What My 5-Year-Old Taught Me About Fear And Courage

by Ryan McAdams for Fatherly
fear and courage
Anna Grigorjeva / Shutterstock

As a parent, one of the major challenges I have is remembering to slow down when it comes to my children. I’m not a perfect parent, but I do appreciate my children and all they offer, good or bad. Today, I was having a conversation with my 5-year-old, telling him it was time to take the training wheels off of his bike so he can ride it like a “big kid.”

He protested, telling me he was scared of trying two wheels because he might get hurt. I try to break important lessons down into little chunks for the kids because life is all about learning in my eyes, no matter our age. I’m sure for him, going from a bike with training wheels to a two-wheeled, self-propelled machine that can tip over at a moment’s notice is scary, so I did what any self-respecting parent would do — I told him to suck it up!

I immediately sat down with him on our hot driveway, and we shared a laugh about sucking it up. I explained that it’s totally normal to be scared of new things. I went on to tell him that all through life, you will be asked, or will need, to tackle something new and unfamiliar to you, but that is how we grow as people and have full lives. You cannot be scared of change or risk because fear is one of our most powerful emotions. If you let fear control you, change becomes impossible.

Right there in that moment, my 5-year-old son looked up at me, into my eyes with a very fixed stare. This caught me off guard because he’s not the type to make prolonged eye contact. He said to me, “Dad, you can’t change the world if you’re scared.” I was so caught taken aback by this moment, I really didn’t know how to react. I told him on the spot that he was exactly right and he needs to never, ever forget those words.

It really got me thinking, though, how we as adults overcomplicate everything around us. Life in general isn’t really difficult, and when the curveballs do come in the form of change, our natural reaction to some (maybe most) occasions is one of anxiety or fear. This emotion is natural; it’s an instinctual mechanism to prevent us from being hurt.

Change is a natural progression in life, both professional and personal, and embracing it is important. Sure, we can’t all change the world, but if we let fear control us, we’ll never even have a chance to change it. We need to stop letting fear and anxiety dictate what we do and start embracing everything around us head on.

Life is going to hurt, but it’s all part of our journey. Once we learn to live it without fear and start embracing everything around us, life becomes infinitely more valuable.

Thanks for the insight, son. Maybe some day you’ll read this and know that at 5 years old, you changed my world.

This post originally appeared on Medium.