Brave Parenting: Stories of Intention…

Bravery is the act of wholeheartedly having the courage, relaxation, and insight simply to be.” – Sakyong Mipham (‘simply to be’ meaning ‘refraining from reacting to the present moment)toy-animals-16

“Mama,” my 3-year-old ask, “can I please have this one?”

“Not today, sweetheart.”

“This one?”

“We’re not buying any toys today.”

“This one?”

“We can take a picture if you like and you can take its’ memory home.”

“This one? Oh no. Wait, this one? Why can’t I have this one? I don’t have ANY toy animals at home (my mind is recalling the zoo collection representing every continent on his toy shelf…)

“Can I just open the package and see?” He starts opening the package and I have to intervene and take it out of his hands.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!” he cries.

Tears. Sobs. Disappointment. Loud pleas. Argh. Eyes watching. Temperature rising…

What do I do? How do I react? How do I want to respond? With one quick act, I could end it all, his disappointment, his wailing, his anger, the shop-keepers discomfort…. No, think of the big picture. Be brave.

I crouch down beside him and reflect what he is feeling – frustration, anger, disappointment (in my mind it is ‘just another toy,’ but in his 3-year-old mind, the best toy ever!): “Sweetie, you saw the toys and got excited, thinking that I might buy them for you. You look like you are feeling very disappointed that you can’t take them home.”

I bite my tongue and choose not to remind him of the aquatic, dinosaur and jungle collection that never stops growing (thanks to grandpa and gran and museum gift-shops). Instead I scoop him up in my arms and carry him out of the store as he rests his head on my shoulder. We say good-bye to the toys and he gives a wispy wave.

Under my breath I curse the exhibit for having the only exit be right through the gift shop! Even though I told my son before entering that we wouldn’t be buying anything today, how could he resist the captivating toys placed at the perfect eye level for a 3-year old?

Once we have settled and cooled down (literally), I soften my anger towards the gift store (and capitalism for that matter) and actually sense some gratitude rising. Sure, it was not a fun moment, and I wished it didn’t happen. But upon reflection, I came to realize it was an opportunity to practice living one of my parenting values that I hold dear (values that are often easier to hold in theory than in practice) – and even led to a moment of connection. I allowed my son to have and express his feelings. I was able to offer support without giving in. I think it was a wee moment of bravery. Relaxation? I don’t think so. But wholeheartedness? Definitely…

Some other Brave Parenting Moments shared by readers: (A sincere thank you to your heart-felt contributions)

“For me, being a brave parent has meant doing the hard work of emotional healing so I can be the mom my children deserve to have. Being a survivor of childhood abuse I have struggled with the aftermath of it all my life, but with motherhood,  a lot of old wounds have re-surfaced, and that has impacted not only my well -being, but that of my children as well. For the first time in my  life, I understood why abuse gets passed on from generation to generation. And there was nothing I wanted more than to break the cycle of abuse. So I looked for help. I got intensive treatment for trauma survivors, and I continue doing trauma-informed therapy. I have committed myself to a mindfulness practice, with self-compassion at the centre. I have, fundamentally, began doing the tough work of parenting myself, in the way I never was as a child: with love, understanding, respect and awareness. I did, and continue to do all I can to heal my old wounds and be the best mother I can be. Breaking the cycle of abuse: that, to me, is brave parenting.”                    – anonymous

“Choosing one moment is actually a bit tough. I would say I experience a general feeling of being brave when we ‘go against the grain’ so to speak, with our parenting. I often find we are doing things a little differently when we are cautious about the food we eat, the media we see, the items we purchase etc. etc. I have certainly appreciated meeting other like minded families around who I feel I can be completely open about the parenting choices we make.” – anonymous

My Brave Parenting Moment by Lori Dunlap

“I was having one of those out of body experiences – I couldn’t believe what my son’s first-grade teacher had just told me.  She was very matter-of-fact in her tone, not emotionally upset in any way, which made it all the more difficult for me to comprehend her actual words as she relayed the details of an interaction she’d had with my six-year-old son the prior school day.  “I just had to get in his face and tell him to stop crying – he wasn’t listening to me,” she said.  “And then I pulled him out of the room and into the hallway.”  This was clearly much more serious than I’d thought.

My son, Ben, had told me about this interaction the day before when I picked him up from school.  He’d been calm, but obviously distressed, as he described the situation.  He explained that the class had been working on a math worksheet as the teacher walked them through a lesson, and it wasn’t making sense to him. “Mama, I could hear the words she was saying, but they didn’t make any sense to me. I didn’t know what she wanted me to do.”  Apparently, when he wasn’t able to keep up with the lesson as was falling further behind, Ben started crying.  Or, as his teacher was telling me today, “He became a distraction to the other kids.”

This was not the first time Ben had experienced a difficult day in first grade.  In fact, he was regularly showing signs of anxiety and frustration – chewed t-shirt collars, difficulty sleeping, and lots of self-doubt beginning to surface.  Before starting first grade he’d been full of joy, and so full of energy and life that we regularly described him as having “joie de Ben”.  In the three months since starting first-grade, however, the old Ben had almost completely disappeared. This new boy was quiet, fearful, and very clingy.  I had to do something, and quickly.

I talked to my husband that night, and we decided to withdraw Ben from school the very next day and begin homeschooling him.  It was clear that Ben’s teacher did not understand him, and was not equipped to provide him with the patient support he needed. Requesting that he be transferred to another teacher didn’t seem like a good option, either — I didn’t want him to be seen as a “problem”, or to risk having him slip backwards any further.  I had no idea how I was going do this (I’ve never been an elementary school teacher, nor had I had any time to plan for this change), but I knew in my heart that homeschooling was what we needed to do. So, we took the plunge.

Now, three years later, I look back on the decision to home school as one of the best choices I’ve ever made.  That doesn’t mean it’s been easy – I lost lots of sleep those first few weeks, feeling the weight of this responsibility.  However, I believe there’s nothing more important a parent can do than advocate for our kids, even when we have to go against the flow or challenge the “experts”.  There’s no doubt this has been the right path for our family, and Ben is once again thriving.”


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