Some thoughts on kids, writing, and snowflakes.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Of Fear and Frost Dragons

My son, eight, wanted a Frost-Dragon themed birthday party this year. For those unfamiliar with the rare creature, Frost Dragons migrate between the North and South Pole and, unlike their fire-breathing cousins, emit a frosted blast to subdue their victims. We needed to hunt one.

Each year, my husband and I go over the top (way over) on our kids' birthday parties. This always involves paper mache and whatever their most recent fascination. We've paper mached everything from pirates to volcanoes to space vehicles.

It used to be that I worried we'd made these parties too scary. During an outer-space themed party, one little girl looked up at me with giant eyes and asked if we were really going to the moon in our (very realistic!) Saturn V. "Oh...if only," I said.

But that was when they were five.

Now they are eight. Eight welcomes fear. "Make it scarier looking!" my kids told me as I formed sharp, serrated teeth and my husband attached a fog-hose so the dragon could really breath frost.

It got me to thinking about fear. The difference between fun fear and the not-so-fun kind. The paralyzing kind.

My first memory of being completely fear-filled is my brother rocking our Ferris wheel seat as I sat white-knuckled at the top, waiting for people to load. (I would have clocked him if I hadn't been certain I'd plummet to my death if I let go of the safety bar.) But as I look back, that wasn't real fear. For him anyway. We weren't going to fall and he knew it.

Now that I have kids of my own, there's more of the real fear. Like when my daughter's breathing was so shallow we rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night. Paralyzing fear.

I constantly have to remind myself what is real fear and what is well, the paper mache kind. Illusion.

I considered this one winter afternoon as my daughter and I rode a rocking ski-lift (yes, again with the suspended rocking chair!) up to the top of Okemo Mountain. Skiing is fearful for me. Skiing on my own is bad enough -- but now, with the kids -- REAL FEAR! The problem is that they, like my husband, have no fear. My children fly down the mountain, past me, veering dangerously close to...fill in the blank (poles, the woods, other skiers). And I follow, screaming, "slow down," and "pizza slice!" (a kid-friendly ski term that instructs them to make their skis form a wedge). They prefer french fries -- straight and fast. I know, I sound like a maniac. I am. this real fear? Or illusion? Am I still up at the top of the Ferris wheel, but now my kids are the ones rocking the seat? They've had lessons, after all, and are clearly better skiers than me.

But I am a mother and mothers fear (it's in the job description). Moms fear because we know what can happen. We've read the papers or heard it on the news. And we can never let our guards down.

So what's a fearful mother to do? I guess we just keep paper macheing frost dragons. We kiss boo boos and take our kids to the doctor and we remind them how everything will be all right. "I'll do the worrying, not you!" It's a good thing, too. I wouldn't want them to end up like me.

So here's my attack on fear today. My first blog entry. Am I fearful? Yes. Most definitely. But I remind myself -- it's just a paper mache Frost Dragon. Good fear.

So, why do I feel like I'm rocking at the top of the Ferris wheel again?