Social/Emotional Well-Being

Facing Your Fears

I thought he was a stuffed animal.

But then I reached out to pet him and he moved, sending me hollering!

I was three years old and my mom had walked in the door with a tiny, black puppy- my worst fear at the time.

She purchased the puppy to help me overcome my fear and Wesley (yes, named after the character in The Princess Bride) lived a long, happy life.

Fast-forward a few decades and I came to learn not only was I allergic to dogs but at least one of my daughters was, too. We haven’t owned a pet as a result and it’s obvious in the way my girls respond to animals: fear.

I really wanted my girls to experience both the joy and responsibility of pet ownership. Owning a pet is a wonderful learning opportunity for empathy. It can hardly be substituted so I started researching pets that might fit our family. After months of consideration and a few trips to our local farm, we decided on a Holland Lop rabbit and welcomed Oreo to our family in late May.

At first the Littles would never leave him be while my eldest, also the most fearful, kept her distance. Over time, however, the Littles have learned that animals, like us, have feelings and needs and that gentle handling is imperative. But perhaps the greatest outcome of pet ownership has been the developing relationship between our eldest and Oreo.

This child who has never had an affinity towards an animal of any kind adores our bunny rabbit, Oreo, and he, her. She will sit in place petting him for twenty minutes or longer, something she did not risk attempting the entire first month he lived with us.

Aurora has many fears but facing this fear and surviving it will only help her to recognize that, ultimately, she is capable of overcoming. That she is in control of her feelings and emotions, not vice versa.

Couldn’t we all benefit from this lesson? For months I have feared even the word “homeschool”. Afraid for my sanity, afraid for my kids’ happiness, afraid of the stigma, afraid of failure. What I have discovered, though, is that my biggest fear actually resided in the decision itself. Once I had made the decision (likewise, once Aurora knew the bunny wasn’t going anywhere) I settled in and focused on taking the next, small step.

There is uncertainty in the unknown. Too often, I find myself wanting to know it all before I’ve had the chance to live through it. The prospect is daunting but what if we didn’t let that stop us? What if, instead, we dove in and discovered reservoirs of knowledge and strength we knew not possible? What if instead of focusing on the bad, we allowed ourselves to revel in the possibility of the good?

If only we could give ourselves the permission to face our fears, perhaps we’d all find an Oreo happy ending like Aurora did. The prospect is just too good to not give it a shot :).

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