A Little Bit of Lion Heart September 03 2015

I wish I was brave. Bold I do – sometimes… with prodding. Confident I can pull off. Loud is no problem. But I am not brave.

When whoever was handing out whatever they walked right passed me with the jug of adrenalin-junkie-juice and gave it to the chick in boardies with a smattering of freckles on salted skin, with the really shiny wavy hair (you know she never brushes it, that’s the way it fell out of a relaxed pony this morning after her sunrise surf). She drank the whole dang jug then asked for another. The gift-god bartender looked at me, shrugged his shoulders and pointed to the water canister.

There have been flashes of an attempt at wild. Actually they were mostly just flashes of flesh after a few too many ‘fizzy’ beverages. And thankfully for the most part I cannot really remember those and it was long before the invention of million-memories-a-minute-smart phones. Praise to the heavens.

I do want to jump at it all. Or off it. Or onto it. But I don’t. I um and I ah. And then it’s usually too late.

And sometimes I worry it has bred on in my kids.

As a family we are not really the rafting, camping, zigzagging kind of group. Sure day to day my husband canters down hills like a typical lad from a Banjo Patterson poem, and he would be the first to give anything a go unless it involves small planes, but we don’t go out seeking thrills and spills all that often as a unit. The boys as small boys do, had grand dreams of being buckle laden bullriders until they sat on a very, very old sheep that baaa’d and wiggled and now they are only keen to maybe oneday drive the truck that drops off the bulls at the rodeo. Maybe.

Yet in recent weeks we have taken outgoing-outdoorsy-activities to a new high. First there was skiing in nearly non-existent snow in Victoria. We pushed (literally - they were strapped into mini mini ski boots) the boys off to ski school. One loved it. One did not. Or so he said (but has not stopped talking about it since). I planned to relax with numerous hot chocolates in a nearby café and watch the boys zip up and down the little learning hill (yes for two whole days, and yes I would have been happy). My husband had other ideas and cajoled me (similar to how he moves stubborn bulls I am sure) off to the ski shop and then eventually to the starting spot on the slope.

It took me 15 minutes to move.

Not kidding.

When I did move (two metres) it was excruciating - especially for everyone else to watch. Bambi on ice etc, etc. Once I got going I reckon I did many more kilometres than anyone else on the mountain, because I spent so much of my time sliding ever so slowly across the hill, only to turn shakily then retrace my pizza-cutting-wobble back across to where I had just come from. I was lapped by five year olds and 85 year olds alike. For my husband it was the quietest two days of our marriage because I was so busy concentrating and gritting my teeth against what I believed to be my impending doom that I was unable to talk.

It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy myself or appreciate the absolutely magnificent scenery or the privilege of such a gorgeous holiday. I just didn’t appreciate how my useless style was causing me much angst and making me a slow-moving road block for anyone else actually trying to enjoy the little snow that was on offer. And I wanted to be better, and feel better about myself having a go, I truly did.

Then the kids came home and we high-fived their exhausted little hands and kissed those chilly pink cheeks and delighted in their excitement. The next day we could only get one through the door. The other we plopped over the gate in a cranky swishy-neon-ski-suited-sulk. He did not want to go (and I got it – neither did I buddy). You see, Dougal has inherited my other great habit: if you don’t want to do something for fear or fear of failure, just straight out refuse. Dig those stubborn little heels in and hang on for eternity. Yet we persevered and he loved it – eventually.

We heaped praise like a dump of fresh powder on the mountain. We encouraged. We did all the things in the positive-parenting handbook (not really, but I do need to get one of those for when threats of sending misbehaving little people to live with the bunyip by the dam grow old). And I felt like a big, unfit hypocrite. Then promises of a repeat trip next winter were made. Gulp.

