Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
— “Brave” Written by Sara Bareillis and Jack Antonoff

I worked with a remarkably brave student this week. I’ll call him Marcos. In Marcos’s classroom they are working on essays with strong messages. He’s decided he’s going to write about his dad. On the day he told me this, he burst into tears and pinched the bridge of his nose to try to stay in control. I told him I’d give him space because I could tell it was a very emotional topic. A little later he sidled up to me while I was working with a small group on the carpet.

Quietly I told him the story about a student in another class who had recently decided that writing about her mother was too painful and she decided to write about an older cousin because it was easier. I wanted to give him an out.

“I want to do this,” he assured me.

“Tell me about your dad,” I encouraged.

“Well, he left when I was three months old. So I don’t know where he lives, what kind of car he drives or whether he’s an outdoor person like me.”

“Wow,” I said. “That must leave you wondering–”

“About everything. All the time,” he said.

“When I was a kindergartener I figured out that my stepdad wasn’t my real dad because he’s white like my mom and not Hispanic. So I asked my mom, ‘Who is my real dad?’ and she said, ‘Don’t ask those questions,'” he continued.

When I’m graced with conversations like these, I tread carefully. I treat him gently; he’s a writer on thin emotional ice.

“How will you start?” I asked.

“I want to start with my mom telling me, ‘Don’t ask those questions.’ And then I want to write all the questions I have. I want to write that people can tell you not to ask questions out loud, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have them inside. You know?”

I nodded. I did. That sounded like an incredibly powerful thesis.

He went back to his spot and I collected myself. I had questions of my own. Why did he trust me with that story? How long had he been waiting for an invitation to write it? What would it become? And mostly, how can he be so brave?

4 thoughts on “Brave

  1. Heather first off that is one of my favorite songs. Secondly…we need Part II. I’m glad he trusted you and writing about it may open so many doors for him. I hope his Mom will share…eventually. We all want to protect our kids but really, they are tougher than we give them credit for. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Have you read “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown or seen her videos on TED TALKS? She goes into being brave and having vulnerability.

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