My Kid’s a Nerd

I suspected she was a nerd from the first time she asked to do math problems at the breakfast table, using Playmobil people to add and subtract sums. But when I found her in her bedroom–where she’d been silent for almost an hour–doing math problems by herself for fun, well that cemented it for me. 

My kid is a nerd. And she completely embraces her nerdiness.

How did she discover she was a nerd?

Well, I suspected she was a nerd from the first time she asked to do math problems at the breakfast table, using Playmobil people to add and subtract sums. But when I found her in her bedroom–where she’d been silent for almost an hour–doing math problems by herself for fun, well that cemented it for me.

She, however, didn’t know she was a nerd until one recent drive home from school. She was in the backseat, saying the same word over & over & over again–to annoy me, of course. And it was working. I finally got exasperated. “You’re such a…” I said. Then I paused for one frantic moment. Because “asshole” would’ve been my typical go-to for an adult. Not so much for a 7 year old. So “nerd.” Popped out.

She stopped being annoying and earnestly inquired: “Mommy, what’s a nerd?”

Oh boy.

I had to start by admitting I’d committed the terrible sin of using the word out of context (seriously, I was horrified. I am a writer. We do not use words out of context), but that a nerd was someone who loves books, math, science, and learning new things.

She lit up. “Oh, I AM a nerd!” she yelled gleefully (because 7 year olds do not speak. They yell. So much yelling)

She’s really embraced the whole nerd thing since then. Belle is her favorite princess because…. book nerd. She’s got a panda nerd necklace (he’s wearing taped glasses), which quickly became one of her favs. And, right now, she’s at Nerd Camp for a month (shout out to Atlanta Public Schools!), where she’s currently studying The Art & Science of Slime. Why does she love Nerd Camp so much? Because it’s just like school, she says exuberantly.

See? Nerd.

She comes from a long line of nerds. I’m one, for sure. But, as a kid, my shyness & self-doubt often got in the way of curiosity and scientific exploration. I liked to read. A lot. But I didn’t push myself to discover and learn the way Jane does.

She’s like a NEXT GENERATION NERD.

As she embraces her nerdiness, though, I’ve begun to point out that there’s more than one way to be smart. Together, she and I look for classmates and friends that display intelligence other than book smarts–emotional intelligence, curiosity, inventiveness, creativity, kindness…

She gets so excited when her friends excel–and not just in academics. She often comes home with reports about kids who are learning to manage their behaviors better and make good choices. She celebrates when classmates get rewarded for kindness or hard work. And she loves–maybe more than anything else–to tell me when one of her classmates went above & beyond to make someone feel special, included, or loved. And she almost always tears up when she’s telling me about it.

I love that she’s a nerd. And I’m proud of her for valuing her own intelligence. But I’m even more proud of her for recognizing that everyone is smart in their own way–and that we all have something of great value to contribute to this world.

 

42 Things About Me

42 things about me… about life, infertility, parenthood, LGBTQ stuff, sobriety, and coffee (of course!)

In no particular order:

  1. I am a Virgo/Libra cusp. The cusp is crucially important. I bring it up every time someone asks about my zodiac sign.
  2. Chocolate covered marshmallows go down as my favorite food of all time.
  3. I’m the oldest of 2 kids. I’ve got a little sister.133657_497803774632_4055268_o
  4. When we were kids, my sister & I looked nothing alike. As we’ve gotten older, no one can seem to agree on whether we look nothing alike or just alike. 

