I was brave this week. Those who know me know that I'm a worrier. (I'm working on this, but this trait goes deep.) BJ's class had their biggest field trip yet -- an all-day excursion to Natural Bridges park to learn about butterflies, view the monarchs, and play at the beach. Sounds wonderful, right?
It so happened that this trip was scheduled for a day when I couldn't be one of the chaperones, because I had to be home with BB. Yes, I was nervous about the idea of him going so far, without me there. (I was more than nervous, in truth. I was actively and fiercely fighting massive anxiety about the trip.) I was especially concerned about the idea of him being at the beach without my supervision. The kids were going to be allowed to play in the water -- yes, in October! And traveling highway 17 is nerve-wracking enough when it's me behind the wheel; imagining what could go wrong with a car full of kids.... shudder.
But I was brave. I didn't fuss or (s)mother him with my worries about the trip. (I don't think I even let on to S about just how worried I was.) Yes, I reviewed basic beach water safety: no going in over his belly button -- after all, the kid can't really swim yet -- and emphasized the importance of staying with the group, but I'd do that anyway. I also worried out loud a little bit to some of the other parents, when BJ wasn't around, and asked them to keep an extra close eye on him. Which they'd do anyway.
As I dropped off BJ on the day of the trip, I gave him a hug and maybe held him a wee bit longer, but I was brave. I realized, yet again, how much I trust these people, the teacher and the other parents in the classroom. Day after day, I'm able to walk away from school after dropping off BJ, and not a quiver of concern goes through me. I know he'll be fine. That sort of trust is huge, and it's one of the basic reasons I'm so thrilled with our school.
The day of the field trip, sure, there were some more factors in play: the long drive there, the experience of being in the water. But the trust was still there. I trusted that he would be okay.
Trust and courage. The twinned tools that allow me to chip away at the shackles of worry which weigh me down so heavily sometimes. Especially since becoming a mother.
I always knew that being a parent would involve a lot of worry. A LOT of worry. My mom was a worrier when I was growing up. Worry seemed synonymous with love at times. Isn't that what it meant to be a mom? To worry about your kids?
And along with that worry, I knew that there would be times as a parent when I would just have to trust. Trust myself and my instincts, trust the child, trust other caregivers, trust the world that it was a good place (for all its random hazard). Trust that it would be okay.
I also knew I'd have to be strong. That's what parents are, right? Especially to the young, small child. Strength and shelter, security and safety.
But I didn't anticipate how being a parent would take so much courage. Not overtly, anyway. Letting go of the one you love so much, letting go little bit by little bit -- you gotta be amazingly brave to do that. You only start to realize how brave once the baby is born, once that fierce amazing love is fully and irrevocably rooted in your heart. I witnessed both of my parents being brave like this (and in sum total, quite gracefully, I might add) and yet: I hadn't really placed that piece of the puzzle.
For the past few years, S has been teaching a course on heroism, and he's writing a book about it. We don't often talk about his work, but when we do it's always fascinating. I'll find myself musing on the questions and topics at unexpected times. What does it mean to be a hero? Is it more than just being brave, being courageous? And what does it mean anyway, to have courage?
Ever notice that when kids are asked about their heroes, a large number of them will say that their mom or their dad are their heroes?
Perhaps it's more than just the simple fact that parents have so much influence with their children, are such strong figures (metaphorically and actually). They are indeed a natural choice when asked about such an important role. But perhaps it's more than that. Perhaps children unconsciously recognize how much courage it takes to be a parent.
Perhaps I'm making that conscious, remembering that, now.
Recently, my mom and I were talking about worry. She shared a realization of hers that has stuck with me quite profoundly. She was telling me about being up late, worrying about my sister (this was back when my sister was still living at home) and as my mom was getting into the imagined list of catastrophic possibilities, she realized: IF a terrible (and unlikely) turn of events comes about, I will have the rest of my life to figure out how to deal with it. Why take the time and energy and stress to go through all those imaginary possibilities now? Why on earth should one do that?
Why on earth indeed?
When BJ came back from the field trip and told me how much fun he'd had, I felt like he was growing two inches taller right there in front of me. He'd gone in the water! He'd used his binoculars to see butterflies, he'd played in the sand, he'd changed out of his wet clothes into dry, all by himself! (And he hadn't lost the binoculars, either!) My heart felt so good for him, for the fun he'd experienced and for how this was one more little step on his path to independence. That takes courage, too, doesn't it? To see that, and to celebrate it.
I was brave this week. I had courage. I don't think it reached the level of heroism, but that's okay. I'm feeling lighter, less shackled, because of it.