Who ever thought it was a good idea to have something called "Shark Week" on cable television in the middle of beach season clearly didn't work in the tourism industry. These terrifying images of attacks around the world, along with real life shark attacks along our coastline, have no doubt had a chilling affect on swimmers. Instead of "Shark Week," I feel like we are living through Shark Summer.
But, in times like these, I'm reminded of the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson. They have always resonated with me and have been an underlying current in my life: "Always do what you are afraid to do."
The more something scares me, the more likely I am to try it. The reason: Once I tackle the challenge, it no longer has the power to scare me. When I was young, these challenges tended to be more extreme: Sky diving, deep sea wreck diving, zip lining. As I get older, they tend to be more often related to fitness goals, like participating in a triathlon or, work-related, like taking on a freelance job that's out of my comfort zone.
No matter what the challenge is, by modeling calculated risk-taking behavior, our children become bolder. This week, my younger daughter and my niece participated in the Wrightsville Beach Surf Camp. They did it last year and had a ball, but this year's string of shark attacks created so much anxiety for them, it was doubtful I was getting them in the water at all.
We talked about it - the rarity of a shark attack, the expertise of the instructors and the mutual understanding that they could get out of the water at any time if they were uncomfortable. They agreed to give it a try. I also shared their anxiety with their coach, Danielle, and she kindly agreed to put their minds at ease, which she did immediately.
The very first day they ran up to me excitedly sharing how many times they had gotten up on the board and how they couldn't wait to get back in the water the next day. By the last day of the camp, all of the damage done by news reports of shark attacks and the relentless assault of the midsummer "Shark Week" on cable TV was erased, replaced with anecdotes of catching waves in shark-free waters.
They did get up on the board and surf. I was proud of them for that. But more importantly, I was proud that they overcame their fears, which were not entirely unreasonable, enough to enjoy surfing. It's a lesson they might not even realize they learned, but hopefully, someday when they're thinking of trying something else they are afraid of, they will remember this moment.
"A marathon? I don't know. I don't think I can do it, although I did do surf camp that summer of the shark ..."
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including some on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.