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The Comfort Zone

March 23, 2017
By Heidi Maness Hartwiger - Natural Parent, Natural Child Series , OVParent

Who comes up with these buzz words, such as "outside the box," "walk it back" and "baked in the cake"? These empty phrases creep in and out of our vocabularies. Try this one on for size: "out of my comfort zone."

In daily living, especially within family, "out of my comfort zone" is not an off-the-cuff comment. It is real. We nurture our children; we help them be comfortable as they develop within the family circle. However, the inevitable time to grow and to embrace the unfamiliar arrives, so children, and yes parents, must leave the comfort zone. Not only is a strong family the launching pad, but it also provides a safety net for those embarking on the journey.

Possibly the bridge from the comfort zone to new possibilities is a blend of self-confidence and self-reliance. It's human nature to be reluctant to stretch boundaries. What parent hasn't had a sinking heart hearing, "I'm not trying that again."

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Perhaps it's a new food. In my house it was shoes. My toddler son, Matthew, was fitted for his first pair of shoes. Although an early walker, he didn't get official shoes until autumn. Whenever he wore the shoes, Matthew, who ran barefoot, returned to crawling. My eldest son held the key. Chris walked around with Matthew in shoes perched on his feet. Eventually they danced to music. At a time Chris was not around, I put on the music. Matthew, forgetting the shoes, took off in a funny galloping dance.

Joy to the ears is, "I didn't get it this time, but I'll try again." Some kids seem to be born with a competitive gene. Such is my daughter Jenny. At 5, she was on our neighborhood swim team. Not satisfied with being fast, she wanted to be a winner. According to the coach, the only thing that stood between her and winning was the dreaded flip turn. She wouldn't leave her comfort zone and attempt the turn in practices.

Trying to be well meaning and plant the self-confidence seed, I got out baby pictures. We chatted about how she didn't want to roll over, but she did. We looked at the big mess she made when first feeding herself, but she learned. She was afraid of the jump rope and now could do "red hot peppers."

Once again, however, it was Big Brother to the rescue. On hot evenings, we'd go to the pool. As I watched the little brothers in the kiddie pool, Chris, also a competitive swimmer, took Jenny to a quiet corner of the big pool. He held her and guided her in the somersaulting motion then gradually released his hold until she was confident in the turns.

Today she remains a dynamo in the water.

Sometimes in the family, it's the parents and sometimes siblings that provide encouragement to leave the comfort zone on that journey toward the unknown. The reward is growth, development and a renewed sense of comfort. Until it's time to break out again ...

Heidi Maness Hartwiger a Wheeling native, is a writer, teacher and storyteller. She is a mother of four and a grandmother of five.



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