My Stuart is a pretty cautious kid. (That’s a nice way of saying he’s scared. Of pretty much everything—except for peer pressure pertaining to the fact that dance is his favorite hobby, and that takes some bravery, to be sure!) He’s afraid of bridges. He’s afraid of boats. He’s afraid of elevators. I’ve performed death-defying stunts like standing in the elevator doorway and allowing it to (almost) shut on me to show him that elevators are not scary. He’s afraid of escalators. Watching Buddy the Elf go up the escalator hasn’t helped, either—nor did it help when Brent performed the Elf stunt at the mall at the River Walk in San Antonio last fall (although lots of mall-goers got a kick out of it and I cried tears of laughter!).
He’s afraid of heights. I was annoyed a year ago when he refused to go down a very modest tubing run in Colorado with all the other cousins. Even his 3-year-old cousin was going down it! No matter. He preferred to sit at the top at the picnic table, watching everyone else hoot and holler and laugh gleefully. I begged and pleaded with him to PLEASE just give it a try. I was sure he would love it. He finally consented to walk halfway down the run and then get in the intertube with me and go down from the halfway point. It wasn’t very fun and he didn’t love it and didn’t do it again.
But more than anything, he’s afraid of stairs. Standard house stairs are usually okay. After a couple years of going up to the fourth floor of the music building—very slowly—for his group piano lesson, those stairs are now okay as well. But that’s largely because the stairs look new and sturdy and they’re entirely enclosed. Any stairs that are open or that look old or that are made of non-standard sized materials, those are a definite no. So traversing the San Antonio River Walk (where you have to go back and forth on big stone walkways over the river) last fall with Stuart was, well, a bit tedious.
I’m embarrassed to admit that I am often impatient with Stuart and his fears, so I was not looking forward to going to New York City and Niagara Falls with him. So many potential hazards!! The ferry to Ellis Island, stairs everywhere (i.e., Statue of Liberty, subway stops), elevators in museums and the Empire State Building, escalators in airports and bridges, and the massive gorge that is Niagara Falls. I had visions of standing at the top of the subway stairs for 20 minutes while he got used to the idea of going up or down the stairs while hurried New Yorkers elbowed their way around him, rolling their eyes all the while.
Well, folks, I’m thrilled to say that my cautious boy conquered (although perhaps only temporarily) a mountain of his fears! By the end of our week in New York City, he was racing his sister up and down the subway stairs. He walked up and down the stairs at the Museum of Modern Art. After much deliberation, the boy walked across the Brooklyn Bridge (a double whammy—heights and bridges!). He even consented to walk out onto the observation deck at Niagara Falls—with me holding on to him very tightly—to pose for a picture.
I was so happy and proud of him for venturing out of his comfort zone. I hope he has some of his bravery in reserve for the next time he has to vanquish an unusual staircase or a bridge made of irregular building materials. Here are a few pictures of Stuart the Brave!: