In Their Own Time: Reflections on Fear and Growth

Running a marathon taught me a lot about myself, but being a mother is constantly teaching me something new. This summer has been a revolving theme: In her own time.

My daughter has been afraid of putting her head under the water since she was a baby. We did swimming lessons when she was 9 months old, but she hated everything unless I was holding her to my chest. I bought a pool pass last summer and she went under a few times. But she stopped once she got water up her nose.

This summer I bought another pool pass and was determined more than ever to conquer her fear of going under.  We even bribed her to go under the water and we would sign her up for swimming lessons. It took about two days, but she would only go under if she plugged her nose. I was left to honor our bribe by signing her up for swimming lessons.

After the first day of lessons, I came to realize that she wasn’t over her fear, and more importantly, not ready for lessons.

This caused a lot of stress and worrying on my end. I failed my daughter. I hated seeing in her eyes the anxious look, because she is so eager to please. She wasn’t ready for half of the stuff that was going to be expected of her in order to pass, and I should have known that. I should have known that I sent her in failing. Part of me was hoping that being around her peers would coerce her into doing more, but it didn’t. I just caused my daughter to have more anxiety.

The other challenge this summer was my daughter being scared of going down hills on her bicycle. Going up hills she’s perfectly fine and requires little help, depending on the steepness of the hill. Whenever we’re out riding her bike she’ll just stand at the top of the hill and begin to hyperventilate. This is out of character for my spunky little girl. It has left me feeling like I have failed my daughter once again. These were my two most favorite things to do in the summer as a child.

How on earth can I get her to get over her fears?

During one of my morning runs a book came to mind that I had read with first graders, Ruby in Her Own Time, by Jonathan Emmett. In the book Ruby is late to doing everything compared to her siblings. In the end Ruby is able to do everything just like her siblings, but she got there in her own time.

I did a little self-reflection with my approach. I had to remember that my daughter doesn’t do well with pressure. Having her see how badly I want her to do something is not going to help the situation. Just like Ruby, she requires her own time to decide when she’s going to do something.

Swimming and riding her bicycle have been a work in progress since my self-reflection. We make sure to celebrate with her when she’s made progress to keep her motivated. The most important part is that I no longer see the anxiety in my daughter’s eyes when I ask her if she wants to swim or ride her bike. Instead I see her excitement to practice and gain confidence.

Is there something your child is scared to do that you want them more than anything for them to do? What was your approach to teaching them?


Angelica was raised in West Liberty just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the Iowa City. After getting married to her high school sweetheart and living in the D.C. metro area, they decided it was not where they wanted to raise a family, and moved back to Iowa in 2012. They welcomed their daughter nine months after moving back. Then in 2018 added a yellow lab to their family. Angelica enjoys running, reading, and binge watching shows with her husband. She loves Disney, Reese's, and being a mom.


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