In Which Parenting IS an Act of Courage

Jun 27 2013

ID-10076298There’s a tree on the property behind our house that’s perfect for climbing. Perfect. Low-slung branches that graduate, ladder-style, to higher branches that reach right up to the sky.

My kids beg to go there. Beg and beg.

“Can we PLEASE go climb The Tree? PRETTY PLEASE? We’ll give you anything you want.” 

And, of course, this is one time they can deliver, because what I want is ten minutes of no more begging.

But I have reservations. Concerns. Worries that plague me. Because I haven’t installed a harness system on that tree. Or prepared the inflatable crash pad beneath it. Or had the time to bubble wrap each branch.

The problem with kids is that they want to do unreasonable things.

Like learn to eat food. By choking.

And learn run. On concrete.

And play with toys. At the doctor’s office.

And wipe. Themselves.

And go to school. With children. Who sometimes act like children.

And ride bikes. Downhill.

And use the public restroom. Alone.

And swim. In the deep end.

And drive. Me crazy. My car.

And leave. Me. The house.

These things make me crazy. I don’t like them at all. As Anne Lamott says, “I hate this! So resent this! I want my money back!”

But there’s no way out of the danger of life. Just none.

“The bottom line is that you should never turn your back on the ocean,
but what do you do?”
Five Kids reader, Jennifer Corbett Lones

Exactly. We know that constant parental vigilance is neither realistic nor healthy after a time. But what do we do? Well, we hold our breath, say a few prayers that sometimes sound like, “Oh God, Oh God, Oh God,” and hope the wave doesn’t wipe us out. And we think, “I hate this! So resent this! I want my money back!”

And you know what? That is courage. Because…

Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.*

Now, whenever I hear that quote, I think of the huge heroic acts. Firefighters who rush into burning buildings. Men and women in combat who drag both friends and enemies to safety. Teachers who shield their students from the storm with their very own bodies. I am swept up in the terrible, beautiful examples of radical love.

But I will tell you what; our everyday acts of courage – our acts of freeing our children to live full lives – are no less radical. Because we parents triumph over fear with every breath. That is courage. That is love.

And so when my kids beg beg to climb The Tree, I sometimes say yes.

And then I spend my No Begging Break worrying.

Because I am a mom. And that is my act of courage.


What was your act of courage today?


Hey – thanks to all of you at the Five Kids Facebook page who helped me source the list above.

*I’ve seen the courage quote alternately attributed to Mark Twain, Nelson Mandela, and Ambrose Redmoon. (Thanks, Internet.) Anyone know definitively who said it?

(And, psst… who is Ambrose Redmoon?)


“Leaves” photo credit tungphoto via