Slaying Giants

at 10:43 PM

When my son was two, he had an encounter with a giant that changed our lives.
 
We were at a school fair in Napa. A teacher, disguised as a giant, pretended to sleep in the oppressive September sun as children tried frantically to steal his treasure. When he woke, they tossed glitter in his intimidating face and he collapsed back on the ground.

My toddler is a born risk-taker, but he was rigid with terror. Like driving by a six-car pile-up, he couldn't look away. We tried to steer him toward another activity. He fought to watch-from a distance.

That evening he begged to recreate the scene with his father as the giant. So, they did. This time, my son was victorious.

Over the course of the next year, my son's interest with giants grew into an obsession. I told three, four, 10, 15 giant stories a day. He continued to reenact the scene from the fair. We half-joked that we should call the school ahead of our arrival the next year and warn the "giant" to wear real armor -- our toddler was coming to settle a score.

The big day arrived. Truth be told, I was giddy with anticipation. I wanted my son to kick the giant's butt. How many times in life do you get to redo an event? Especially one that didn't go the way you wished it had?

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When we arrived at the fair, we beelined to the giant tent. We saw him: a bearded giant, plump around the middle, grumbling and sweaty.

I looked at my son, expecting him to be swollen with courage. But his chin trembled and color had drained from his face.

"It's pretend.Remember?" I whispered, but he continued to shake. I led him away. I felt more defeated than he. How could I have underestimated the power of fear?

We want our children to be triumphant. We don't want with them to live with fears -- whatever they may be. But of course, overcoming fear is much harder than returning to a fair armed with glitter. For if it was that easy, we would all be fearless.

That day, as I held my son, I realized that accepting his fears was as important as helping him fight them.

With a Perspective, this is Jennifer Liss.

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Jennifer Liss is an education writer who lives in Santa Rosa.

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