It’s Not Courage If You’re Not Scared

Erik Cooper —  April 4, 2011 — Leave a comment

Fresh back from a week’s vacation. Rested, sunburned, and blonder (what can I say, my sister in-law is a hair stylist and it rained one day). Vacations are great incubators. You get to think again, breath again, experience things again.

And boy did I have an experience (thanks to my five year old son). If Austin was a vehicle, he’d be a Monster Truck with trendy glasses. He got none of my sensible, economic, Ford hybrid genes. He’s a gas guzzler.

Last Sunday night, I found myself inching, crawling, (crying) my way across balance beams and rope ladders nearly 40 feet in the air. The Harbor Shops in Destin, Florida had added an adventure course (you know, the kind you see uptight CEOs take their staffs to when they want their board to think they’re team building), and Austin was determined to ring the bell stationed at the end of an 8 foot plank hanging four stories above the concrete below.

Even if it killed him (or in this case, killed me).

Kids under 48 inches have to be accompanied by an adult, and for some reason everyone else seemed to take a quiet step backward while I was frozen in fear, gazing at this medieval contraption of terror. Harness up!

Seconds later, I was in the air. Austin dragged me mercilessly through the first two levels of obstacles, but the third elevation even slowed my miniature V-12 to a literal crawl. The ropes were too shaky. The handles too tall.  The distance between us and the ground, well, large. After a near tumble, he grabbed my leg like I was leaving him at military school.

“I’m done, dad. Can’t do it.”

I secretly breathed a sigh of relief amidst feigned disappointment. But as we walked down the stairs in father and son defeat, Austin’s gaze again returned (I swear it was in slow motion) to that bronze chime some twenty feet above our heads. His goal. His Canaan land.

The Hans Zimmer score crescendoed as he grabbed my hand and started back up the stairs.

“I’m ringing that bell.”

We moved in tandem across the aerial tight rope with quiet determination as the crowd below began to swell and cheer (seriously, I swear, they were both swelling and cheering). When we finally crossed the last breach, my five year old son walked courageously to the end of that 8 foot plank

…and rang the stinking bell!

(Click here to see the actual video)

The harbor walk went bananas with cheers, whistles, and applause (as I, the responsible adult, clung in terror to a support beam on the main platform).

He did it! My little man did it. (And I sent him out a second time to ring it for me…true).

I’m honestly not sure when I’ve ever been more proud of my son. At five, he pushed me farther than I would have ever gone on my own. He led his dad. He rang the bell. And he reminded me of an important lesson:

It’s not courage if you’re not scared.

(Oh, and thankfully, his uncle Darren was there to take him up the second time).

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