If you ask my daughter what she’d like to be when she grows up, she’ll say a fairy-princess-ballerina. If anyone can do that, she’ll be the one. It’s been a long journey for us to Princessville. For a long time, I resisted cluttering her little girl life with what I considered to be the mind-numbing coquettishness of Disney prinnies, but with an admirable tenacity and sneakiness, those princesses have wormed their way into our lives (along with their fairy and ballerina cousins). She really loves their royal Pinknesses, and I’ve decided not to judge my daughter just because she wants to be a fairy-princess-ballerina. Heck, when I was little I wanted to be Carol Alt, the first female President of the United States. Plans change. And who am I to judge?
Monster-chases-the-Princess is her favorite game. She plays it with me, her dad, her little friends. Last time we played this game, I realized something very alarming. My daughter doesn’t run away. When she’s the princess, she doesn’t run. Sometimes she just freezes and squeals. Even worse, sometimes she runs toward the Monster and embraces it!
First, I tried coaching her (which was confusing when I was playing the Monster). “Run, honey, run away!” This had no effect. I called my husband and told him that we needed to enroll her in Tae Kwon Do immediately so she could learn to defend herself. Forget this ballet class crap, if she wasn’t going to run, then she could at least learn how to punch and kick the Monsters in her life. “Why doesn’t she run when she’s scared?” I asked him, “Why doesn’t she run away?”
As you can probably tell, I fastened a metaphor jetpack onto this incident and blew it up to signify that she would be taken advantage of by her friends, she would never defend herself, she would stick around even if things or people got scary, she would be too nice for her own good. I flew into a complete and utter panic.
But here’s the thing…I’m a runner. Not physically of course (ewww!), but metaphorically speaking, my tendency is to roll out when things get tough. When my Monsters come calling, I look for the exit sign and employ the strategies of get out, slip out, cut people out, make it go away, and leave. It’s true I’m peaceable, I avoid conflict, I have an appropriately developed sense of self-preservation, but mostly I’m just scared to stick around and deal with the hard bits in life. I’m still learning there’s a difference between ‘hard’ and ‘bad’. And I’m still learning that fear is just a feeling, just a state of mind. Thus far in my life, running from my Monsters has not helped me get away from them. In fact, I just used up a lot of energy and money moving me (and my Monsters) around.
So there’s something beautiful about my daughter’s willingness to run toward her Monster even if it’s just a silly game that she plays with her mom. There’s something touching about her willingness to embrace what scares her (because she really does get scared every time). And something wise about her knowing which is a real Monster and which is a pretend Monster. The pretend Monsters aren’t worth running from, you know?
The adult version of this running-toward-monsters seems hard. I’m gonna try it.
So, tell me…What’s your strategy when your ‘Monsters’ come calling? Has that strategy changed over time? How do you keep yourself brave and steady when things get tough?
P.S. In the event of a real Monster or other dangerous situation, run! If you find yourself in an unsafe situation of any kind, then do what you need to do to stay safe — no running toward real monsters! Find yourself a police officer, therapist, or reliable friend to help you out. In this post, I’m talking about those seemingly scary and anxiety-inducing messages we tell ourselves that are simply just unhelpful interpretations of our lives.