I am constantly amazed by my kids. Aren’t all parent, I guess? Every time they experience something new or learn something or are randomly nice to each other, my heart just explodes with pride.
“Look at my sweet son! He chose not to tackle his sister when she stepped on his Lego car. What a sweetheart!”
If parenthood had a suit of armor, pride would be the visor on our helmets. It’s what blinds us to their imperfections. It’s what we look through and out of when we look at our children out in the world. Right or wrong, pride is part of being a parent.
Bean is the poster child for pride in our children. He gives us so much to be proud of. He’s laid back and flexible, he’s reasonable and logical, he’s smart and intuitive, and he’s the kindest soul to ever walk this earth. But this summer, I have seen a new trait emerge in him, and it is changing the definition of the word “bravery” for me.
I don’t know that I would ever have described Bean as “brave” before this summer. He’s like any little boy – active, always moving, toting swords and Ninja Turtles around in his backpack. But he’s never been the kind of kid to be the first to rush into something daring. He sort of hangs back and checks things out before he tries something new. As a mom, I have always been comforted by this trait. I know that if everyone jumps off a cliff, Bean is not necessarily going to follow. He has always made deliberate, calculated decisions, even as a toddler, really.
This summer, though, I have seen this characteristic of bravery seep into Bean. I notice it specifically with swimming. Bean is not a fearless kid. He’s scared of deep water, for instance. He’s a strong swimmer, but he doesn’t like being where he can’t touch the bottom. He swims like a fish, but the minute he crosses into the deep end, he heads for the side of the pool and hangs on there. If Chris or I are in the pool with him, we can sometimes convince him to swim along next to us into the deep end, but you won’t find him swimming laps down there by himself.
But in the past few months, I have seen Bean talk himself up about swimming in the deep end. He gets out to jump into the pool in the shallow end, and I notice that he will creep just a little closer to the deep end each time he jumps. Like he’s following baby steps that he has established on his own. And then, he’ll just do it. I see him standing on the side of the pool in the deep end for a few minutes, and I know he is just talking it through in his head. And then, when he is good and ready, he calls out with a big smile on his face, “WATCH THIS, MOM!” and then he jumps into the deep end whole-heartedly.
And it’s not just swimming where I see him being brave. He is constantly pushing himself to do new things that might actually scare him a little bit. Going into a group of kids when he doesn’t know anyone, using the “big kid” slides at the water park, and even trying new foods. He very cautiously pushes himself outside of his comfort zone in a variety of ways that continue to impress and amaze me.
Kindergarten is one of them. We are gearing up for kindergarten in the fall, and I can tell that he is equal parts excited about a new adventure and nervous about what’s to come. He will talk all about how much fun he is going to have, but then he’ll throw in a simple comment like, “But you and Dad will still pick me up after school and bring me home, right?” Just a little sign that he’s worried, that’s about all you’ll get from Bean. So, we talk a lot about kindergarten and what to expect and what we might be afraid of. And we read books about going to school and we talk to friends who just finished kindergarten this year. But as much as we prepare him, this is just the first of many experiences that I can’t do for him and I can’t even really change for him. He’s just going to have to go through it for himself.
That’s why I am so proud to see him working through some of his fears on his own this summer. Not that swimming or eating new foods are all that important. It’s more about Bean exhibiting the courage to push past his fears and try new things, even when he is scared.
This summer, Bean has taught me that being brave doesn’t mean being fearless. Being brave means you rise above the fear. It means pushing yourself to do things beyond what you think you are capable of doing. It means knowing that you are stronger than your fears. Knowing that you can do more than you think you can.
And that’s a mighty big lesson to learn from such a little guy.