Overcoming fear in our parenting

Written by Jennifer Pepito
Published on August 23, 2022

Our imagination can be used against us

Perhaps you can relate to my vivid imagination when it comes to fear? I read Scarlet Hiltibidal’s Afraid of All the Things and realized that I was not alone in conjuring up fearsome situations. It seems to be something we mothers are proficient at. Hiltibidal writes, “Those early days of motherhood were some of the most terrifying of my life. I wasn’t afraid of being a bad mom. I was afraid of absurd things. I was afraid of other people holding her and not being gentle enough. I was afraid of getting carjacked and watching a black-market baby seller drive off with her every time I left the house.”1

Many of us have the same ability to imagine absurd worst-case scenarios. We take a nature walk and a scene starts playing in our head of our child being bitten by a snake as she runs through the brush. Somebody coughs in our presence and we instantly start planning for how we will survive a bout of pneumonia. 

We’ve cultivated the ability to imagine, even to feel, the terror of worst-case scenarios, which only reveals how far we are from our Father. While we confess Christianity with our mouths, we are more influenced by the bad news of the world than by the Word of God.

Life is what you make it

When you can let go of fear and accept the fact that life consists of a decent amount of hardship, you can enjoy the moments that are easy, and you can recognize the ways the hardship is building you. You can begin to savor your life and this short journey of motherhood, even with all the mess and mayhem that are just part of the package. Jesus warned us that life would be hard, but he asks us to be cheerful about it, knowing that he has overcome. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

But, we think, what is the harm of a little complaining? It’s easy to see when we look at our experiences with our own children. We can be on an amazing family vacation, looking at buffalo in Yellowstone, enjoying picnics by the river, and they will complain about not stopping for ice cream. They are unaware of how hard my husband and I worked to make a magical day, and they only see what is missing. They can’t see how much love we are trying to pour out on them, and our heart is grieved that they are missing the evidence of our great love for them. 

Our children are watching

As I went through a difficult transition to be a missionary in Mexico, I was reading aloud the whole Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I read Little House on the Prairie, about their trip across the prairie, while we were taking our own long trip down the interstate in the middle of winter. I read On the Banks of Plum Creek, about the family settling into a new community, while we were trying to find new friends in our south-of-the-border community, and I read By the Shores of Silver Lake, about the Ingalls family spending a lonely winter at a cabin, while we were spending our own lonely Christmas in Mexico. And we read The Long Winter, that saga of the winter when the trains couldn’t come through and the Ingalls family nearly starved, as we were experiencing our own long January, living off the power grid and often stranded at home because of the slick roads. 

While reading the history of Laura’s pioneer life aloud to my children, I pioneered through my own life, overcame my tendency to complain, and became a braver mom. I watched how Ma faced down her own fears, and it gave me strength to overcome my wild imagination and gave hope to my terrified heart.

In Little House on the Prairie, Ma might have been traversing her life without complaint because that’s how she’d been taught, or she might have just been a really tough woman, but her fortitude was observed by her children and gave them the power to overcome hardship with grace. In The Long Winter, when Pa shares the news that the trains would not come through and the family would have to make do with the meager provisions at hand, Laura responds to his underlying message. “Laura knew what he meant. She was old enough now to stand by him and Ma in hard times. She must not worry; she must be cheerful and help to keep up all their spirits. So when Ma began to sing softly to Grace while she undressed her for bed, Laura joined in the song.”2 Laura had been watching her parents, learning from the way they had navigated hardship, and now she was taking their cue. She was going to step up with them and push through the threat of starvation and stay cheerful for the sake of the younger children. Together, Ma and Pa and Laura and Mary were going to turn away from complaining and let a song of hope proceed from their mouths.

We can take this same path. We can overcome our fears and stay cheerful in the face of hardship. We can take our fearful, complaining thoughts captive and let a song of hope proceed from our own mouths. Our children are watching, and when they see us loving our lives, they experience that as love. When we are happy, they feel loved, but when we spend our days complaining, they will often feel responsible, feel that they are the cause of our unhappiness. They don’t care all that much about their circumstances. They just want happy parents who will set the tone and help them feel secure—parents who live as those who are loved.

Excerpt from Mothering by the Book by Jennifer Pepito provided by Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Copyright 2022. Used by permission.

1. Scarlet Hiltibidal, Afraid of all the Things: Tornadoes, Cancer, Adoption, and other Stuff You Need the Gospel For (Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2019), 25.
2. Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Long Winter (New York: Harper Collins, 1940), 223.

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Jennifer Pepito

Jennifer Pepito is the founder of The Peaceful Press, a company committed to providing learning resources that promote connection between parents and children. Jennifer’s wisdom has also been featured on Wild + Free, The MOB Society, the Washington Post, and Home Educating Family. She unlocked the power of a well-told story, and she wants you to do the same thing. Learn more at thepeacefulpress.com.

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