The Courage to Love Intentionally & Irrationally

Our lives are filled with mentors and mentees as we apprentice ourselves to living wholeheartedly.  My mentor to become a Courage &  Renewal Facilitator, Debbie Stanley, taught me not only about holding space as a facilitator, but how to Live Courage in all aspects of life.  As Debbie enters into a new chapter of life as a grandmother, she continues to "turn to wonder" and shares her story with us here.  May we each apprentice ourselves to wonder, trust and deep listening throughout our lives.  With gratitude to all our intergenerational teachers,  Holly


“In order to develop normally, a child requires progressively more complex joint activity with one or more adults who have an irrational emotional relationship with the child. Somebody's got to be crazy about that kid. That's number one. First, last and always.”  Urie Bronfenbrenner, American child development psychologist

It takes courage to love a child intentionally and irrationally.  As a teacher of young children, I introduced myself to the parents of students with this quote by Urie Bronfenbrenner.  I wanted my parents to know how deeply I would care for their children as if they were my own natural children. As a senior Courage & Renewal facilitator since 1994, I deeply embrace the wisdom found in the words of Paulo Friere that “to teach is an act of courage and thus an act of love.” Then on October 5, 2017 my first grandchild, Micaiah was born. I am baffled by the irrational and completely ridiculous love I have for this child.  When Micaiah was born, so was I… a brand-new grandmother!

Parker Palmer, the founder of the Center of Courage & Renewal, asserts that “we teach who we are.”  Micaiah is my newest teacher.  He is showing me how to be transparent and vulnerable.  When his dad, Matthew, was born, I remember thinking as an early childhood educator, “I have to look as if I know what I’m doing and love this child simultaneously.” With Micaiah, it’s very different. I do not know what I am doing but I know how to be…present. I practice a loving presence with Micaiah. When he smiles at me, I melt into a puddle of pure joy. When he makes those first sounds of communication, cooing, I swoon as if listening to one of my favorite love ballads. When he looks into my eyes, I feel seen and loved. As I experience becoming a grandmother, I somehow begin to release the feelings of failure and inadequacy that I had as a mother. Becoming a grandmother is a gift of living in the present with activated hindsight. How precious is that?

Loving Micaiah is like enjoying a twice baked potato. The great thing about twice baked potatoes is, specific proportions really aren’t needed. I have another opportunity to parent more deeply…to love twice. The opportunity to really uncover what it means to love a child irrationally. I also have the benefit of living in and into precious moments with Micaiah. I am not constantly thinking of what I must do or make sure that all is well in his life; no, his parents will handle all those details. I am grateful for the wisdom of knowing who I am to Micaiah and what my responsibilities are and are not. I honor the gift of becoming Micaiah’s “gramma….GG…Mee-maw…Gma…YaYa…” He’ll let me know!

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Debbie Stanley, Ph.D., retired in 2012 after 32 years in education as a public school educator and Early Childhood professor of the University of South Carolina and Coastal Carolina University. She has served as Horry County Chair of the First Steps state initiative. She has written and presented various articles on diversity in the public-school classroom. Debbie is a seasoned Courage & Renewal Facilitator, has served on the board of directors for the Center for Courage & Renewal, and currently serves as a Lead Team Facilitator for the Center's Facilitation Preparation Program.