As an imperfect person and parent who makes mistakes on a daily basis, I gravitate toward parenting educators who share wisdom and experience in loving and encouraging ways. I’ll never forget when I stumbled on Janet Lansbury’s site one night. I began soaking up everything she had to offer about understanding and connecting with children. Over time, Janet’s perspective and techniques enabled me to become a more present and relaxed parent. Janet made me feel hopeful that I had the ability to create strong, loving bonds with my children no matter how many times I stumbled along the way. Much to my delight, Janet became a fan of The Hands Free Revolution and offered her support. She wrote a powerful endorsement for my upcoming book, Hands Free Mama, and graciously asked me to guest post today. I am truly honored to share my story on Janet’s treasure of a site.
The Gift of a Child’s Uncomfortable Question
by Rachel Macy Stafford
The ocean water was barely 55 degrees, but yet my daughter ventured out each day of our vacation, willing to push aside her fear of sharks, jellyfish, and chattering teeth to ride the waves.
And she wanted me to watch her.
The girl who had packed her own suitcase, applied her own sunscreen, and made strawberry smoothies for the entire family that very morning still hungered for her mother’s eyes when she battled the waves. There was no denying this child had changed since our last trip to the beach, but there were still remnants of the little girl who needed her mom.
Later that evening, my daughter’s upper body ached from her innovative boogie board maneuvers so I gently rubbed her shoulders. That’s when she asked me the meaning of a specific profane word. It was a heavy, heavy word that opened doors into an adult world. I had anticipated this moment, but yet I stood there feeling dry-mouthed and ill-prepared.
As I slowly doled out bits of information, I envisioned each one as a piece of armor—each fact making her a little stronger, a bit more aware, a little more prepared to navigate a fast world that could be devastating, alarming, and cruel to young people trying to find their way.
And since the window was open, I offered more—more armor, more substance, and more wisdom to equip her.
I said, “I believe knowledge is power. I don’t want you to be the person sitting in the group who doesn’t know what other kids are talking about. I don’t want you to be unaware of the dangers that come with risky behaviors—because sometimes kids are misinformed. They might tell you something that they think is true, but it might not be. If there is something you don’t understand or a word someone says that is unfamiliar, you can come and ask me. I will tell you the truth. I will give you the facts. Because when you have the facts, you are more likely to make smart choices with your body and your life.”
I went on to describe some real life examples from both the news and my own personal experience when young people’s lives drastically changed because of the choices they made.
Smoothing a few flyaway hairs away from her face, I concluded our talk with the most important thing I could say to my child. “No matter what circumstance you find yourself in, know that your dad and I will always, always love you and we will face any problems together.”
With a mixture of relief and gratitude blanketing her lovely features, my child whispered, “Okay, Mama.” And then as if to tell me that was enough information for one night, she whispered, “I’m sleepy now.”
As I left my daughter’s room, I was never more certain of my role in my children’s lives. When they cross over from the child world to the adult world, I want to be there. I want to cross that line with them, or at least be there to accept the invitation when the window is open and they ask me to come in.
So I will watch her when she asks me to count how many waves she rides.
And I will talk to her while she makes her strawberry smoothies.
And I will rub her back when she has trouble falling asleep.
And I will give her truth when she asks questions that have no easy answers.
I will try my best to be a constant presence, an everyday parent, not one who shows up just for performances and holidays.
My child is going to have to brave the world whether I like it or not. I wouldn’t expect her to battle the ocean without proper skills, knowledge, and equipment – and I won’t expect her to navigate the world without them either.
Therefore, I vow to give her pieces of protective armor—armor that comes from daily offerings of parental presence, wisdom, and unconditional love. So that if one day she finds herself drowning, she’ll have the strength to call my name.
I just want to say ‘thank you’, this was beautiful and Rachel touched my heart.
I love Hands Free Mama!!
I love the way you used description to set the mood in this piece. When you mentioned moving the loose hairs, I imagined doing the same with my own daughters.
I am looking forward to having many of these same types of interactions with my own children. We have a long road to go before we get to that level of connection (due to past parenting mistakes), but I am willing to go every mile with them through this journey.
That line into adulthood is coming for each of them and it scares me to death and thrills me just the same.
Rachel, you have a way of giving me permission to let my tears flow. Thank you for your gift to the world..
You are an incredible writer and a powerful leader. I love Janet too and have to say I can see why she endorsed you. I for one am grateful to have discovered your blog and life-changing message.
Thank you for such kind & supportive comments, everyone! I feel so honored to be here sharing my story on Janet’s incredible site. What an uplifting community she has. I appreciate your encouragement today.
Thank you so much! Your words are lovely and you inspire me to be even more present. These babes that are ours grow too quickly, and they are our “main thing”. That thing that we should keep our focus on. Thank you.
I love this article and I love this statement, “As I slowly doled out bits of information, I envisioned each one as a piece of armor—each fact making her a little stronger, a bit more aware, a little more prepared to navigate a fast world that could be devastating, alarming, and cruel to young people trying to find their way.” I see my role in this way.
And, I love this statement even more, “My child is going to have to brave the world whether I like it or not. I wouldn’t expect her to battle the ocean without proper skills, knowledge, and equipment – and I won’t expect her to navigate the world without them either.”
Therefore, I vow to give her pieces of protective armor—armor that comes from daily offerings of parental presence, wisdom, and unconditional love. So that if one day she finds herself drowning, she’ll have the strength to call my name.”
Thank you for so eloquently putting this into words. And, I am glad I am not the only one who sees things this way…
This is such a beautiful anecdote and validation for parents. I’ve been in this spot before with my daughter and I love reading how beautifully you handled this situation. I also love those moments when I feel like I’m right where I need to be with my children. Thank you for sharing!
Beautifully inspiring! It clearly gives vision to what I hope to be as a present parent as my children mature. Thank you!
Beautifully written. These are the terrifying and wonderful moments of being a parent.
As a first time mom who doesn’t have a good relationship with her mother, I am concerned about my ability to connect with my daughter on subjects like these when the time comes. I am very conscious of the fact that, although I know what things I don’t want to do, I don’t know what to do instead. Thanks for providing a positive example for me to consider. Your daughter is lucky that you are her mom.