My husband comes from a can-do anything and let’s give it a go right now kind of family. I love this and try honestly to get involved. I come from a sporty family but have somewhere along the line developed a cautious nervous approach. I think it happened somewhere in those awkward teen girl years. When I went from body-surfing at the beach to wearing useless triangles of lycra that meant any decent activity would only result in decent nudity. Then illness stopped me having a go for a year or so and once sport lapsed in life I became more of a long term spectator than a participant. I didn’t realise how much I missed it until my Mum offered to donate my old hockey sticks to charity and I couldn’t remember the last time I had run out on a field – or donned a skirt that short.

Sometimes I think maybe I left a lot of my general gun-ho in the kit bag all those years ago. As a journalist I often hated piping up to asks questions. I am not one to ever approach a celebrity, especially not for a dreaded selfie. I am never first on the dancefloor. And I am a chronic over-aplogiser. Many say going into labour without drugs is brave. I reckon labour is really just a rough day at the office – it passes. Moulding and building that little soul over several decades is where the real fear sets in for me.

I worry that I have passed on my ‘reluctance’. My eldest in particular can sometimes be shy in groups, or on the phone or in new situations (yes I know, most kids are). We already share a passion for pastel drawing and flower pressing and like me, he is not exactly Harry Kewell when it comes to ball sports. Often I find myself trying to ‘build him up buttercup’. Bring that flower out of the bud. Especially starting school I worried about where he would fit in, who would be his friends, what fiddle would he play in the great opera of the playground.

Recently we found ourselves as a family in a very big playground at Luna Park. A long, long held bribe for good behaviour finally paid up in bucketloads of chips and long lines of fidgety waiting. And coming from a paddock to this grand park was certainly an adventure. I thought we would last two or so hours. Nearly eight later we staggered out. The boys buzzing. Elsie clutching all sorts of fuzzy prizes (including a six legged octopus she worryingly adores more than all her most beautiful toys).

I (slightly hungover) had been the bag lady much of the day. Chatting with friends and keeping Elsie entertained as she was continuously rejected from rides, based on her lack of height. If they had measured her fierce little nature there would be no zipper or dipper too big for this little princess in boots. I had assumed my sometimes retiring boys would take one look at the rides and stick to the clowns and popping balloon games. I was so wrong.

With Daddy close by (rather hungover and slightly green) roller coaster was conquered, dodgems were delightfully dominated, super-sized slides were nearly worn out by the time the sun waned. And still they wanted more. Old fashioned fun like the wobble boards, rolling tunnels and mirror rooms that were at first daunting became like skipping stones on a still lake, they were idling in their ideal land. And they kept saying ‘Are you proud of how brave we are?’ ‘Bet you didn’t think I could do that!’ ‘Watch me, watch me, watch meeeee!’.

And I slowly realised my limits should not be their limits. My fears are not theirs to face. Confidence in themselves is growing like their shoe size. I don’t know if you can teach self-assurance like times-tables. Or if you can learn to be brave like memorising the alphabet. All I want is the kids to believe in themselves enough to have a go, and trust in themselves enough to enjoy it.

For the record I do not want my lot to become crazy risk taking, cliff jumping, Redbull-contract-chasing anyones trying to be someones. I just want them to be themselves. We are a long, loooong way off the tattoo-piercing-fast car-fast anything chat. Thank the heavens (again). But I hope when they do hit that certain age that I am not a hobbled old crank in the corner and that I still proudly put on the leopard heels and they’ll take me for a bop on the old dancefloor.

Conviction is a great thing. Faith to jump, whether into business, a family (go on throw away that contraception), a new home, an adventure overseas or even a new hairdo is priceless. I am endeavouring to be more in debt to my do-something account than my buy-something-to-make-me-feel-better-and-actually-just-drain-the-bank-account account. That means trying new things (and not just when it comes to cakes). I do know for me right now however that does not mean jumping on the nearest roller coaster. I hope instead I will reach my heights at Ferris Wheel speed and enjoy the view as I go. And as for the kids, I will give them two tokens to wherever they want to go, and happily hold their hats, shoes, bags, and fluffy dice on the sidelines.