  5. An inebriated young gentleman once wandered up to me in a bar and carried on a full conversation that I understood none of. He thought he was talking to my sister.
  6. I run. Running balances me out. It’s meditative for me. I both love it and hate it. But I do it often.375123_10151486290019633_714277389_n
  7. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 8 years old.
  8. A trusted adult told me I couldn’t be a writer–that I’d never make enough money to live on. I believed them. I regret that.
  9. When I was a teenager, I was a hellfire & brimstone Christian.
  10. I am still a Christian, although not that kind.
  11. It is easier for me to tell people I am queer than to tell people I am a Christian. Christians in American exhibit all kinds of hateful behavior that I’d prefer not to be associated with.
  12. At various points in my life, I’ve struggled with anxiety and/or depression. It is part of my story. It in no way defines who I am.
  13. I came out when I was 19 years old.94571603_020d5ef0ed_o
  14. My family was displeased.
  15. I had the same girlfriend all the way through college. She is still part of my everyday life. We are not together (and haven’t been since 1998).
  16. Being queer is a core part of my identity. It has made me who I am.
  17. Until about 3 years ago, I identified as a lesbian.
  18. Then my partner transitioned from female to male. That complicated things in every sense of the word.
  19. I now identify as queer. It makes the cute guy I am with all the time less confusing to other people.29683110_10156215924602889_6613959919811764476_n
  20. I’ve come to believe in the fluidity of sexuality. It no longer frightens me. Identity can be fluid & still be important.
  21. It’s been fascinating to watch my husband, Simon, navigate creating his own version of masculinity. I’m proud of the path he’s forging.
  22. Simon and I have one child, Jane.IMG_6017
  23. It took 2 years to conceive her.
  24. I’ve been pregnant 4 times. I only have one child. She is a miracle.
  25. Jane calls Simon “Bobby.”5897461755_cdfc42fae7_z
  26. She used to call him “Baba” and me “Mama.” When she was just over a year, Jane heard me say I wished she’d call me “Mommy.” She started calling me Mommy right away. She also started saying “Bobby” all the time. “What’s a bobby?” I’d ask. She’d giggle and yell, “What a bobby!” We finally figured out that she assumed if Mama=Mommy then Baba must equal Bobby. She’s going to be AMAZING at the SATs.
  27. Simon transitioned when Jane was 4.
  28. We immediately put her in therapy.
  29. About 3 months in, the therapist looked at us and said, “You know she doesn’t need to be here, right?”
  30. We read Jane the picture book Red: A Crayon’s Story to explain her Bobby’s transition. She understood right away.
  31. I’ve been sober for almost a decade.26546_366357324632_4758338_n
  32. Getting sober was the best decision I ever made. It’s the reason I have all the beautiful things in my life.
  33. I got sober in AAI no longer go to meetings. I still think AA is a stellar way to get sober.
  34. I’ve had the same best friend since I was 18 years old. 

  35. She’s loved me through a hell of a lot. I am really grateful.
  36. If you ask me what I want to eat, I’m going to pick Mexican food.
  37. I look almost exactly like my mother.10250053_10152195642889633_5883091160908392911_n
  38. Sometimes I laugh so hard I have to sit down–no matter where I am.
  39. I’ve written a middle grades novel. It’s not been published. Yet.
  40. The older I get, the more I settle in to who I am. I’m happier now than I’ve ever been.IMG_6228
  41. We moved to Atlanta 2 years ago this July. I adore Atlanta. It is home for me.
  42. I hate small talk but love people. I want to talk about things like religion, politics, books, life philosophies. And I prefer to do so over coffee.

Bonus Disney Picture Collage! (Disney is kinda our thing)

 

For more stories, happenings, and general shenanigans follow me over on Facebook at Writerly Atlanta & on Instagram at writerlyatl.

What Did I Do Over the Memorial Day Weekend? Told My Anxiety to Suck It.

7 years ago, I couldn’t even manage to go out and get COFFEE with my friend who visited this weekend. I mean, it’s true that she’s kind of infinitely cool. I’m totally not. But anxiety is more than being afraid someone won’t like you… it’s a fear of being seen that is so deep, and so horrifying, that running away feels like the only answer, even when what you desire most is connection.

On Friday afternoon, I kept getting texts:

“I’ll be there at 1:00”

“Dead standstill on 75. Looking more like 1:30”

“Alrighty. 6 minutes away according to Waze.”

When she finally peeked her head around the corner in the elementary school cafeteria, the two kids were right in the middle of a dance number. Or was it a song? Maybe it was a mashup. Sometimes its hard to tell in a first grade talent show.

When I saw her, I jumped out of my seat (among all the other amused and (relatively) proud parents), stifled a squeal, and ran over for a hug. Was I a spectacle? Eh. Maybe. Did I care? Nope. After hugs, I drug her back to my place in the crowd to watch Jane sing (and dance. Turns out first graders rarely do one with out the other).

 

 

It was all remarkably normal. For other people. For me, inviting a friend to share my space for a long weekend is remarkable. Because it means being seen–really seen–for days on end.

