How To Bring Up Brave Hearts

I forget where I heard it, or when, but the words have never left me. Fear stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. As a mum, it’s easy to give in to it, to the false evidence, to project our minds into moments that may or may not happen, moments in the future that appear not only real but large and haunting like an evil shadow puppet in a dimly-lit room.

It’s easy to give in to paranoia, because suddenly we have more than our own lives to protect. We have these precious little beings in our hands and unlike the antelope and elephants of our Animal Kingdom, we need to stay by our offspring’s side long after they learn to walk – an act that itself takes us humans much longer to master. We suddenly have not only our own hearts to protect, but also those parts of our hearts that now pulsate outside of our bodies.

I have always refused to let fear rule our tribe. At least I have tried my very best. I have tried hard not to let the shadow puppets loom over us. Not only for my sake, for my own peace of mind, but for that of my boys. Living in the wild as we have for many years, and travelling frequently into wild spaces, now that we’re city folk, the possibility of danger has never been far from us. They have often shown themselves, those shadows… in the shapes of crocodiles and hippos lunging at our boat, scorpions beneath the pillow, black mambas chasing our safari vehicle, wild elephants flapping their ears. And then there are the sneakier, less easily detectable threats… like malaria.

I have never denied that these threats exist. Our tribe is well aware of them. But, from experience, we know better how to predict an animal’s movements. We know which channels in a river to avoid, when it comes to the Zambezi. Mosquito spray accompanies us everywhere. We don’t walk alone at night – although if I keep up my treadmill training I might just be able to out-run our Zambezi hippos one day (a girl can dream). We don’t deny it all, but we don’t let that which has yet to happen, that which is unlikely to happen, take over our imaginations.

To spend our entire lives in fear of that one accident would be a dishonour to this great blessing of a life on Earth.

The same way stress is caused by being here, but wanting to be there, fear removes us from the present, from the moment where life resides. It is natural for us mothers to try to predict the future. Constantly. I’m not really sure we can escape that entirely. But the last thing we want to do is pass that stress on to our sons and daughters. Watching them in a playground, running wild and free, is all the lesson we need in being present and seeing the real not the false.

For my sons, the wilderness has been as much of their playground while growing up as the jungle gyms of the suburbs. And because of experience, because of the freedom I (try) give them to play and explore, they treat both the same. Both Renzi and Carlos are as at home with a wildebeest or elephant herd or a soldier holding an AK47 (oh, the joys of African border crossings), as a flock of penguins on the beach at Boulders or an ice-skating rink in a mall.

They’re still young. There are more choppy waters to cross… like asking a girl out or speaking in front of a crowd for the first time, because it isn’t only the wild animals of our adventuring lives that they’re going to face. There are those matters of the heart. But I believe that it’s all the same, ultimately. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt,  “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Eventually… nothing will.

And is that not the best we can do as Mums? Prepare our little ones for the world while letting them enjoy it, wholeheartedly, at the same time? Without holding back. Without fear.

Below is a glimpse into the wild things of our recent safari at Wilderness Safari’s Seba Camp in the Okavango Delta in Botswana, with images taken by our friend at Lubella Photography. Follow us on Instagram for more pics.