If you need to be brave….

A friend gave us one of these. It’s a bravery heart.  These very beautiful necklaces are a fundraiser for a really cool program called bravery beads.

Bravery beads are for kids with illnesses requiring long hospitalizations with frequent procedures.  Cancer is the first to come to mind, but children with many other diagnoses have received them.  The children receive a special bead for each procedure….so a green one might be for a blood draw and a red one for a chemo treatment, etc.  They are, apparently, very effective.  To raise money to run that program, they sell necklaces in hospital gift shops and online.  (I’m not linking to the online store just yet because right n

ow my computer is giving me a warning that there’s a malware problem with the site.  I’m sure it will be back in the clear soon and then I’ll link to it.)

Anyway, I loved the necklace so much that I got another one for me, and one for a special friend. Selam and I wear them on days when she has need of some extra bravery.  I thought that she’d just wear hers but she’s insistent that she needs TWO necklaces for TWO sets of bravery.  Fall semester was very hard, since her teacher had a “no jewelry” rule. That rule has been softened to a “no bracelets or rings” rule recently.

Today, Selam has  a doctor’s appointment.  There will be a blood draw, as always.  This is never fun, and requires an element of bravery. She used to scream and cry something awful–it took me, two nurses, a phlebotomist and a child life specialist to get through it. After a brief honeymoon of being an easy blood draw girl, we’re now back at a rather appropriate stage of her being very anxious but able to get through it with some distractions, a promise of a treat, and a bravery necklace.

“It reminds me,” she says, “of the bravery that I already have inside me.”

For me, I’m grateful that she does not have the other kind of bravery beads. I’m grateful that I’ve never had to send her off for surgery or sit beside her in an inpatient stay.  We are lucky.

Having spent quite a bit of time with parents that have done this, who have earned hospital warrior badges and then some, I know that the term “brave” rubs.  There’s nothing brave about doing what you must.  Brave implies a choice–you can choose to go to war or choose not to; you can choose to run into the burning house or choose not to; you don’t get to choose whether or not to treat a major illness. And you certainly don’t have a lot of choice in whether or not you will accompany your child through one.

But all of life is a risk, is it not?  Making a friend, going to school, taking a job, falling in love, raising a child–all of these things are downright foolhardy when you think of it–the chances for pain are HUGE.  I guess the bravery is in the moment you say yes to parenting–because once you say yes, anything is possible. And walking into the unknown is certainly brave.

In one of the many tributes to Maurice Sendak that popped up yesterday, I heard an interview clip.  In it, Maurice Sendak said “children surviving childhood is my obsessive theme and my life’s concern.” (1993) Fair enough.  Childhood is scarier than most of us remember.

Selam’s class is studying Where the Wild Things Are right now.  It’s happenstance. They began the project

a week before Maurice Sendak’s death.  So on Saturday, when she made a special treasure box at camp, and then spilled a blob of blue paint on it, it eventually became the ocean.  And on the ocean, she painted a boat, and on the boat was Max “who sailed off for a long, long time and had brave adventures. But the boat goes to the adventure and it goes back home. So when he was scared and tired, he went back home.”

Brave is knowing when to turn the boat around.

Brave is being the bedroom with the window and the waiting dinner.

Brave is keeping that dinner still hot.

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