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Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

By Julie Samrick

It seemed like a good idea to send all four kids on the short flight to Phoenix to see my husband's side of the family. It reminded me of the excitement that my three sisters and I felt to visit our paternal grandparents during summers once we each reached a certain age. Our oldest child started by going and then his brother joined him two years ago. As the days leading up to their trip approached a nagging thought suddenly teased me. What if their plane crashes?  

I know it's a terrible thought and I didn't speak a word of it to the kids. It tapped me on the shoulder a few more times: How could you send them all together, without you? I kept calm by keeping faith in the fact that air is the safest way to travel. 

I don't remember the boys ever expressing fears before the same short, direct flight, but our daughters (who have asked, "When can we go too?" every summer) had a few reservations once the trip was two days away. "I don't think the boys would forget each other at the airport," my youngest declared. "But they might forget us." 

She had a point. My kids always pair up by birth order, which is also same gender. The boys don't act particularly protective of their sisters, but their dad or I are always there. I paired one boy with one girl only for the airport portion. The girls smiled at the plan while the boys rolled their eyes.

We left in plenty of time to park and for me to get them to the security line. However, it took a record 90 minutes (what ordinarily takes 40) to get to the airport. As I thought of a Plan B in standstill traffic, our oldest, who just turned 17, stated, "How about you just drop us off?"

My first instinct was to say no, but I paused, remembering a talk we'd just had the week before about treating him older than his siblings. "You know how to look for the departure gate?" And then, "There are probably lots of flights going to Phoenix."  

"Yes, mom," he said. "We can do this." Getting out of my comfort zone felt weird, but I wanted to be sure I wasn't stifling his opportunity to grow either.

During their five-day trip, the jumps in independence they all gained were as valuable as any school lesson. 

The most telling happened on the second day during an outing to a waterpark. My 13-year-old calm, mellow, shy daughter called that night to relay the day. "Everything was fine until I almost passed out in line," she said. "When I opened my eyes all I saw was black...A medic had to come help me." I stood still, my eyes growing huge.  

She felt signs beforehand that her body wasn't used to the 111-degree heat that day, but before I could say what she should have done, or what I would have done, she continued. "I had soda at lunch but wish I had water." Suddenly she sounded 16. Her brother was right there to help her, a patient protector who I didn't know would take his buddy role to the waterpark too. Long story short, one of the first things she told me when she came home was that she counted "nine times" when she could have chosen soda (the return flight home, etc.) but opted for water instead. 

"You really do feel better when you eat healthy and worse when you have junk," she said.

If I was there to guide them I doubt my kids would make some of the realizations that they did and it even seemed like the four of them grew closer by having to figure things out as a team. 

We can all flourish by getting out of our comfort zones, though it can be a delicate balance to give kids opportunities to push themselves in ways that are age-appropriate. This time for me it meant physically stepping aside in order to let them find their way. 

Julie Samrick is a stay-at-home mother of four children and a published author. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. You may write to her at Permission granted for use on
Tags: Motherhood-Fatherhood, Parenting, Stress, Tips
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