Facing fears

Ever since Jessica started middle school, every morning I have parked in the parking lot and walked to the front door with her. In the afternoons, I stand by the front door to pick her up and we walk to the car together. Everyone else, of course, drops their kids off; they just wait in line in the drop-off lane. My walking Jessica to the door started for a lot of reasons—new school, idiot drivers ignoring the “no cars” sign on the bus lane and flying down it, Jessica’s visual impairment.

It isn’t really a big deal for me to do this with Jess, and in fact, we both kind of enjoy it. But there comes a time when you realize, as a mother, that you are holding your kid back. Especially when she resists doing something she’s perfectly capable of doing because she’s afraid of it. And because you are.

What about those idiot drivers? I keep asking myself every time I think about broaching the topic with Jessica. Not that there has ever been an accident. But there could be! And if life holds true to form, it will happen to my daughter. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

So this morning I realized it was long past time to have The Talk with Jessica, about how she is practically grown up now and can do these things on her own, and she wasn’t thrilled, but she took a deep breath and agreed that she was ready to be dropped off in the mornings. We’ll wait on the afternoons for a little while; one thing at a time.

It isn’t a big deal but it is a big deal.

And I was thinking about all the little fears like this that hold me back, that hold us back. It isn’t the knife-wielding maniacs that circumscribe our lives, though it’d be easier to think so. I think of the novel I’m currently working on, that for some reason I can’t seem to finish, because then I will have to put it out there, and the last few times I have done that with a novel, it has not been a happy experience for me. So if I never finish, I never have to put it out there and get all those rejections again. As you can imagine, I have found any number of ways to rewrite the novel. I’m not sure I’m improving it but damn straight I am holding off the rejection.

I have been a writer for many many years, and I have been rejected more times than possibly any other person on the planet, and I am very good at shaking it off. But there are some projects that I am so invested in that it’s hard for me to separate myself from them, and in those projects are all my hopes and fears for the future, all the joy and pain of the work I do, that I want to share; this is not “Ten Ways to Kick Attackers in the Balls,” the kind of stuff I used to write.

There isn’t anything I can do or say to help the part of me that doesn’t want to get rejected again. It will happen, and there is no promise that in the end justice will triumph or that I will ever get what I want or even know it when I hold it in my hands.

But watching Jessica walk across the street without me reminds me that you have to risk it. Sometimes you have to be the mother who pushes the kid out of the car with a kiss and a “you can do it,” even when the kid isn’t sure she’s ready yet.

And sometimes the kid looks over her shoulder with a big grin and wave and she is happy because you believed she could do it, and all along what she needed was that simple: someone who believed she could do it.


  1. Very enjoyable post to read. Thought provoking as well. It reminds me of a quote from the book Dune by Frank Herbert that I enjoy and find useful that goes, "I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."

  2. God, Jennifer, thanks so much for this important reminder couched in so beautiful a post. What a gift you are in my life as both a writer and a human being. Just knowing someone else is out there struggling with the same kind of fears is somehow (perhaps perversely) comforting, and gives me courage…

  3. You and I are a lot alike in regards to our writing. I'd rather continue writing over and over and not submit at all.

  4. I really, really want to read "Ten Ways to Kick Attackers in the Balls." I would soooo buy that.

    Sigh. It is so hard to push our kids to do things. I struggle every day with not wanting to spoil my kid and at the same time wanting to protect her from the world. It's a balancing act that just sucks. And unfortunately, I think most of us these days are erring on the side of protecting them too much.

  5. I think you and Jess probably have a very special bond because of your history. I know this tends to make us moms more protective god knows I haven't stopped hovering over my daughter and she's middle aged. (barely but still) I know you'll always do whatever is be best for her. How do I know that? Becuse you want to so much and you're smart and thoughtful enough to figure it out.
    It's nice to be in touch again, been a long time. Glad you're still writing. Me too. all best,Ruth

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