Monday, May 30, 2011

Hiding Our Fears From The Kids

"Come on, you can do it," Maddie says to me, giggling, encouraging me to swim under the birch tree that's fallen across the hot spring. When she giggles, she scrunches up an adorable little nose with dancing freckles.

I don't want to duck under the water. It's wild water, the Liard River Hot Springs, a provincial park in British Columbia. The natural hot springs (112 to 126 degrees) blends with a warm-water swamp inside a boreal forest. There's lush vegetation on all sides and I've been warned to watch for moose, who like to hang out here, and back bears, who've been seen crazing within 10 feet of the water. The same water I'm supposed to duck under.

The water's full of sulphur. What will it do to my hair? What else might be in the water?

But I do as she says. Because I refuse to show her my fear. Fear is contagious. And I don't want her to be afraid of the water, so I duck under and (I'm surprised) pop up unharmed on the other side of the tree.

She's thrilled. And claps her hands. She's so cute. She's 6, and along with her brother Joey, 4, splash around in the hot water with us and their mom and dad, Collin and Jackie. They used to live in Montreal, but now live in Whitehorse, a Klondike community about six hours to our north. They come here to play. It's one of their favorite spots.

"Come on. Follow me!" This time it's Joey, and he swims upsteam, then disappears around a bend in this little meandering waterway. He's leading us to where it's cooler. We need cooler right now. All of us have pink cheeks and arms. So we follow (Allen, too), swimming upstream. It gets so narrow, we swim single file.

Then I see Joey slip under a little v-shaped branch with about a 6-inch clearance from one side of the creek to the other and to the top of the water. I stay on my side of the claustrophobic 6-inch opening.

"Come on. You can do it." Joey's just as cute - and insistent -- as his sister.

NO I CAN'T. I tell him: "My head's bigger than that hole."

"My mommy got through, so you can get through."

"I have bigger hips than Mommy does," I tell him.

"The opening is bigger below," he says.

What a cutie.

Then I realize I must not show him my fear. I HAVE to duck under, in this cooler, muddy water, where leaves and branches reach out to strangle me, and snakes and bears await to gobble me up.

So I do. And I pop up on the other side (Allen does, too). Unharmed. Then we both quickly retreat back to the hotter water. Back to where we can see the bottom of the pond. We keep on swimming until we reach the steps and climb out of the water.

We're done. We're ready to go. We turn and see the kids still playing, still dangling off fallen trees. Still ducking under the water. Still having a grand time. Unafraid.

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