose–but they didn’t have the choice of doing nothing. I don’t know if that’s it, but perhaps it was part of it.
This weekend, though, the question and the idea got flipped for me. Stacia and I did two things this weekend where not that long ago I would have said “oh, go ahead without me!” The first was a twelve-plus-mile day hike on Mt. St. Helens exploring the blast zone and the ecological after-effects of the 1980 eruption. It was a challenging hike; I use the word “challenging” very carefully. I try not to say “hard” because “hard” is just too vague.
The hike challenged me physically and mentally. There were more than a few moments where I wanted to call for a rescue helicopter. I discovered, unhappily, that my feet swell a lot on long hikes–by the last few miles my toes were banging uncomfortably against the front of my shoes; I may be losing a few toenails over the next few weeks. There was the moment when I realized that the “official” measurement of the hike at slightly over ten miles was wrong; my Garmin GPS watch read almost nine miles and the hike leader said we had about three and half miles to go…
There were also exhilarating moments when I (briefly) felt invincible. We found a patch of ripe and beautiful wild strawberries and stood eating them for what felt like a long time. There was a tiny patch of snow (a rough circle perhaps twenty feet in diameter) and I scrubbed my hands with some and put some on the back of my neck. I ate half a chocolate bar at about 8 miles and it was possibly the best chocolate bar I’ve ever had.
This challenging hike, which I completed because of Stacia’s generous help (seriously: she carried extra water bottles so we’d have plenty; she carried, in total, about twice the poundage I did; she lent me her day pack), got me thinking about raising brave parents. Over the last five or six years, Stacia’s expectation that I will follow her example of confronting fears and just doing things anyway has led to be doing things that surprise me, like a twelve mile hike. It started when she completed a marathon and then suggested that I get back into running by doing Couch-to-5K; yesterday’s hike was just another data point.
After we drove home from our hike (we stopped at Burgerville and shared a marionberry milkshake), we rested for a bit, then Stacia and I went back out to participate in the Naked Goddess Swim here in Portland. It takes place annually at the August full moon, and features naked women swimming off a public access dock under the rising moon. There are safety kayakers and everyone is checked in and out of the water, so it hits all my “is this safe?” buttons nicely. (I’m not known as “Queen of the What-Ifs” for nothing; I always like to figure out how to do things safely.) Another friend met us there, and we dove into the Willamette River with our pink glow necklaces around our necks and swam (yes, naked) in the exhilaratingly chilly river as the moon rose. Spectators stood on the Hawthorne Bridge and gawked; there were about a hundred women in the water, younger, older, thinner, fatter, all of us naked in the moonlight. It was delightful. I didn’t get out until my teeth started to chatter.