Last week our family went to Disney World.
It was awesome.
We rented a house with my wife’s family (10 adults, 7 kids) and hit four different parks. The kids were amazing, the skies were sunny and the Kingdom was magical. Besides seeing my wife weep with joy as she watched our daughters meet the real life princesses, my favorite moment came when my son overcame his fear of roller coasters.
Granted, I don’t know that Sam has ever even had an opportunity to ride a roller coaster, but when we suggested he go with us on Expedition Everest, that fear became real…real fast. While the ride was still theoretical, Sam convinced himself he’d love it, so we walked toward the mountain with our Fast Passes. As we neared, Sam pointed and said, “Dad, look at that mountain!”
“Yeah, man! THAT is the roller coaster!” I said.
“Oh…no,” Sam whispered. “I changed my mind.”
We got to the base and Sam read the sign. I asked him what he was most afraid of and he started rattling off everything on the sign. “Heights, far drops, speed, sudden turns…”
So, I started my convincing.
I told him roller coasters are made to scare you, so it’s ok to be scared, but that’s what’s fun! I told him I wouldn’t let anything bad happen to him and that I’d be right by his side the whole time…screaming like a girl. I told him I knew he could do it and he needed to believe he could, too. “Just keep telling yourself, ‘I can do it!’ over and over,” I said. And with that, we started up the mountain to the coaster.
Right before we got on, Sam looks up at me and says, “Dad, you know what I’ve been saying over and over in my head all the way up here? ‘I can do it.’ And I know I can!” I smiled and we piled in. Moments later we were hurtling through a mountain at breakneck speed, screaming all the way, hands high in the air! At one point the tracks appeared torn apart by a Yeti, the coaster stopped and began going backwards. As soon as we righted ourselves, it was time for the drop. Down the mountain we shot, stomachs in our throats…and loving it!
After the ride, Sam and his two cousins hooted and hollered, “THAT WAS AWESOME!” They loved it…thankfully. As we walked away, Sam said, “I faced my fear, and it was awesome!” I think he got that line from his cousin Noah, and I was so happy to hear him say it. He really did face his fear and I was so proud of him for doing so. And it paid off for him!
Facing our fears is difficult, but so often it leads to good things. Full disclosure: I’m terrible at facing my fears. Absolutely terrible. I think that’s why I was so proud of Sam. And inspired by him. I kept thinking about how he can use this experience when he comes up against other fears and how valuable it’ll be. Then I got to thinking, “Wait, how did I convince him to face his fears?” In this case, it was because I had faced the exact same fear…20-some years ago. I was terrified of roller coasters as a kid. Then, in junior high, our class got to go to Great America and all my friends were going on the American Eagle coaster. It was only the biggest, scariest, wood-iest of them all. But, I couldn’t chicken out. Ahh, peer pressure; the ultimate motivation to face your fears. Well, I got on the ride and ended-up loving it. From that day forward, I’d ride anything. Even if it scared me. I knew from experience that it’d be great. That’s why I was able to speak so confidently and persuasively to Sam.
Now I just need to learn how to speak in such a way to myself.
What’s your roller coaster?