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The courageous parent - Martha Randolph Carr

A courageous parent is the one who can stand back and let his or her grown children lead their own lives without his or her assistance.

Sounds obvious, but takes so much more than we knew when we first welcomed the small being into our lives.

The moment anyone becomes a parent marks the beginning of being pulled in two distinct directions for the rest of your life. One mindset dictates that you do everything in your power to protect this child from any harm.

When they're still small and look at you as the smartest being on the planet, that's an easy one to fulfill. It's obviously the right thing to do.

But then, if we do our job well, they grow up and start to look to the outside world for the beginning of their own adventure. Suddenly, the parents are the observers who receive news from the frontlines of their children's lives.

Some of the news is great, like a new date or a wonderful opportunity that opened up for them. However, some of the news, like getting laid off or their car breaking down along a road, is a little hard to take, because we're not there to do our old job.

There's the second part of our job and what inevitably turns out to be the toughest part. A good parent lets go and allows our small child, who stands before us as fully grown, to fail, to fall and to occasionally even get hurt.

We do it so that they will know that the world is more good than bad and risks are not only worth taking, they're a necessary part of really seeing how beautiful life can be. We do it so that we can both grow a deeper faith and actually put it to work. After all, faith only works when we take it out and test it.

But the hardest words for any parents to get out of their mouths are, just go for it. Within those words contain every possibility without the cautions or alerts. That's the way it needs to be, though, so that our children's eyes are on the possibilities of what might work, instead of scanning for every potential pitfall.

In that small space between knowing what is, and imagining what might be, is also where we can surrender all of our fears and learn how to fully live in the moment. It's a small step that takes only willingness, and can be accompanied by any amount of flailing or whining someone might want to bring.

Often, in our competitive world, being in a space of surrender requires the contradiction of doing nothing. We did our part and the rest will find us.

In this job market, that would translate as, I've sent out a blizzard of resumes and networked with a reasonable number of people. That means, I've done enough. If there is more to do, the willingness is there but for now, life can also be enjoyed. Even in the midst of bills and foreclosures, there are stretches of joy.

It's a way to lead a balanced and saner life.

As a parent of grown children, it's a daily reminder to ourselves that we did the best we could and that was enough. From this point forward, we listen and encourage and offer limited advice, only when asked. In return, we are letting our offspring know that we believe they have the tools to figure this out for themselves, and for the most part, things will be OK.

The unexpected bonus is not only that we are teaching that to ourselves as well, but that we start to see the new opportunities more easily and are quicker to jump on board. The threat of failure is no longer a good enough reason to not even try. It becomes OK for us to occasionally fail, fall or even get hurt, because we can also more easily see all of the blessings.

The first one is the grown child who eagerly sets out on their own adventures. Good job, Mom and Dad. More adventures to follow.

If you'd like to get involved in the 2009 America Challenge to raise funds for community-based charities, e-mail me at Martha@CagleCartoons.com, for more information. Together, we're going to build stronger communities and empower ourselves.

Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at: Martha@caglecartoons.com.