lost and found

We’re in the car, windows rolled down, words measured and aired. My family holds some of our best conversations strapped into our seats driving toward various destinations.

My eight-year-old daughter Annie, who has expressed a steady stream of thoughts and opinions, interrupts herself, “Are we always learning?”

I say, “Yes, we are. We’re taking in the world around us. That’s one of the best things about life. We always get to learn.”

“Why do people do bad things if they know it isn’t good for them?”

I wonder why all the philosophizing, but I’m going with it. “I don’t know. We have choices, but sometimes we don’t make the right choices. Or we want to try something out, so we do, and then find out it’s a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes,” I catch her eyes in the rear-view mirror, eyes like mine, “I do know it’s important to think for yourself.”

She asks, “Is it important to like yourself?”

“Yes, it is. To know and respect and like you is very important.”

In my girlhood I often felt hesitant and cautious, searching for something just out of reach. I had trouble identifying my emotions at the age of eight, but I knew I was lost. I silenced my confusion, who could understand me? Instead, I played to my strengths. I was the loyal sidekick, a friend to the popular girl. What I couldn’t do for me, I did for the girl in charge. I made her feel good about herself.

From lost and uncomfortable to insecure and loathing, I could not like myself. I wanted to, but didn’t know how. Years later I peeled myself from the wall, abandoned friendships that harmed, and stopped hiding in the shadows. It was okay to want more. It was okay to like me. It wasn’t arrogance. It was necessary.

When I get to observe Annie in her ballet class, I can see from fingertips to toes she is armed with confidence. Concentrating on a drawing, giggling with her best friend, bounding across the yard, she is fearless.

I once lost Annie at the school playground.

I can’t see her anywhere. “Annie! Annie!” I’m frantic. My fingers graze a friend’s shoulder as I dart by, “Have you seen her?” My eyes are everywhere at once. And I remember. I walk over to the tallest tree, the best tree to climb.

“Hi, Mommy! I’m up here!” she chirps. High, high in the tree is my girl. I gulp air, consoled by the realization that I know her, I found her.

In the car I listen to her chatter, her curiosity and I breathe, please, please keep this. This knowledge of who you are. Always, always be yourself. The wind finds me through the open window and carries my wish for both of us, discerning I need this grace as much as she does.

I’m linking up with the fabulousness that is Yeah Write this week. Come check out great writing!

Swept up
in Old Mare

These guys are friends and they know music. Their album You Deserve More came out a little while ago and it’s on high rotation in our car. We love it, not just because they’re good friends, but they’re good friends who make good music.

50 thoughts on “lost and found

  1. Emily

    This was fantastic. The story and your retelling were both so strong, and yes, yes, yes, this resonates deeply with me as a woman and as a mother. Well done.

    Reply
  2. jessica

    I try all the time to remind my daughter that she is a leader and not a follower, that it’s okay not to always agree or disagree with what others say. I want so badly for her to have a life so different from mine, feelings of worthlessness, allowing myself to be used by so many.

    You’re doing a great job with her. xoxoxo

    Reply
  3. Sandra

    I enjoyed reading this; a sense of self-worth is all I’ve ever wished for my step-daughter and her children. And it looks like that wish came true. I hope your daughter continues to grow in this way.

    Reply
  4. Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

    Oh, the fabulousness of an 8 year old girl!! I love the utter lack of self-consciousness. I remember reading an article a few years back about girls and learning. The author said that our girls are confident and capable learners until about 11 when they undergo some of their physical changes and then succumb to some of the pressures of society’s expectations. I wish for your sweet girl to hold on to this moment and feeling too. Beautiful. Erin

    Reply
  5. Angela Shelton

    She will totally keep those qualities, watch!

    They are here to teach us, not the other way around. This was a great reminder.
    And it’s never too late for a happy childhood either. Listening to and watching her can heal a bunch of neuro-pathways in your mind and clear up past traumas. Oh yes.

    Reply
  6. Stacey

    This was beautifully written. I, too, was late to gain that confidence of self that your daughter has. I pray she keeps learning, keeps growing, and keeps living true to herself. That kind of self knowledge and self love is such a rare gift!

    Reply
  7. Anna

    I love that your daughter is so open and is asking you these important questions – and your answers are wonderful as well. It is SO important to like ourselves and treat ourselves with love and care. The story of losing her at the playground and then knowing to go to the tree was beautiful as well. Great post!

    Reply
  8. christina

    wow Annie sounds amazing- especially for 8. i pray.. PRAY… for similar conversations, similar memories with my girl.

    this was really beautifully written.

    Reply
  9. Phase Three of Life

    Don’t you wish you could bottle this up and give it back to her when she needs it most? My son is just 19 months old, but he has such a pure innocence and coy spirit. I hope he never loses either.

    Reply
  10. julie gardner

    “I was the loyal sidekick, a friend to the popular girl. What I couldn’t do for me, I did for the girl in charge. I made her feel good about herself.”

    This was like reading a description of myself. For better or worse.
    I’m working on the better.

    Still…

    Reply
  11. stephanie

    Beautiful writing, Heidi. Both visceral and ethereal. I could relate to your description of you as a young girl. And I could rejoice for your daughter at having you as a mother. Lovely story, told ever so effectively.

    Reply
  12. Jennifer

    Ah, Heidi, I love you so! I’m glad you got to the point in your life that you were able to step out from behind unhealthy friends and let the light shine in. Clearly your daughter has a wonderful role model. 🙂

    Reply
  13. Aubrey Anne

    I wish we could force our kids to keep that childhood confidence. My 2yo stands on anything he can reach and yells, “I am the biggest thing in the UNIVERSE! I have the power of Greyskull!” I wish he could always feel like that.

