According to Dictionary.com, fortitude is a noun meaning, “mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger, or temptation courageously”.
Wow. Hard. CORE. Lots of heavy-hitter termsthere, did you notice? “emotional strength”, “adversity”, “courageously”.
If you’re a parent though, and you’re doing the best you can, then you already have fortitude, at least a little bit. I know, however, that we are tempted to reach out and say, “Ha! Me strong? Strong mommies don’t lash out at their kids. Strong daddies don’t break down in front of their family. Strong parents don’t lose it, or resort to our crutches, like chocolate or beer.”
Well, I whole-heartedly disagree. Your mental and emotional strength lies in your ability to STAY there, after your fit or break down, or Dove-choco-fest. To push away the bad thoughts and take your kids to the park or the beach or the birthday party or bowling. To, even a for a moment, damn the despair and find gratitude for this family of yours. To look at your spouse, even when you’re not sure where love is at right now, and fight for your commitment or make love or stop a fight.
Fortitude is waking up every day as a mother and father and doing what you gotta do to give your kids a better life.
How do we get fortitude? I’d be lying if I had an easy answer. The best answer for me is that it comes from my faith. But even beside that, there are things I care about so much (my kids, my marriage, myself) that I’m willing to do the hard, ugly, painful, sacrificial work. And to do that, I have to look on the bright side.
The bright side is that even with disabilities, my kids are happy, healthy, and bring joy to other people besides me. The bright side is that through sickness, economic distress, layoffs, and two special needs kids, my marriage is rock solid. The bright side is I have a job, I have ambition, and by the skin of my teeth, I still have a roof over my head. I am blessed to have been led to an area that I love, with great neighbors, an awesome church, a fantastic school for Amelia, and amazing aides for my kids.
What I don’t have, I don’t need and I’m learning NOT to sweat that stuff. That is making me stronger. I have friends who get it – that this kind of parenting is hard – and who catch me the many times I fall. I have a husband who does that too, even though he’s having a rough time. And I have dreams & goals of my own, outside the kiddoes and that gives me hope. And I’m learning that God is bigger than ALL that – the mortgage, the people who are out to hurt you, the untenable circumstances.
What about you? What brings you strength when you feel too tired to overcome life’s little disasters? What is your source of fortitude? Share, and we can all get stronger together!