She was powerful, not because she wasn’t scared, but because she went on so strongly despite the fear.” Atticus
Atticus was surely referencing motherhood in the above quote; for who is braver than we mothers? Yet somehow courage is never mentioned in the prenatal classes or parenting books. It is an inherent aspect of mothering that I was not at all prepared for.
In hindsight, I am not sure that someone could accurately explain the way your senses heighten the minute you hear that first wail. To this day, I can’t recall in detail the sequence of events or what tasks the doctors performed on my body post-delivery. My thoughts had already shifted, making my primary focus the health of my newborn.
Counting fingers and toes, lifting the striped cap to check the shape of his head, marveling in the subtle up and down motion of his chest as he breathed in unfamiliar air.
Being Brave Begins the Day Your Child is Born
The moment I confirmed he was perfect was my last moment free of fear. That fear took different shapes over the years but it was always there like a shadow hovering; its darkness shrouding my perspective.
But most days my children never witnessed its manifestation. And that is the tricky part of parenting. The nagging worries can’t overtake the task of empowering our children and pushing their limits.
How many times did I hold my breath while they climbed the metal stairs of the tall slide but never moved to catch them? How many times did I worry about failing friendships, tough teachers and not being asked to join a team? How many times did I say, “You got this.” when I suspected disappointment was assured?
Was uttering those hallow words a little white lie? Maybe. But I prefer to view it as the veil of strength allowing my kids to fail every now and then. There is growth in failure and it takes grit to let that play out.
The constant courage I exhibited belied my innate apprehension about these beings I was charged with raising. That is not to say that the fear ruled me or was debilitating. It was just a fact of every day like the sun or the moon.
I lost count of the nights I laid down exhausted, knowing the universe had won that day as I was not the mother I wanted to be. The inky darkness invites the doubts and fear to creep in. Sleep is elusive as the last 24-hours are regurgitated in agonizing detail and I hopelessly tossed and turned to escape the visions.
Yet, somehow I summoned the confidence to start anew with the next sunrise. This valor is innate in each mother and enables us to feel powerful instead of powerless.
Bravery blankets every aspect of parenting and requires blind faith in our abilities and that of our kids as well. Whether children are toddlers, teens or totally out on their own, we are forced to drink from our well of trust and courage to release them into the world daily.
When my boys look back on their childhood, my hope is that they will say that I believed in them even when they did not have faith in themselves. Even if they are clueless as to the fortitude it took not to save them from the inevitable pain that occurs in every lifetime. The unspoken bravery to let them fall, navigate hardship and rebound from disappointment will be my greatest parenting feat and my lasting gift to my children.
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Maureen Stiles writes at her blog, Magnificence in the Mundane, where she chronicles the beauty within the chaos of raising three boys and a dog with her husband, given that the dog is the only one that really understands her. You can also follow Maureen on Facebook and Twitter.