My children go to a local Montessori school, here in Cleveland.  The head of school is retiring, so we are in the process of looking for a new principal.  Meeting and interacting with these highly qualified and impressive individuals, asking them questions about their leadership style, experiences with hiring and firing, financial acumen, family situation and hobbies is really interesting.  It also requires a certain strength in cutting through the veneer of super experienced interviewees!

One of the candidates discussed his impressions of the students.  The seventh and eighth graders told him they felt known, that their teachers all made the effort to understand and know them deeply and that they felt truly supported.  The school has a unique culture which the students all were aware of and noted that it was different to the community in other schools.  They loved this feeling. Another candidate described it as our “special sauce”!

I was struck by how one of the candidates commented that these 12-14 year old students had a very strong sense of themselves and the situation, particularly in the way that they interacted with him, what they told him, what they felt comfortable sharing with him.  He described it as “appropriately fearless.”

This stuck in my head and has been percolating for the last few days.

As an approach to life, it makes a huge amount of sense to me.  As a parent it inherently appeals: I want my children to go out and engage in the world, but to do it safely and with intelligence and awareness about the situation. I want them to have the right amount of fear to keep themselves safe, but not inhibited.

As a woman and the mother of a daughter, and a lover of women in general, I want women to be able to engage in the world in a way that allows them to say what they want, wear what they want & do what they want, without fear.  Yet, we live in a world where that is frequently not the case, so we need to learn how to have a little fear, but not so much that we do not live the way that we want to live.

Growing up in London I inherently cultivated “appropriately fearless” behavior in the way I dressed, navigated public transport and places such as clubs and bars.  I wanted to be able to dress how I wanted to, but I also had to be aware of what might happen if my skirt was too short. I wanted to be able to say what I wanted to say and have my words understood in the right context.

In middle school, I learned how to be “appropriately fearless” in my academic classes – which teachers it was worth challenging or making attempts to answer a difficult question, and which teachers did not cultivate a classroom where failing was met with a supportive reaction.  As I developed relationships outside of the confines of my family and school I learned which friendships had space for total fearlessness with respect to what I could say and those in which I learned to cultivate “appropriately fearless” behaviors.

As a mother of three very different children, “appropriately fearless” will look different for each of them, and one of my jobs as a parent it to help them develop their own versions of “appropriately fearless” engagement with the world.  What a fabulous challenge for me, and one that I treasure deeply.

Also, as a newly un-partnered mother, I am learning to cultivate my own brand of “appropriately fearless” behaviors, particularly in a community where the norm is married, and one is often seen as an odd one out, in need of saving or rescuing, or avoiding altogether as if divorce is contagious.

I rise to the challenge of creating a home with four unique versions of “appropriately fearless” lifestyles!

Copyright Tamsin Astor, YogaBrained LLC, 2015