We walked to the mall yesterday to see the turtle pond. As I’m fond of telling your mother, when you and I are here at the house alone, we party hard. You love the turtle pond. It’s this semi-circular concrete slab filled about two feet high with scummy pond water and a whole pride of red-eared sliders. (I made that up. I googled the name for a group of turtles. It’s a nest. Boring. So I’m sticking with my original selection. A pride of turtles sounds AWESOME.)
When we arrived, I let you out of the stroller, and walked you over to the edge of the pond. You squatted down and attempted to stick your hand in the scummy water. I stopped you because I think you’re just fine disease-free. So your hand hovered over the water as turtles began to slowly flock toward your little nubs. They slowly circled, and then one huge slider, clearly the alpha of the group, swam towards your outstretched finger. A puppy might have tried to lick you. A cat might have tried to nuzzle you. But this was a turtle, and turtles don’t lick or nuzzle. They bite.
So let’s check the parenting checklist. Packed a snack for the trip? Check. Brought a change of diapers? Check. Avoided disease-ridden water? Check. No open wounds caused by feral shelled reptiles? Check, but only by the slimmest of margins.
Blue, I tell you this because I think you have a lot of me in you. You’re an explorer. That’s a good thing, and I want you to explore. I encourage it at every opportunity, and I write about this topic often because I think the choice to explore builds courage, and courage is what we want all children to have. Courageous children become successful adults.
It’s important to know the kind of courage you have, though. And you are very much like me. Not necessarily courageous, but accidently courageous. Like me, you just want to explore. Not to be brave, but to be curious. Inevitably, it gets you in spots that might look you’re being brave, but it’s not bravery that lead you to that spot. It’s that combination of curiosity and ignorance that gets you there instead.
Sometimes bravery works backwards like this. Let me give you an example. About a decade ago, I went snowboarding with some friends. It was my first time going snowboarding, and I was understandably nervous. I told my friends this, to which they replied, “It’s not that bad.”
So, “not that bad” meant skipping the bunny hills and going straight to the peak. I kept thinking to myself this is not so bad even as I inexplicably ended up on a ski lift by myself. There, I was able to contemplate every single way in which this was going to be EXACTLY that bad as rose above the tree line into the night sky, the alpine wind whistling past me.
It wasn’t pretty, but I did make it back down to the lodge in one piece. It was scary. Terrifying, even. But what choice did I have? Stay up at the top and get frostbite?
Conventional thinking would say that going down the hill was brave. It wasn’t. It was just the natural consequence of the decision I made to go up on that ski lift. What goes up must come down. Going up was the brave thing, even if it was done halfway out of ignorance. I’ll tell you what, though. It was a beautiful experience, and I relished every second of it. Still do.
So do the same, Blue. Explore. You’ll be surprised by how you come across courage by accident. And sometimes necessity.