When I was a young girl, I passed up on a lot of opportunities to defend myself. I would shrug silently when the kids in my class would laugh and rhyme my last name with “hamburger” (yes, “Kay” is my pseudonym). I calculated that they would get bored and move along, and frankly, it was not the worst scenario. So I let it slip.
There were times in my life that I wanted to defend my brother and didn’t. There were times I tried to protect my sister and didn’t. There were times I wanted to stand up for my mother and didn’t. There were also times I wanted to defend my close friends — but again, I didn’t. I never had the right words, and I couldn’t think in real-time.
All the great retorks I had replayed in my mind, hours, and days later. Way too late. I couldn’t even really defend myself. I was a fearful child, just as much as I’m still a fearful adult.
When I was a young adult at university, I had plenty of other encounters that required me to be more assertive and defend myself — yet again, I didn’t. I let it go and let others off the hook all the time. I was too shy and lacked the confidence that I never thought I would get.
Exactly ten years ago, my first act of bravery happened. I went into labor.
Going into labor was a one-way ticket into the world of motherhood — and there’s no going back. At that moment, I was experiencing the most amount of pain I could ever imagine, and letting it ripple through me was the only thing I could do.
I didn’t know then, but I was about to give birth to my little buddha — a teacher to accompany me every day of my life.
Unbeknownst to her, my kid forces me to sit in the adult chair, and do what needs to be done. No exceptions.
In the last ten years, for this little child, I began to reverse the spell of cowardice. And so can you.
My chickenshit days are over. I believe yours can be too.
Here are eight lessons on bravery:
Coward thought #1: “I can’t do this — I will fail.”
Bravery lesson #1: When you are exhausted, and you think you can give no more, there is still more to give. So much more. Your heart will always provide an opening, and energy from where you didn’t think you had any — even if your head tries to talk nonsense. You will always be the hero of the day.
Coward thought #2: “I’m antisocial, my son will have no friends because I’m too shy to help him.”
Bravery lesson #2: You will 100% find yourself walking up to a random child and their parent at the park, and start a conversation. Your kids will be friends, and that’ll be thanks to your bravery. You might even end up sharing summer cocktails with your new friend too.
Coward thought #3: “I cannot handle emergencies, blood, cuts, or vomit.”
Bravery lesson #3: You will find yourself looking for the source of the injury as you whip out bandaids, cold packs, paper, your kid’s ID, and a snack for the hospital. I still can’t handle vomit.
Coward thought #4: “If someone bullies my child, I won’t be able to defend her.”
Bravery lesson #4: Oh yes, you will. You will catch yourself rolling up your sleeves, and thinking “Show me who said this, WHO SAID THIS TO YOU? I want to meet this little shit.” And your baby will tell you, “No, mom. Please don’t!”
Coward thought #5: “I’m going to mess up my kid.”
Bravery lesson #5: You might. You really might mess them up a little, we all do, but mostly you won’t. Because you will always have their best interest in mind, and you will fight tooth and nail for their wellbeing.
Coward thought #6: “I’m not cut out for this, I don’t know what I’m doing.”
Bravery lesson #6: No one does. Really — no one knows how to parent fabulously, but we try anyway. And as the years go by, you will get better at it, and all you have to remember is: who is the adult in the room? Make your decisions from the place of love and kindness.
Coward thought #7: “I can’t deal with lice.”
Bravery lesson #7: Bwahahahahaha. Either your kids will bring home this lovely experience, or their friends will, as a special gift for you.
“Um, hello? Yes, your daughter is just fine, how much longer until your wife delivers? Oh, it’s imminent? Ok, no worries.”
I spent three hours brushing a little girl’s hair — strand by thin strand. My daughter’s girlfriend sat in my tub, staring up at me (while her mother was in labour), as I brushed her hair out with all the kindness and cool I could muster.
Coward thought #8: “My heart will break and I won’t be able to handle it.”
Bravery lesson #8: Yes, it will. You will cry, you will feel helpless at times (ok, maybe more than once a week), you will not know what to do. But you will keep going.
After all this, I remain a fearful adult. The difference is that I bust through the fear because most of the time, we have no choice. It’s just a rule that comes with parenting.
You get the immense opportunity for joy and challenge, and love. But you have to wade through your boundaries, thoughts, and projections. Your whole worldview gets shaken, deconstructed, and reconstructed at every stage of your child’s development.
This is a light-hearted post to say that the bravery I lacked as a child, was ignited in me as an adult and mother to two children. Today, on my child’s tenth birthday, I am celebrating both of us.
For the six short hours it took me to birth her, it took 29 years for me to birth myself into bravery.