As [Bilbo] went forward … it was undoubtedly hot in the tunnel. Wisps of vapour floated up and past him and he began to sweat. A sound, too, began to throb in his ears …[it] grew to the unmistakable gurgling noise of some vast animal snoring in its sleep down there in the red glow in front of him.

It was at this point that Bilbo stopped. Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did…. He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone … ~ J. R. R. Tolkien The Hobbit

This is one of my favorite scenes in The Hobbit, this quiet moment of pure bravery, the pivot point on which rests the entirety of the story.

Without this moment of bravery the rest of the story cannot move forward. Without this moment of bravery there would be no story at all.

It is not an action scene involving lots of sword-play and arrows whistling through the air. It is a single person, alone in the dark, simply making the decision to keep going and face the dragon.

When the Navigator faced challenges like transitions and demands, I was reminded of Bilbo and the brave step he took.

There are all kinds of different dragons in our lives, things we fear as much as Bilbo feared Smaug, and each time it comes down to how important just taking that bravest step is.

As he got older, the Navigator’s perseverative meltdowns started to become different. There was less blind frustration and rage, and more awareness in him – he knew he was reacting but didn’t know how to help himself.

Some of you may be scratching your heads and thinking “if he is aware of the meltdown, doesn’t that make it a temper tantrum?”

No, it doesn’t.

How do I know? Because basic tantrum management techniques still didn’t work. I walked away from meltdowns and sat for an hour waiting for them to pass. He didn’t care that I wasn’t there, that I wasn’t watching – it was not a mechanism to get me to do something.

I’ve tried coaxing him before it started, reminding him that if he let’s it get big, we would all be unhappy.

No dice.

I have taken away his computer time, and then his computer (literally unplugging it and carrying it out of the office).

Those consequences were irrelevant to him in the moment and did nothing to stop the behavior.

And, after they were over, he was unhappy that they happened and at a loss on how to stop them from happening again.

Nope, not a temper tantrum.

As he has grown older, he faces the dragon of dealing with his meltdowns and it is a big step is for him to take on figuring out how to prevent or end his meltdowns.

He has learned about his own triggers, where different kind of meltdowns can stem from, what emotional responses lead to what behavior, etc.

The next step will be to synthesize that information into tools and strategies to support himself. And that’s a big step.

The tunnel is dark, possibly long, and the next step is scary. It takes great bravery to take that next step and face this dragon.

The Bravest Step