I spent all of my 20s and the first part of my 30s hiding behind a bunch of bravado and too much Miller Lite. Most of what I did and said was a red herring, anything to distract people from how anxious I became when I had to be honest, vulnerable, real.

Even 7 years into being sober, I struggled to connect one-on-one with people. I was terrified, way deep down where the fear feels cold and makes it hard to breathe, that I had nothing to offer. That if people really saw me, they’d be… what?… bored?… maybe. I don’t really know.

7 years ago, I couldn’t even manage to go out and get COFFEE with my friend who visited this weekend. I mean, it’s true that she’s kind of infinitely cool. I’m totally not. But anxiety is more than being afraid someone won’t like you… it’s a fear of being seen that is so deep, and so horrifying, that running away feels like the only answer, even when what you desire most is connection.

So, how did Captain Anxiouspants end up inviting a friend to stay for a long weekend?

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I did the simplest (and most difficult) thing: I just let life happen.

When circumstances pushed me toward friendship, I stopped talking myself out of coffee dates, hanging out, opening up. When I felt nudged by the universe to befriend someone, I began to honor that as a higher calling (ignoring my anxiety completely). When I was in a one-on-one situation and felt the onset of a panic attack, I owned it, by giving voice to my anxiety. Anxiety doesn’t like to be spoken, I found. The light of day makes it haul-ass. For me, at least.

I began to choose for myself the power anxiety got to have in my life. The answer for me: none. It’s not that it’s never there. It’s just that I address it the same way I address all the other parts of me: my lack of height, my nearsightedness, my flat feet. None of these things stops me from living my life. I just mentally stuck my anxiety in the category of things that sometimes require a workaround.

So far so good.

One Sunday, I texted my dear Florida friend to tell her how much I miss her. She responded by searching her calendar for a long weekend she could come visit us in Atlanta. Excellent! I love a woman of action! But, truly, it didn’t even occur to me to be nervous about her being here all weekend. We’ve been friends for several years now. We don’t see each other much, but she’s part of my tribe. So, of course she could share my house–and my life–for three days.

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I didn’t panic until the morning that she was supposed to show up. Fortunately, I didn’t have much time to panic, because there was book fair, and a talent show, and the last day of school (read: I was living my life instead of pandering to my anxiety). But sure enough, by the time we were an hour away from her arrival, I was teetering on losing my shit. Why? Dunno. Anxiety isn’t logical. It’s just destructive. So, yeah, I thought I was totally going to puke. I was fidgety. But, notably lacking was any real desire to run away.

Which is nothing short of miraculous.

She arrived in time to see Jane’s performance. I did not puke. She blended right into our family for three days. And, yeah, I felt seen. Girl kept me up til 1:00 a.m. talking about, well, ALL the things. But I’m okay with being seen. It’s worth it to love & be loved back.

Because I may not ever be all that cool. But I am pretty damn worthwhile.

3 Ways Adults Ruin Everything

Being a kid is INTENSE. As adults, we have this bizarre tendency to reminisce over the simplicity of childhood. After two days of full immersion in elementary school culture (and three more days to go), I remember now–being a kid is hard as hell. And adults don’t always make it easier. 

Being a kid is INTENSE. As adults, we have this bizarre tendency to reminisce over the simplicity of childhood. After two days of full immersion in elementary school culture (and three more days to go), I remember now–being a kid is hard as hell. And adults don’t always make it easier.

3 Ways Adults Ruin Everything

Adults act like things are common sense–when they don’t make sense at all. This week is the  Scholastic Buy One, Get One Free Book Fair. It’s AMAZING. Kids can spend $5 and leave with two spellbinding stories. Books on dragons? Got ’em. Books featuring ass-kicking princesses? Got ’em. Graphic novels, historical fiction, picture books, bestsellers… the book fair can magically coax excitement into even the most reluctant reader.

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But buy one, get one free? Yeah, kids don’t get it. Invariably, every hour or so, a kid wants to argue with me about why they should be able to buy a book that costs $2.50 and get the $25 Chrystal Making Kit free. Why would they want to pay for the more expensive one?  It’s buy ONE, get ONE free… no one ever said which one they had to buy (even though we did. Over & over, we painstakingly explained that the more expensive book is the one they’ll have to buy. But capitalism is NOT common sense, it seems. Maybe we should call it “Buy the most expensive book, get another maybe-kinda-interesting-but-not-exactly-your-dream-book free.” But that doesn’t have a very good ring to it, I suppose).

