“Daddy, you don’t get scared do you?” My 6 year old asked me after I had killed a stink bug she was convinced was going to sting her.
“Me? No way.” I said as confidently and macho as I could muster (I may have even pushed out my chest too…ok, I did).
My time as a father has been spent doing a lot of different things for my kids and none more so than being their beacon of bravery. My name has been known to be called during a middle of the night thunderstorm. I have risked potential harm searching closets for monsters lurking in the shadows. I have been asked to turn out the lights in the basement for my kids and my mettle has been tested hundreds of times over any time an insect is found wall crawling in the house.
I have stepped up to each and every one of their requests any time they got scared, checked every unknown noise, and counted time between a bolt of lightning and the crack of thunder with them. I have threatened to punch the guy in the Chuckie Cheese rat costume in his snout, all for my kids. Because when they are scared, they have looked to me. A pillar of courage they know they can rely on at any time (even in the middle of the night).
Thankfully I had a good teacher to learn from.
My dad, as far as I could tell, was scared of nothing this planet had to offer. He killed bees with his bare hands. He not only went in the basement when the lights were out but did so it without a flashlight. He laughed at heights. Scoffed at spiders. He used a tennis racket like a samurai sword when a bat got in to our house. Heard a strange noise? It might as well been the sound of a puppy sneezing to my dad. The dentist, the doctor, needles the size of machetes, Dr Doom, the man stood and faced it all. When I was a kid, unable to gather up courage on my own, I had my dad’s hand to grab. Steady and strong. Telling me, without a word, “don’t worry”.
Watching him in action, like an amalgamation of a firefighter, astronaut, Captain America and Jack Hanna, it is no wonder I stared at him in awe. It should be no surprise either I would do everything in my power to emulate the model courage I grew up with.
And I have done my best matching my dad’s courage. Yet, despite all of those things I am asked to do, when I told my 6 year old I don’t get scared, I was lying.
I know if you asked either one of my kids, they would most likely say their dad is the “most bravest dad in the whole entire world”. A sentiment that might come from of a limited world view combined with watching their dad, time after time, seemingly calm, go head first at whatever it is I have been called in to handle. But ‘seemingly’ would be the key word. Because the truth is, I get scared. More than I am willing to admit to my daughter at the moment.
I was scared sitting in the MRI room with a lead lined bib watching my daughter, in a neck brace, get an MRI as I told her to stay still and it would be okay. I was scared when we took my little girl to Hershey Children’s Hospital to find out what was wrong with her digestive system. I was scared enough in a sky ride at an amusement park with my daughter to run through possible scenarios I could ensure her survival every foot we climbed up the cable (My wife calls me an idiot. I call myself being prepared). I was scared this summer when I was sitting home without a job. And if you must know, I am petrified of bees.
But I’m their dad. And like my dad did for me, when called by my frightened girls, there is no running away with my hands up in the air from the wasp circling their heads. There is only me sitting out in the open holding my little girl’s hand telling her it is going to be “okay” as the MRI takes its pictures. In those moments, I push my fear to the side, no matter the irrationality that fear is born from (like at Dutch Wonderland on the skyride). Because no matter how scared I might be, it is my job to stand in front of anything to protect my children when they cannot gather up their own courage. Whenever those times come, be it in the middle of the night, on a hospital gurney, or travelling ever so slowly on a metal wire across an amusement park 35 feet in the air, my kids will always have my hand. Steady and strong. Telling them, without a word, “don’t worry”.