Monday, September 30, 2013

Children help you find your strengths

From Friday's Briefing:

I once was an expert tree climber.
I could survey a trunk and its limbs, plot out strategy, and in no time I was taking shelter amid branches and leaves.
One evening, though, after returning to solid ground, I discovered a downside of climbing: ticks. Lots of blood-sucking ticks that had once lived on or around this particular tree now resided on me.
Before the last parasite was removed, I vowed to never again climb a tree. I would no longer participate in an activity that might make me a host to most unwelcome critters.
My tree-climbing days are now long gone. My time with ticks — well, they are more difficult to control.
Cooper spent last weekend camping with Boy Scouts at a nearby lake. The weather was ideal — the first real taste of autumn we’ve had since last November.
The ground was damp, but no rain fell for the duration of the trip.
This camping trip afforded some free time, and Cooper spent his nestled in a comfy corner of the woods, where he could enjoy solitude, nature and the novel he’s currently reading.
It’s also most likely where a tick decided to hop aboard for a snack.
A few hours after Cooper had returned home, he asked if I’d check the black spot on his back.
One glance and I knew what to do: Head for the computer and type “how to safely remove a tick from a human.”
The first entry was from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — a reliable source. I studied the instructions, urged Cooper to follow me to the bathroom, sanitized some tweezers, and took a deep breath.
I plucked the creature from my son’s back, pleased that the body seemed intact yet horrified by its wiggling legs.
I tossed the interloper, cleaned Cooper’s back and silently congratulated myself for not freaking out.
Of course, I’d do just about anything for my children.
Remove ticks and splinters, clean and dress wounds.
Stay up super late while one completes a school project. Wake up way early on Saturdays for games and practices.
Scour the Internet for a specific toy. Agonize over the perfect Halloween costume.
All this that we do for our children — willingly, joyfully — gives me pause. What are we doing for them that we aren’t doing for ourselves?
Now that I know I can battle a tick and win, I wonder how many experiences I’ve let pass me by. How many outdoorsy opportunities have I declined; how many trees have I left unclimbed?
One of the great gifts of parenthood is the ability not to live through our children but to discover our own possibilities because of our children.
I don’t want to model fear for my children, so I try to model courage instead.
When a child falls down, cries out in pain and produces blood — or when a parasite has dug into a child’s skin — I fight the instinct to run in the opposite direction and curl up in a protective ball. Instead, I somehow discover strength to assess and address the problem.
That strength doesn’t mean I’ll ever reclaim my tree-climbing glory days. But who knows what other heights I might scale.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at

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