And while they’re dealing with the frustration of not getting what they want, adults continue to walk around smugly like this all makes good sense. Like just because they explained it, it is fair. Kid verdict: UNFAIR.

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Adults act like it’s no big deal when kids get their feelings hurt. I try to teach Jane how to shake things off, how to bounce back from hurt feelings and squabbles with her friends. But just watching the ebb and flow of kid relationships over the course of a day is exhausting–and these aren’t even my relationships. Now wonder Jane comes home completely worn out after school.

Today, I wandered out on the playground and bumped into a friend of Jane’s. He was sweaty from running around–and he looked completely dejected. I knelt down, eye-to-eye with him, to figure out what was up. Jane, it seems, had kissed someone else. Then she told him they couldn’t have a playdate anymore. Man.

I totally shelved the mommy reaction to “Jane was kissing someone else” and asked if he & Jane had an argument. (He hung his head & and shook it almost imperceptibly) I assured him that he & Jane would work things out (I was right. He was the last kid Jane hugged before she left for the day). But, whoa, Jane’s kissing treachery tore this little guy up. The idea of losing that playdate with Jane devastated him.

So much hangs on one word, one interaction.

While all this was going on, one of Jane’s friends approached me, close to tears, because her Principal’s Award medal had fallen apart, and she’d lost the medal. I felt the little twinge in my stomach I used to get when I was a kid and something was very, very wrong. I helped her and Jane look for it. Then I promptly marched my full-grown self to  the powers that be to inquire about a replacement. There’s a time and a place for lessons to be learned. But nobody is trying to learn lessons on the last week of school–over a medal they worked for all year. Nobody that I know, at least.

Adults act like they know everything. Adults, we’re busy people. We try to connect with kids over things that are important to us, not to them. We talk over them. We can be really shitty listeners. Sometimes, I’m guilty of this, too. But at the book fair, my whole job is to help kids find books that they will love. My secret goal is to make enthusiastic readers out of all of them. Every one. So, I listen a lot. I ask questions, about their hobbies, their families, their interests. Then I get to work bringing them books. I’m always looking for that magic spark, that book that makes them light up. It doesn’t happen every time. But the times it does… whoa. Amazing.

But no matter if I find them the perfect book or not, they remember me. At school, I’m either The Book Fair Lady or Jane’s mom. Kids run up to me and tell me exciting things happening to them (and sometimes sad things, too). They give me hugs. One girl who I’d seen in book fair but don’t really know came skidding across the linoleum floor to show my the two books she’d finally chosen at book fair (both Diary of a Wimpy Kid). She was beaming. And looking for me to share her joy. I love that connection.

Kids know a lot more than we give them credit for. They know how to connect without overthinking it. Kids may be snarky, silly, germy, chatty, snotty, and squirmy–but they crave connection & love. And they return love so much more freely than adults. It’s humbling (and maybe a little life-giving) to be in the presence of that kind of love.

I admire the professionals who work day in and day out with kids–loving them, teaching them, guiding them. That dedication and commitment kind of takes a special type of person. (That’s TOTALLY not me) But I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to exist in the kids’ world for a bit, to alter my perspective, and to remember the truths I’ve forgotten about childhood.

I’m a much better adult when I remember what it’s like to be a kid.

 

Photo Cred: Lufti Gaos, Kiana Bosman, Wang Xi, and Patricia Prudent on Unsplash

Just Do You. Brilliantly.

I sort of threw Jane in dance so I’d have an extra day to work past 2:30 pm. She seemed to like it. But sometimes it’s hard to tell if Jane likes an activity or just likes hanging with her friends. I don’t begrudge her that. I like to hang with my friends, too. And if she’s hanging while she’s doing pirouettes or what-the-hell-ever, so much the better.

My kid loves to perform. Singing? Oh, the girl sings. It’s like living in a musical in our house. Acting? She recreates scenes from movies, shows, the play they performed at school—all the time. Playing the piano? She practices without being asked. She’s seven. WHO IS THIS CHILD?!?

