Cowardly Lion: “All right, I’ll go in there for Dorothy. Wicked Witch or no Wicked Witch, guards or no guards, I’ll tear them apart. I may not come out alive, but I’m going in there. There’s only one thing I want you fellows to do.”
Tin Woodsman & Scarecrow: “What’s that?”
Cowardly Lion: “Talk me out of it!”
As my wife and I and our friends get older and move into this stage of our children leaving home and living their own lives, I was deeply struck by some words attributed to John Steinbeck. He wrote, “Perhaps it takes courage to raise children…”
I have tried to think back to our early days of parenting to discover when the need for courage really begins. Was it when the doctor first confirmed that a baby was indeed on the way and we rejoiced while at the same time wondered what it really meant for two people who still enjoyed romantic dinners and quiet nights at the movies and sleeping in on Saturdays? Was it in the long hours watching the pains of labor that finally produced a real live baby who would bear a name only we had chosen for her?
Maybe it was the hard and frustrating nights around our kitchen table when money was tight and bills were voluminous and the future of our young family loomed somewhere out there in the darkness? Could it have come when another’s rising fever forced us to the emergency room on her birthday and we thought we had lost her on the frantic drive there?
Maybe it came when one made a bad decision that ended with discipline and heartbreak and anger and mercy and forgiveness near the midnight hour around our kitchen table? Or maybe it truly began when one left for life on a college campus that she would soon call “home?”
Then again, maybe the courage to parent is always present, lying dormant somewhere within us and just waiting for these and a million other moments to arrive and pull courage from its slumber. Maybe, just maybe, if courage was required of parents all the time, we would never want to be parents, never want to accept the journey to live and love and lose and win and fail and try and try again.
It all makes me think of our youngest’s favorite book, The Wizard of Oz. The cowardly lion is so worried about everything that he somehow ends up hiding in the shadows of that forest, a recluse, all alone and going nowhere…so discouraged to have no courage. And then, only after he stops worrying about not having courage and accepts Dorothy’s invitation to join her and her friends on that now famous journey – then and only then does courage come, just when he needs it most.