What is Courageous Parenting?

April 6, 2016

Leaving your 3 year old at school even when they are clinging to the desk begging you not to go.

Sending your 18 year old off to college.

That first time leaving your precious baby with a babysitter.

Handing them the cars keys on Friday night.

Letting them fall when they are learning to walk.

Allowing them to fail, when you know you have the answers.

Knowing when to push them and when to lay off.

Not trying to fix it when they get their heart broken.

Saying no when you know your No.

Watching them struggle and not saving them.

Holding boundaries.

Letting go.

Loving unconditionally.  No matter what.

Frankly, I think parenting is the most courageous job on earth. Eighteen years ago, when I decided to become a parent, I had no idea how much courage it would take to raise my children.  Year after year, day after day, moment after moment, my children have invited me to exercise the muscle of courageous parenting in one way or another.

At the time I was not aware, but looking back now I can see that it took an amazing amount of courage to leave my son at preschool at the age of three while he clung to the leg of the table crying and begging me not to leave him.  Each day I would leave heartbroken and fearful that I was doing something wrong or bad, or that I was ‘damaging' him in some way.  I was a new parent and I hated seeing him “suffer.” Even more so, it pained me to think I was the cause.

Eighteen years later sometimes I long for the  the days of clinging to table legs and begging me to stay. Bigger kids,bigger challenges.

Today this same table clinging, mom needing child couldn’t be more excited to get away—which is still 18 months away by the way!—to be free and go off on his own.  And just like when he was three, my practice is in letting go, trusting and allowing.  

Back then, I had to let go and leave him crying at school and trust it was not going to “damage" him. I needed to allow him to be afraid and see it was ok.  And I had to face my own fear, while doing the same for him. He was not the only one who was scared. I was too.

Today and almost every day since, I continue to learn to do the same. Each day is a new opportunity to embrace my fears. Each day I am faced with the choice to let go or hold on.  It is a courageous act to let go, and it is my deepest learning as a parent.

As we navigate what seems to be bigger life challenges, I continue to learn to let go of controlling him, trusting that he can make the best decisions for himself and that I have modeled well for him, and above all continue to allow him to learn from his own mistakes as he travels his way into adulthood.

Will he be ok?  Will I be ok?  Will we be ok? Will it be ok? The questions have not changed over the years, but time has taught me valuable lessons.

Deep down I know the answer. It takes no less courage along the way to be with fear when it arises.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s part of our children’s job to bring out fear in us that we may learn to face it head on, hopefully with more courage over time.

My son has been diligently teaching me to be more courageous for the past 18 years.

If I’m lucky, the invitations to greater courage through letting go will keep coming as he, and all my children, fly away—reluctantly or enthusiastically—again and again.

For more on how to cultivate courage in your life, listen in here to my talk this month with Dr Shauna Shapiro.

Annmarie Chereso
Founder, BringIt! Home

Here is one thing I know for sure. Practice does not make us perfect.But it certainly helps to smooth out the rough edges. The most important lesson I have learned in my crazy mixed up life is that practice is all there is and I am devoted to it. And I’d like to share it with you.

Let’s face it, life can feel out of control and crazy much of the time. My life is no exception. As a single working mother of three children, I have come to realize that my personal peace and emotional well being are the key for being a good parent, a good friend, a good partner and coach and for leading my happiest, most fulfilling and emotionally satisfying life.  My 22-year practice of yoga, meditation, and mindfulness has taught me how to be present, conscious and aware of how to cultivate this personal well being.

I have been fortunate to study with many of the great wellness leaders of our time. In addition to being a certified Martha Beck life coach, I received my training and certification to teach mindfulness through Mindful Schools and the Mindful Education Institute.  I have had the honor and privilege to study under inspiring leaders in the field of Contemplative Practices such as Jack Kornfield, Susan Kaiser Greenland, Linda Lantieri, Daniel Rechstaffen and many other pioneers in the field of mindfulness and education.  

I have been trained by prestigious mindfulness industry leaders including John Kabat Zinn, Professor of Medicine Emeritus and founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

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