Dance, though. Dance is one of those after school activities that I sort of threw her in so I’d have an extra day to work past 2:30 pm. You know, more like a normal person. She seemed to like it. But sometimes it’s hard to tell if Jane likes an activity or just likes hanging with her friends. I don’t begrudge her that. I like to hang with my friends, too. And if she’s hanging while she’s doing pirouettes or what-the-hell-ever, so much the better.

Yesterday, Jane had her big dance recital—in front of the whole school. Let me stop right here. I would have lost my shit if, at 7 years old, anyone had asked me to do anything in front of the entire school. Hell, I’m 42 years old, and the idea of standing up in front of almost 600 elementary aged kids makes me want to puke. But Jane, she was excited. So excited she thought she might EXPLODE, she informed me later.

I love and am fascinated by this child in equal measure.

Jane knew every single move to the tap dance. Of course. She knew every move, but something seemed off. She was doing it right. But she didn’t seem to be feeling it. The little girl next to her was living this dance.

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Jane, not so much. She was doing it right. But it looked like it was taking every bit of her concentration. She was not one with the dance.

My first instinct: “Well, we can cut this out of the rotation next year.” I mean, we can only do so many activities. Dancing isn’t her strongest showing, so I thought… eh, we’ll try something different next year.

On the way to the car, I ran into the owner of the dance company. We chatted about how much Jane enjoyed the class. Then I mentioned that Jane seemed to be struggling to connect the moves, that dancing didn’t seem to come easily to her. The woman’s expression softened: “How wonderful that she embraces something that pushes her out of her comfort zone. She keeps pushing, even though it’s hard for her.”

Oh.

Right here is why other loving, supportive adults are crucial in child-rearing. Because obviously having Jane do something she doesn’t excel at is a great idea. It teaches perseverance and empathy (not everyone can be good at everything, after all). And the experience itself far outweighs the importance of tap dancing like Shirley Temple.

I’d gotten schooled about my own kid. It was humbling.

But this lesson about experience over performance is one I’ve already had to learn. Jane’s experience in dance mirrors my experience in running. I am not a great runner. I will never qualify for Boston. I rarely place in my age group. I might place third in my age group—if only three people my age run the race. I have friends that I’d love to run with. But I can’t. I’m not fast enough. Can’t keep up.

Nevertheless, I love to run.

For a brief moment, I almost let the fact that I’m not very good at running push me out of the sport. I got real caught up in times and placing in races and PRs. And it stopped being fun. Because I was trying to be a runner that I’m not. That sucks.

So why should Jane be a dancer she’s not?

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I tell Jane all the time that exactly who she is is enough. It’s perfect, in fact. Whether she’s the best dancer on the stage matters not a whit. I want her to do what she loves–to do her best, soak up experiences, and just be herself.

I run.

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She dances.

And we’re both brilliant at enjoying the experience.

The Riddle of Motherhood

Mothering is sacred work. I pour every ounce of goodness & light I have into this child. But what about the broken parts of me that need mothering, too?

Mothering is sacred work. I pour every ounce of goodness and light I have into this child:

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And she deserves it all. Every bit of it.

But so do I.

Inside me, there are broken bits that still need a good deal of mothering. I am in recovery, after all—and I certainly didn’t end up in recovery because of my stellar coping skills or my superb choices. I ended up there because my spirit was crushed, and I was trying to hide that pain from the world, but mostly from myself.

I’ve committed a good deal of this past decade to mending my broken spirit, to making amends—to myself and to other people–and to moving past regret into whole-hearted living. And, for the most part, it’s been a brilliant success, this thing called living my life. I’ve been lifted out of that dark place into some dazzlingly sunshiney place makes me feel hella grateful every day.

But still.

Sometimes I am hit by a memory of something I did or said that lands like a gut-punch. And I’m engulfed in regret. Or sometimes I’ll make a mistake—an honest one, born of nothing but good intentions with maybe a mix of a little carelessness—and the questioning of my worth will commence. Sometimes I still brush up against the parts of me that remain fractured, that threaten to break under the strain of life, memory, hurt.

