Do You Worry About Your Kids?
My daughter, Ferne (pronounced Fur-nee), is staying at Camp George this summer as a staff member. Ferne is a tripper.
What’s a tripper?
Every week, she and three co-staff take a group of 14 to 18 kids out on a three to four day canoe trip into Algonquin Park, a 7500km (5000 mile) large wilderness park in the middle of Ontario, Canada.
She paddles a canoe for hours and portages (carries a canoe and a pack on her back) for several kilometers until she reaches the camp-site. She sets up tents, builds fires and cooks meals. She wears the same clothes and doesn’t shower for days. She comes back with nicks, cuts, scrapes, bruises and mosquito bites, and covered from head to toe in dirt.
She is having the time of her life.
Every time I speak to her on the phone, she is bubbling over with happiness and says to me, “Mom, you just don’t understand. I don’t think I’ve ever been this happy.”
It’s music to a mother’s ears!
Unfortunately, as a mother, old habits die hard.
Just over a week ago, I spoke to her on her day off. She told me that she went into the city with a friend for dinner. I asked how she got there, and she said that they walked.
I pictured her walking down a dirt road alone with a friend. I imagined that it was dark and that she was surrounded by forest.
“Be careful,” I said. “When it’s dark out, drivers can’t always to see you.”
“Mom, it’s Parry Sound. It’s no big deal,” she replied. The picture in my mind did not fade.
“What if you see a bear?”
“I would love to see a bear!” My concern was mounting.
“You don’t know how to handle a bear!”
“Yes I do. You get big and growl. They get scared and run away.”
Great, I thought. Now my daughter is having a game of dueling growls with a bear.
I hung up and thought about how ridiculous the conversation was – and more specifically – how fearful I was being. How silly it was to embed my fears into her psyche. What does she need that for?
What you focus on grows, I told myself. Why would I focus on her seeing a bear?
As parents, in an attempt to keep our children safe, we deposit our worries and fears into them. We want them to be aware of any dangers that might surround them. Unfortunately, this well-intentioned habit tends to create unwanted outcomes.
A few days ago, my husband and I went to Camp George to spend one of Ferne’s days off with her. She told us a story about her last canoe trip:
The group had just finished portaging and were tired and hungry. They opened one of the barrels in which they keep supplies and noticed a yellow film on their bag of granola bars. The bars were wrapped and protected, so they handed them out to the campers.
Within seconds, they all started to feel a burning sensation in their mouths, which quickly spread to their hands, arms, faces, legs and everywhere! She compared it to being on fire.
They stripped down to their underwear and jumped in the lake, screaming, crying and thrashing about. The head tripper, also in just his underwear, grabbed some plastic gloves from the emergency kit and rummaged through the barrel to try and figure out what was going on. He discovered a broken jar of bear mace.
It had contaminated everything in the barrel and attacked the campers!
Just as Ferne cut open an avocado and rubbed it on the campers to give them some relief, a group of trippers from another camp came by and asked what was going on.
Upon hearing the problem, they handed over a bar of soap containing natural oils, which the campers used to reduce the sting.
Did I make this happen? No, not exactly. But what I did was inadvertently deposit my fears about a bear encounter into her world, and as such, she drew to herself a bear-related incident.
It’s not a coincidence. We attract what we focus on. As author Mike Dooley says, “worrying about things that might never happen increases their chances of happening.”
Ferne was not thinking about bears until I suggested it.
So, as a parent, what do you do with your fears?
You notice your fears and you catch yourself before sharing them. Then, you make an effort to visualize your kids in a great place, thriving, healthy and happy. And then you share THAT vision with them.
It’s probably one of the best gifts you can pass along… to your kids and anyone else.