How to overcome your greatest fears as a parent

Is there really nothing to fear but fear itself? Jennifer Pinarski puts the popular saying to the test as she faces down a few fears of her own.

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Jennifer dives in and conquers her fears. Photo: Mike Melansen

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband, while staying home to raise their two young children.

A few weeks ago, my friend Rhonda asked me to go swimming with her. Being a slightly nutty endurance athlete herself, she needed my help to guide her during a seven kilometre swim at Little Lake in Colborne, Ontario. I immediately agreed because Little Lake is beautiful and I wanted to catch up with my friend, who I hadn’t seen since she was in Boston. Surprisingly, I wasn’t afraid of being tied to a blind swimmer or of having to swim in a lake further than I had ever gone before — nevermind the fact that I haven’t even trained myself for that distance.

I was excited about the physical challenge (despite the fact that being tied to someone while in the middle of a lake goes against everything I learned when taking my lifeguarding certifications). Even when, at one point during the swim, an over-eager jet skier raced around Little Lake while we were stranded in the middle, treading water, neither of us were afraid. Instead, I slowly guided Rhonda to the dock on the opposite side of the lake and asked for flag tape so that the jet skier would be be able to see us.

On the surface, it was an entirely ridiculous situation to be in, that I’ll bet most sane people would’ve be afraid. I mean, Iron Man athletes don’t even swim seven kilometres tied to a blind person, without a canoe or kayak to keep them safe from jet skis. This whole concept of fear and, specifically, what I’m afraid of gave me plenty of food for thought during my swim.

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When my husband first told me he lost his job, my first feeling was fear. I was afraid of everything — losing our house, and not being able to afford groceries or the kids’ dental care. I was afraid that I’d never find enough work to help pay for our household expenses and, even trivially, that I’d lose my readers since I’d no longer be a stay-at-home mom (not out of vanity, but because I truly value the friends and support that other SAHMs have given me). I lost a lot of sleep in those early days.

But over the last few months I’ve slowly let go of those fears, not because the risk of those things happening still aren’t there, but because I’m learning to trust. We’re getting more invitations for home cooked meals. Our farming friends are sharing their eggs and food with us. My son’s school told us about funding programs for swimming lessons and food programs. And our family dentist, whom we already adored, graciously waived his fees so that our children could have the dental surgery they needed. At a time when I should have felt afraid, instead I felt comforted and cared for. It doesn’t mean I still don’t feel like punching the next person who cheerfully tells me that everything happens for a reason — I just feel like punching them a little less hard. What can I say, job loss is stressful!

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After Rhonda and I waded out of Little Lake, sunburned and hungry, we started laughing over the fact that we’d pulled off a swim most people would be afraid to do. When I asked Rhonda if she’d been afraid at any point during our swim she just shook her head. “If I hold on to how much I trust you, then I can’t hold on to being afraid,” she told me. “Besides, karma loves faith,” she added.

Indeed it does.

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