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McDonalds, Hands and Courage

It’s been a while since I’ve written an installment in my 2010-2011 theme word series on Courage. It’s a topic I’m trying to explore and an attribute I’m trying to cultivate in myself and in my children. One of the biggest questions of courage to me is where to find it. Are we born with it? If so, then what’s the use in trying to cultivate it. And, it’s not like you can bid on it on ebay or throw it in the buggy at the dollar store. So, where does it come from? As usual, my three gifts are teaching me a lot of lessons without even realizing it, and they recently showed me something: Confidence begets courage. The assurance and acknowledgement that we are, in fact, growing or learning those things we think we are and embracing that person we want to become somehow “encourages” us to step forward in those new skills or the new identity we’ve cultivated. It puts courage into us, as that often-used term, “encourage”, implies.

One of my favorite parts of early Spring is seeing tiny new shoots of growth emerge from what looks like completely dormant branches and earth. And, it seems to happen overnight! Where one day there is nothing but the same old brown or gray we’ve been accustomed to, the next appears a tiny spark of green, a new leaf or bloom that lets us know the season is changing.

I love when I see that in my children as well. Although I’ve seen the emerging signs of growth countless times in each of my gifts, it somehow still takes me by surprise each time. Even though their young lives have been a constant stream of changing and growing and learning new things, that moment when I notice it–or when THEY notice it–never ceases to amaze me.

It was Spring Break recently here, and the time (and weather) were ripe for some fun. Little Drummer Boy spent his first official “big school” Spring Break with special days at the daycare with his friends filled with bowling, skating and all the other fun they had planned. We weren’t able to take a full week to go somewhere, but I wanted to give them all at least a little outing and change of scenery. On Friday, we decided to skip daycare and work and take off on an adventure to see a museum in another city.

We started the day with much excitement (and energy) about our anticipated trip, so in my limited Mommy-wisdom, I decided that a trip to McDonald’s for breakfast and a stint in the “play place” were in order before settling into the minivan for an hour. One thing about our little adventures that I’ve come to predict is that one mommy plus three youngsters usually equals hands full, and a few accoutrements are required — namely extra juice, extra pull-ups, extra gummies, extra goldfish, extra chapstick and some well-placed extra instructions.

On this morning, those well-placed instructions were directed to Little Drummer Boy. He’s filled with excitement at being the “big brother,” emphasis on big, and it’s certainly a point of pride that he is the only one attending “big school.” When we walked into McDonald’s needing to order food, but ready to play, my hands were indeed full and I decided it was a good time to hand off some of those “big brother” duties. I asked LDB if he would take two-year-old Baby Girl’s hand and take her to the playground for me while I ordered. Bug was already half-way to the play place door because his sphere doesn’t quite include “big” duties. Little Drummer Boy on the other hand, seems to relish the reminders that he is growing stronger and smarter every day.

And, relish he did! When he heard my proposition, his face took on a new expression of “big-ness”, the countenance of responsibility. He had a job to do to take care of his little sister, and he took it seriously. It was an acknowledgement from Mommy that he was big enough to handle it, that he WAS the big brother, and that he was a good one. I could see his little heart fill with pride right there by the super hero prize display. A new courage to take on a fledgling leadership role was born. New shoots of growth popped out of the five-year-old earth before my eyes.

The wild card in the scenario was Baby Girl. Would she cling to Mama? Would she agree to the out-stretched hand of her newly minted “BIG” brother? It’s funny how confidence spreads. Once Little Drummer Boy adopted the confidence of “big brother” status and the responsibility that goes with it, Baby Girl adopted a new confidence that she had a big brother looking out for her.  And, she had the courage to take his hand and walk (not run) to the play area. Now, each time we’re at McDonald’s she wants to hold her brother’s hand instead of mine.

As I’ve been thinking about this simple experience from a few weeks ago, I’m so thankful for the little expressions of confidence I’ve received over the last year that have boosted my courage to step into new responsibilities and to embrace anew or reclaim areas of my time and space and efforts that reflect how I really want life to be. Thinking on the blossoming pride I saw in Little Drummer Boy reminds me that it’s important to acknowledge for myself the small, everyday milemarkers that reflect my progress. And it gave me a new commitment to give that inexpensive but invaluable gift to each of my children as well.


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