Brave as a Lion

A few times in my life, I have been described as being ‘brave’ and those times are not really when I have felt bravest in my life :

  • Six years ago I flew by myself to Texas to see my first best friend. I hired a car and drove through torrential rain to get to her house and I was treated like a heroine. Yet it did not seem to be too daunting at the time. Next week I am taking Joshua on a road trip for a few days to Scotland, to visit the same best friend actually, and while it is an exciting adventure, I do not feel especially brave. I am planning the trip carefully and packing for every eventuality, so it does not seem so brave.
  • When I first wrote about ,and published, my thoughts and experience of my mental health problems, several people told me that I was brave for being so open and vulnerable. Again I did not feel brave, I was just being honest and was sharing something that was important for me to share at that time.
  • When Joshua was about six weeks old, we packed up his pram with nappies and baby milk and we caught an overnight ferry to Holland for a holiday. None of the other antenatal mums felt brave enough to go abroad with their new babies, but we did, despite his difficult start and time in special care. It felt important that we did go away together, that we continued to holiday like we did before Joshua was around.
  • When I was working, I used to have to present my research findings to large rooms full of professionals. While I never feared these presentations, public speaking is a common fear of many people and so that too earned me the bravery badge. But the secret was to prepare my script and data thoroughly and then I knew that I was the person in the room who knew most about the subject, so that brought me confidence. Also experience helped and I had been doing presentations for 28 years when I retired, so they made me nervous enough to give me adrenalin but did not paralyse me with fear.
  • Since April I have been swimming in the North Sea with a group of ladies called Mermaids at 6 am. I have been told that swimming in the sea is brave – either that or crazy! But actually the brave step for me was not entering the cold sea at sunrise, but it was introducing myself alone to group of total strangers. But they are such a friendly, welcoming group that they became new friends very quickly.

Actually there have been other times in my life when I have been much braver than in any of these situations :

  • The most frightening time of my life was when Joshua was undergoing his brain surgery and while we waited the hours and hours for news and for him to reach Recovery, that is when we needed all of the courage and positivity that we could muster. It was all beyond our control, we had to trust in the skill of the neurologist. In fact, making the decision to go ahead with the surgery was another brave moment : I researched it thoroughly, even speaking to other parents who had made the surgical choice, and then had to convince my husband that it was the right decision. I pushed hard for the opportunity, but of course lived with the fear that he could die while in surgery or from post-op complications, so that felt really brave at the time.
  • Another time in my life requiring preparation and courage, was when we fought at a tribunal for Joshua to change special schools, from one which did not meet his needs to another which had a school nurse and a much better outlook for him. We had been told that the other school was full to capacity but we did not take no for an answer and went to a tribunal to fight for the right choice. It was a horrendous 6 months of gathering information and consulting various professionals asking them to write reports to support our case. Then in January 2011, the tribunal date finally came and I took along a photograph of Joshua to put at the front on the desk so that everyone was reminded of why we were there. It was terrifying but was the biggest anti-climax ever as the judge had read the documentation, so she simply said that it was obvious which school Joshua should attend and asked the new Head if he could have a place. She replied that he could if he came with full one to one funding, which the Local Authority agreed to provide. And that was it, it was over in 5 minutes much to our relief but frustration – the anxiety and cost of this tribunal should all have been avoided with a couple of telephone calls between Councils! Joshua started at his new school in March 2011 and it felt like he had come home.
  • Letting go of Joshua after being his 24/7 carer for two years of Covid, was a really brave but essential move to make. We had shielded him at home since March 2020, taking care of him all day everyday without any support. Making the choice to let him head back out into the big world where I could not protect him anymore by taking up his place at daycare, felt like an enormous decision and it was impossible to know when was the right time. Each time I thought that I was ready, I would hear of another outbreak and we would retreat to safety at home. Finally at the start of this year the time felt right and I got in touch with daycare and I went in to see the manager to speak to her about their post-covid measures and to see what the new set up looked like. I felt reassured and she was happy to go at my slow pace, starting with just one day a week. So in mid February 2022, Joshua started his daycare journey finally. Up until I dropped him off, I was full of doubts. But then I saw how instantly happy and relaxed he was and I just knew that it was the right time and the right place for him. By Easter, he was attending three days a week and he loves them and the staff seem to like him too.

So the three bravest moments of my life have all involved Joshua and have all involved difficult decisions to be made on his behalf. My courage has been tested most when I have had to release control to professionals – be them surgeons, carers or teachers. The trick in each case was preparation and research before making the decision and then a strong reliance on a gut feel, which rarely lets me down. Armed with those things, I am pretty sure that I am brave enough to face anything and compared to those three life-changing events, swimming in the North Sea at sunrise is not even a challenge. They say that bravery is about feeling the fear, then doing it anyway and that has certainly been my experience throughout my life.

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