And I do the same thing with myself that I would do with Jane. I embark on the sacred task of mothering. It really is the only way out. I turn all that kindness, compassion, and love back onto myself. I’m gentle with myself when prodding the parts that hurt. I give myself the grace to make mistakes, because I am learning. I reassure myself that my worth isn’t born out of my deeds, but out of the sheer fact of my existence. I was created from the divine, remain a part of it, and am inherently worthy of love.

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I tell myself the very things I tell Jane.

I say them because they are true. True for her. True for me. True for everyone.

The sacred work of mothering doesn’t always have to do with birthing or raising children. It is about helping the world heal a little bit at a time, starting with yourself. It’s nurturing. And loving. It’s seeing in other people something beautiful, special, divine—and knowing the same magic exists in you. It’s giving love freely–and learning to finally, finally accept it in return.

 

 

Notes from Field Day

When I was a kid, Field Day was my day of triumph. I got to shock people every year with the fact that I could RUN. I was fast. I guess I didn’t look particularly athletic. And, to be honest, my parents didn’t really push sports. And coming home dirty from school was frowned upon. So, yeah, rough & tumble wasn’t really my game. Which made it even more fun to kick ass every year in the field day race.

Yesterday was Field Day at Jane’s elementary School. Obviously, I found this wildly exciting:

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But come on… FIELD DAY! What could possibly be more fun?!?

When I was a kid, Field Day was my day of triumph. I got to shock people every year with the fact that I could RUN. I was fast. I guess I didn’t look particularly athletic. And, to be honest, my parents didn’t really push sports. And coming home dirty from school was frowned upon. So, yeah, rough & tumble wasn’t really my game. Which made it even more fun to kick ass every year in the field day race. (To be fair, I usually wasn’t first. I typically placed a solid second–which was just ass-kickey enough to suit my taste.)

Imagine my complete confusion yesterday when some kids didn’t want to participate in Field Day. WHAT?

Look, I know all kids are different. I know that some kids really don’t dig outdoor stuff. And there were definitely those kids. But I got the nagging feeling that, for some of the kids, something else was at play.

It didn’t come together for me until last night, when I attended a Social Emotional Learning training at Jane’s school. We were discussing the roll of community meetings in SEL–that’s when the kids get together each morning to greet each other and sometimes to share a bit about what’s going on in their worlds. Greeting each other by name is important, the instructor noted, because some children rarely hear their names associated with something positive.

Ooof.

Even a kid like Jane hears things all the time like “JANE! Pick up your clothes off the floor.” “JANE! Did you take the dog out?!” “JANE! We HAVE TO GO. Hurry UP.” And Jane comes from a non-financially-stressed, co-parenting household with one parent who doesn’t work full-time (and another who does). So, basically, on paper Jane’s got a good thing going over here and often her name is used to fuss/redirect/scold. What’s it like for other kids?

Flash back to field day: Jane’s teacher is hugging a little girl who doesn’t want to participate, while giving race instructions to the other kids. Once she finishes with the instructions and general corralling of children (which is like herding cats), she refocuses all of her attention on the crying kid. She uses the little girl’s name repeatedly, telling her how much fun she’ll have, how everyone will cheer her on, how she’ll be so proud of herself when she’s finished. Jane’s teacher can do this because she’s spent ALL YEAR building a relationship with her students, reinforcing a safe-space atmosphere where the kids encourage & cheer for each other. The teacher was being totally straight-up when she told the little girl that her classmates would cheer for her. That’s what they do for each other. That’s what she’s taught them, coached them, encouraged them to do.

The little girl ran the race. And she came back beaming. And sure enough, the kids cheered her on, yelling her name the whole time.

I don’t know the little girl’s story. Maybe she was just having an off day. Maybe she isn’t encouraged a lot to try new things. Maybe she was just afraid of failing (aren’t we all?). But I do know that having an adult who really SAW her helped her take a leap and do something she was unsure of. And she was GREAT the rest of the day.

Being around Jane’s school a lot has changed me in many ways. I’ve definitely pushed myself to be more empathetic, to connect with kids, and to always go with kind first. Every kid has a different story. If I’m patient and caring enough, they just might trust me with that story one day. And, to me, there’s no greater honor than a kid telling me what’s on their heart.

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Me & Jane at Field Day (Photo Credit: @jonsiemel on Instagram)

Oh, and it turns out that Jane might enjoy racing at Field Day just as much as I did when I was a kid:

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I’ll count that as a win.