We all have that one defining moment in our lives, the moment where we must choose between remaining fearful or taking a risk. We may not even remember when it happened, because we were so young. But we all learned to stand, walk, and ride a bike so we all faced and overcame a fear at some point.
For some, that defining moment may have been an agonizing decision such as quitting a stable job to start a dream business or not following peers in a pressure-filled situation. For others, their moment may have been a series of small decisions that carried significant weight in the light of future endeavors.
I have to say I have experienced both of these in pivotal ways. I’ve made big decisions that were scary – a move across the country and a called-off wedding just 3 months before the big day. These were clearly life-altering choices that changed my path significantly. But sometimes I think those smaller moments make an even greater impact. Because who we are is ultimately the summation of all the decisions we made along the way.
Sometimes as parents we have to sit back and watch our kids make choices too. As much as we want to intervene, it is often better to let them face their fear. I had one of these moments come up a few weeks ago with my daughter. For the past several months, she’s been in a really fearful state which is new in some ways, but not so new at the same time. She’s started questioning things that used to be second nature – something as simple as going upstairs alone.
So on this particular day I had told her to grab her school clothes before we headed downstairs. She was doing a million other things besides choosing to listen to me. I headed downstairs anyway. She followed, but did not grab the items of clothing that had been laid out for her. What followed was a huge meltdown. She asked me to go get them, but I refused to give in and told her it was her responsibility. What I was asking of her was a small decision in my mind, but to her it was huge. We had a solid 20 minutes left til we had to leave for school. I saw a teachable moment and knew I had to go with it. We sat on the steps as she cried and cried, saying, “I just can’t do it.” I said over and over to her, “I believe you can. I believe in you.”
She gave me every reason why she couldn’t do it. But I knew if she did this one little thing, it would carry over to other areas of her life where she also feels fear. I told her to tell herself that she can do this. Our conversation went on for probably ten minutes. Finally, the impossible happened: she took a deep breath, we counted down from ten and she ran up the steps as fast as she could. She quickly grabbed her clothes and ran down the stairs straight into my arms at the bottom. As I held her close, I felt her little heart beating so fast. Both our eyes filled with tears of both relief and pride. I was proud of her, but she was even more proud of herself.
That moment ended up being a defining moment for her. In just a few short weeks, she’s been able to really let go of some fears at both school and home. I’m still watching and waiting for even bigger ‘brave moments’ to arise, but in the meantime I love seeing her grow.
And I’m taking cues from her – telling myself that in the same way, if I just do this one thing, each step will get easier. Each piece of writing I submit will bring me one step closer to my dream. Each time I extend grace to myself and my kids, I am realizing I’m the mother I was made to be. Each time I try a new thing, I see the confidence building in myself.
The choices we make day after day really do add up. And over time, I am finding myself braver too.