As a child, I rarely played outside. I didn’t go to the neighborhood creeks looking for rocks or go to the park. I didn’t play softball or basketball or run track.  In high school, I was on the tennis team, but as the manager of the team. The manager supervised the logistics of getting the team to tournaments and wasn’t ever required to own a tennis racket.  I had to get my physical education credit somehow even if I had to fake my way through it.

During the summer time, as a little girl, I am embarrassed to admit that I played school. I would organize folders for my “students” and make lesson plans. My students would learn English, Math, and have Art time.  I made school into a hobby, recording grades, generating report cards, and detentions. While playing teacher, I would watch from my window as other kids would play outside. Running around, I watched kids scrape their knees and hear loud voices of “Let’s go! Let’s go to the creek.”

My husband still has a laugh when he hears this little detail about my childhood. But it is a little more than a miniscule detail. I remember asking my parents if I could go outside and they were always afraid something would happen to me. My mom would say, “Stay inside. It’s too hot to go outside or  you may hurt yourself playing on your bike.”  When I got older, if I came home anytime, after 10:00 p.m., my Dad would pace outside on the sidewalk waiting for my car to pull into the driveway.  When, on the rare occasion, I would get home at 2:00 a.m, I would ask why he was outside. He would play it off by saying he was taking out the trash. The next morning he would run off the laundry list of all of the worst case scenarios of the things that could have happened to me, the crimes of the night, murder topping this list.

I sighed and said, “Well nothing happened, Dad. You worry too much.” In retrospect, they were good parents, but overprotective. I understand it, but it has limited my outlook. I find myself, worrying about worst case scenarios like when my husband comes home a little late from work or my daughter’s cold lingers a little too long. There is not an in-between, I always jump to the worst conclusion. I’ve been taught to be cautious, spending time worrying about scenarios that usually don’t arise.

I am lucky that my husband balances out the nameless gremlins in my mind. I am learning to adopt this attitude too. Yesterday afternoon, I told my Mom I enrolled my daughter in swimming lessons. Her immediate reaction was, “What if she goes underwater? You think it will be alright?”  I laughed, telling her, “Mom, I think that is the whole point. I think she has get underwater to learn to swim.” I sighed. Then I heard myself saying, “You can’t be afraid your whole life. You can’t approach every situation with fear. I will not teach that to her.”

I want my daughter to test limits. I don’t want her to fear life. I want her to live with abandon

And maybe she can teach me a thing or two when she get older.

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How have voices of your past influenced your decisions? Are you aware of your limitations? Do you try to test these limits?

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