Fear of falling from heights is a natural human survival instinct. My sister is endowed with more than her fair share of this terrible fear.
Here is the story my sister told me, in her words:
Every weekend, my husband and I and our neighbours’ family packed our kids in the cars, and drove out to spend the day in the country. We had found the perfect picnic spot near the fire lookout tower up on Puggins Mountain. It was a great place for the kids to play – lots of fresh air, no traffic worries, nothing they could get into … I thought.
On these outings, after our picnic snack, our families split into two teams and played ballgames that kids and adults alike could enjoy. One day, we were playing a game when one of my older children yelled, “Mom, look what Marianne is doing.”
I thought I would have a heart attack. There on the top of the fire lookout, at least 30 or 40 feet up, was my two-year-old daughter. How she had climbed without falling, all the way to the top on stairs that had no railing, was a miracle. It would take another miracle to get her down unharmed.
Without thinking I climbed up after her, reaching her in a matter of seconds. I clutched her to me and didn’t let go. Did I mention I am scared of heights? I can’t even climb on a kitchen chair without getting dizzy.
So there we were near the top of the tower. My daughter was safe in my arms, but as I looked down, I froze solid with fear. In the meantime, my husband had followed us. He tried to calm us down, but I couldn’t move.
It seemed to take forever, but one step at a time, he convinced us to come down.
That day, I learned something about a mother’s instinct to protect her children. That instinct must be very powerful to override my unreasonable fear of heights. I also learned that from then on, it was better to picnic in a place without towers of any kind.