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On Being Brave: Inspiring Courage in Our Children

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I gave both of my girls this wooden sign in their Valentine’s Day bags, its meaningfulness to me far outweighing the fact I spotted it on a dollar store shelf.

Besides the flash of its rainbow hologram finish, I knew this laser-cut word was the perfect gift. I do consider my own two “women of tomorrow” quite brave. They venture out into life 99% of the time as if it can’t hurt them, but also know that showing vulnerability over that 1% that does frighten or intimidate is not a sign of weakness. They don’t feel obligated to grade their own humanity.

I see their morning trek through the school gate — particularly on days where the “mean girl” race is heating up or a challenging subject awaits them — and often think back to my own childhood. Was I blissfully unaware of all that could potentially wound me, or did it register even then? And if it did, how did I muster up the courage to still throw that backpack on and start towards the door?

As adults our awareness of fear, shame and insecurity is heightened to such a point where we feel these emotions for our children — even though (fingers crossed) they may not experience any of all of them on their own. We know the world can be a scary place and just want to securely bubble-wrap them in our own ability to protect.

And yet — as with most things in life — we cannot control their entire universe (as much as we would love to).

So how do we inspire bravery in our precious little people? I believe that we have to (gulp) do our very best to model courage for them with our own decisions.

I’ve always loved Glennon Doyle’s mantra of “we can do hard things.” It’s easy to hang a beautifully framed, gold-foil print of these words to remind us from the wall each morning — but it is quite another to actually practice them, especially with impressionable eyes and ears watching from behind.

Will our children see us standing up for ourselves when we become the victim of mistreatment by a friend, spouse or boss?

Will they remember us making that unpopular choice, because we told them we thought it was the right thing to do?

Will they hear us encouraging them to reach out to their classmates on the sidelines, because in our family we include?

Will they watch us deciding to show up each day, even when the pain of rejection and “this is not what my life was supposed to look like” threatens to bury us alive?

Will they experience us inviting them to find the beauty and joy in every new sunrise?

Will they recall finding us on our knees, asking for the strength and wisdom to be Godly guides in this journey?

I truly hope I can make mine proud with how I live, as I know so much of why I continue to get up and pursue a path of integrity is having seen my own Mother do it, through the many trials and tragedies life has handed her.

So here’s to her and all those who continually inspire us to — as Susan Pevensie emboldens her siblings in C.S. Lewis’ beloved work “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” — “go on and take the adventure that shall fall to us.”

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