When he begged to play on the ropes course, I should have known it would take mere seconds for him to scurry immediately to the very top, just the way I imagine his thrill-seeking dad would have done. There he was, in only a harness, four floors up crossing a slotted rope ladder with nothing but a setting Alabama sky all around him.
I cheered him on from the sand, prideful tears of his bravery welling behind my Coach sunglasses, and when he got to the other side he looked at me calmly and yelled down: “Mom, please stop talking to me.”
But that’s what we do.
As mamas, we do everything we can to help our kiddos grow. We make sure they always have a vegetable. We suggest they try out for the play. We sign them up for baseball and other activities that we know will spread their wings. Then we yell annoyingly from the sidelines to make sure they know we’ve got their back every step of the way.
We preach the benefits of trying new things, encouraging fiercely, and yet here we are … munching on leftovers and driving away from their growth to the same routine we’ve had now for years. We’ve swapped stepping up for stepping into responsibilities, and when the stakes got raised, we settled into safety to protect them.
We would sacrifice anything for them. But is sacrificing who we are meant to become ultimately costing them instead?
There’s a common misconception I see in that we assume we cannot grow by example and support others’ growth at the same time. I believe quite the contrary – spreading our wings is the common ground.
I had just returned from a last-minute trip to Atlanta before we left on family vacation. I had just climbed to the top my own new course – owning the role as a mama in the cystic fibrosis community – and on that flight I saw only sky around me. Only unlike my strong boy, I was terrified. I was alone, and I had no idea whether I had the courage to make it to the other side.
While that little boy carried the weight of fear of his safety and fear of failure across the ropes, I carried the many weights all mamas share in our hearts.
Did we have the money for me to take this trip? Did we have the help for me to take this trip? What if I left to much on the Farmer’s plate? What if something went wrong while I was gone? Did I buy enough groceries before I left? Should I have stayed home and gotten the house caught up before we left for vacation? What if work needed something? What if no one liked me? What if the conference was canceled? What if someone’s story was filled with heartbreak? What if the reality of cystic fibrosis is too much to handle? What if this trip was considered selfish?
What if, I am not enough?
Then I arrived.
And on the other side, I found courage, just like my sweet boy. I was surrounded by support and love of other mamas giving hugs, sharing stories and reminding me I can do it. I came home less afraid of the course at hand and feeling brave enough to tell my own fears to “please stop talking to me.”
Little did I remember how critical this type of growth is to my family. That growth was critical to being able to better care for my 18-month-old baby girl who needs a little extra love and attention thanks to cystic fibrosis. That experience of growth made me even more proud of my boy, because conquering fears was fresh on my heart.
Taking risks at this point in life is so hard. Isn’t this what we signed up for, after all – marriage, children, career, success? Shouldn’t we make the best of reaching our initial goals, settling now into the comfort of where we are and simply being grateful for it all?
My heart is so incredibly full with gratitude, but my answer now – and hopefully always – will be no. Let me be clear, I believe firmly there is incredible importance in growing from where you are, in blooming where you are planted. Those people that need you are yours and you should love them fully and responsibly with every fiber of who you are.
But you, my dear, are not a mama alone. You are not only needed, but also wanted for the woman you are and will become. You have more to learn, more to become, more to teach your children by living a lifestyle that always encourages them to be brave.
And when you do, know that I’ll be right here, cheering you on annoyingly from the sidelines, every step of the way.