    Reply
    1. Timothy

      Potrebbe anche non essere affttao male ma voglio aspettare qualche news in pi anche per la trama ed il game play. Comunque devo dire che mi sembra che qualcosa si stia muovendo.

      Reply
  14. Louise Ducote

    This is my favorite post of yours so far (and that’s sayin’ something). Many layers, many distinct pieces quilted together by a sure hand; it’s moving and entertaining all at once. Usually I reserve the word “entertaining” for fluffy pleasures, but I mean it in the best way here. Your narrative moves at the right pace; well done.

    Reply
  15. Sarah Reinhart @littlewhitewhale

    This above all things is what I too wish for my daughter. To like herself. To have confidence. Because like you, it’s something that took me years–far longer than I’d care to admit–to really achieve. In fact, when I first found out that we were HAVING A GIRL–I was kind of scared. The boys I could handle, but a girl. What if I screwed this up? I don’t worry about it so much any more, because the learning is reciprocal. She’s given me strength. I just love her spunk. I can relate so much to this post. Thanks for this.

    Reply
  16. Susan

    i love this: “it was okay to want more… it was necessary.” there are very few things i hope i give to my children than the kind of foundation that builds self-confidence. Annie sounds wonderful!

    Reply
  17. Jennifer - Treading Water in the Kiddie Pool

    I love the confidence they have at this age. It is so innocent and untarnished. I wish we could keep them that way forever – protect them from the teen years where they all feel the need to point out each others’ flaws and shortcomings. I was shy and so unsure of myself at my son’s age and he doesn’t have even a glimmer of that. Great post!

    Reply
  18. Delilah

    I was that girl too, uncomfortable in my own skin and not liking myself very much. I just wrote a post about it actually to be published next week. I don’t want my daughter to feel about herself the way I felt about myself. This was a great post, I loved it!

    Reply
  19. Kim@MamaMzungu

    Oy, if we could all keep the gentle strength and self assuredness we have as 8 year olds – before we’re told we need to look a certain way, please certain people, be someone we’re not. Your girl sounds terrific – asks questions like a zen master. What a beautiful post!

    Reply
  20. Lisa AKA Mama Finch

    What a beautifully conveyed piece.

    Loved this…”and I breathe, please, please keep this. This knowledge of who you are. Always, always be yourself. The wind finds me through the open window and carries my wish for both of us, discerning I need this grace as much as she does.”

    It is obvious that your hard won self-confidence is rubbing off on your daughter already, as demonstrated through her thoughtful questions.

    I have an eight year old son and am realizing this must be the age of questions! He is the “why” man.

    Reply
  21. John

    I recently began following your writings Heidi and have been profoundly touched and inspired by all of them. Thank you for your gift of bringing meaning and understanding through your words in the way you so eloquently express your perception of life and this world. And thank your daughter too for showing you and through you many of us that even though we may lose ourselves many times in life we are never very far away and only need to look up to find ourselves sitting in the highest tree ready to climb even higher yet.

    Reply
  22. Jackie

    I am often amazed at my four year old and her self confidence and assured nature. Heidi, I believe this is truly a reflection on the stellar parenting both of us are doing thus far!

    Reply
  23. Jeff D'Antonio

    I have long held the belief that the key to a happy life lies in knowing who you are and being comfortable with yourself. Liking who you are gives you the power to think for yourself, to trust your own judgement, to not need others’ approval or validation – and that kind of freedom opens so many doors in life.

    Reply
  24. hollow tree ventures

    I always used to be more comfortable in the supporting role, too, deeply hoping no one would notice me, agreeing with things without considering whether or not I had an opinion. And I have a daughter like yours, free and unafraid. Every day I hope to be more like her, and every day I hope she never loses that grace. Beautiful post.

    Reply
  25. Your Doctor's Wife

    Girls are so difficult to raise! Our 3 girls are now teenagers and a sense of self-worth is so important (especially when boys come into the picture! ugh.) Sounds like you are doing a wonderful job! Do worry about “losing” her. We’ve all been there!

    Fantastic piece!

    Reply
  26. Kimberly S. (Sperk*)

    I so totally love this post. There is so much in here and I relate to all of it. Finding yourself, learning to like yourself, and then wanting that so badly for your own daughter. And that fear of it slipping away in an instant. The moments when our children question or say something profound and we are in awe. Oh, I love this post. And I like Old Mare very much and appreciate the recommendation. Can I come with you on your next car ride?

    Reply
  27. Anna Lefler

    Oh, I love this glimpse into your life with your daughter.

    We try so hard to shield them from the things that made us stumble, don’t we? It’s all so humbling…

    Hope all is well!

    XOXO

    Anna

    Reply
  28. Kate Coveny Hood

    This is one of my favorite things I’ve read in a long time. I always look at my confident daughter and think, “please don’t be like me. Don’t be meek. Don’t be afraid of life. And follow your own path without any question about it being exactly right for you.” I think a lot of other things…really for all of my children (even the one who is EXACTLY like me). My daughter is enough like me that i know where some of the bad behavior is coming from – and different enough to leave me in awe of her larger than life presence. And it scares me to know that she will change so many times as she grows up and into the future her. No matter who she seems to be now, I can’t predict where life will take her. But I try not to worry about the unknowable future and just delight in what a wonder she is today. And acknowlege how much she inspires me to be more.

    This is one of the big perks of having kids right? I will remind myself of this next time she is huffing around like a teenager and complaining about how BORED she is.

    Reply
  29. IntenseGuy

    As always, beautifully written…I think it’s like a beautiful photo… it starts with a beautiful subject and somehow managing to capture the fleeting moment. You are a verbal artist.

    Reply

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