"Momma?" she says, "Were you ever really scared of something? Did you ever worry that you'd never get used to something new?"
Yes, I think immediately. Motherhood.
"I want to show you something," I say instead. I reach into my pocket and pull out my three year sobriety medallion. She has seen these before; I have my one and two year medallions propped on the windowsill in my kitchen.
She reaches over and strokes the top of the medallion lying in my palm. The cool heft of the medallion combined with her light touch stirs something deep in my heart.
"I know what this is," she says. "It's been three years since you drank alcohol, right?"
"Yes," I say quietly. "Three years ago I was very scared that I wouldn't be able to stop drinking alcohol. I was worried that I would be sick forever."
"And now you're not scared?"
"No, now I'm not scared," I reply. "At first it was scary, because everything felt new and different. Now I know I'm stronger than alcohol. Now I know how beautiful life is without it."
I realize she only partially understands what I mean, but she nods.
She reaches into my palm and picks up the medallion. She stares thoughtfully at it for a moment, then looks up at me and says, "Way to go, Momma."
I know why she is asking me about fear. At the beginning of the summer, Greta was trapped by a fear she didn't think she could overcome. She wanted desperately to be able to swim. She was terrified of putting her head under the water, and chose instead to stand in shallow water and splash around.
In June we went to the beach, and she sat in the shallow low-tide water and told me she didn't think she would ever be brave enough to put her head under the water.
"Just give it time," I said. "You're braver than you know. Doing something for the first time is always scary. You'll know when you're ready."
In mid-July, she went to a friend's birthday party - a pool party. She told me on the way there she was afraid she would look like a baby, because she had to stand in the shallow end.
"It's okay to be scared," I told her. "Just do the best you can."
When I picked her up a few hours later I found her in the pool, beaming. "Momma, LOOK!" she cried. She pinched her nose shut and dunked her head under the water, popping back up with a huge grin on her face. "My friends showed me how!!"
Yesterday we went to another pool party, and she jumped right into the water without a second thought. She swam - swam! - underwater, picking up rings from the bottom of the pool, laughing and swimming in the deep end with her friends.
"You faced one of your fears this summer," I say to her, stroking her hair. "You were afraid to swim, but you didn't let your fear stop you from trying. Now you're like a fish!"
She gives me a sheepish grin. "Yeah," she says. "Now it feels weird to me that I thought I couldn't do it."
"I'm really proud of you," I say. "Do you feel proud of yourself?"
She gives me a shy look, but she is beaming. "Yes," she says.
"You know what is great about facing your fears?" I ask. "The next time you feel scared of something, you can remember about swimming, and you can tell yourself that you're brave. You can remember all the things that used to scare you that you can do now."
Late last night, after the kids and my husband are asleep, I sit quietly in the semi-dark and hold the medallion in my hand.
I send up a prayer of thanks, of gratitude. Thank you for giving me strength. Thank you for each and every sober day. Thank you for helping me learn to face my fears. Thank you for the gift of vulnerability. I would never have learned how to be strong if I hadn't learned how to be weak, first.
It occurs to me that when I was an active alcoholic, I was afraid and I drank to feel brave. Now I'm a sober woman who is brave enough to feel afraid. When I was drinking, I hid from fear. You can't overcome something you can't face.
Now I know that when I'm fearful or anxious it means I need to work through something, and I have faith that on the other side of it is growth. And peace.
I get a lot of strength from my kids. I think about how nearly every experience is new for them, and yet they trudge forth, having faith that they will figure it out, that their friends will help them. They talk about their fears, ask for help, trust that time will carry them through to where they want to be.
And if they can do it? I can do it, too.