Lead and Follow


I walked across the driveway tonight, careful to keep my steps only as long as Lainey’s legs could handle while she balanced on my feet and stretched her arms above her head. I clasped her wrists and guided her twiggy body–left, right, left, right–like a marionette puppet, and I stiffened my calves to support her weight through our synchronized dance.

She trusted me completely–giggling, letting go, giving in to my guidance. When her boot began to slip, I felt her body tense and take over. “Mama, don’t let me fall,” she said. I smiled and assured her, “I won’t.”



Tuesday, we traded our yellow leotard to wear pink for ballet. It was Valentine’s Day.


As I gathered clean tights and pulled a pink tutu from the dress-up bin, I asked Lainey to find her shoes and fetch me a brush. We were going for a high bun which calls for wet hair, soft bristles and about a hundred brush strokes to pull all the fly-aways from the nape of her neck and to smooth the tiny bumps in her fine hair. Somewhere between brush stroke ninety-eight and ninety-nine–right before I secured the result of my hard work with a tiny rubber pony tail holder–Lainey shook her head and broke free. “Call Aleena,” she said. “Ask her mommy how she’s wearing her hair.” Running late and frustrated, I responded instinctively. “Lainey, you don’t have to wear your hair like Aleena. How ’bout you do your own thing, babe?”

We compromised with a half-pony tail which, coincidentally, requires half the brush strokes, and she was fine with it.


The thing is, I’ve had this idea that I have to raise a leader. That following is weak. It’s what we hear–Be a leader, not a follower. Blaze the trail. Set the trends. There is, no doubt, this assumption in our society that leaders are strong and successful and followers are somehow lesser. If “Do you consider yourself a leader or a follower?” was a question on a college entrance exam or a job application, I think most of us would be inclined to answer leader whether it was true or not because we think it’s a right answer. And, without even consciously making efforts to push leadership, I definitely sense it’s an underlying theme in my parenting.

Nella snuck into dance this week and followed along perfectly.

However, in my leadership cheerleading role, I came to a bit of an “Aha” last night when Brett’s few (cough, cough) years of age and experience on me had a moment of shining glory.

We were talking to Brandyn about the company he keeps at school, choosing good friends, making wise decisions. Brett was on a roll, doing a great job with his advice when I made the mistake I sometimes do of butting in because I want them to know I care. I am learning that caring can come in the form of a smile and a nod and doesn’t always have to be my two cents on a platter.

Last night, it was two cents.

“You have to be a leader, Brandyn!,” I exclaimed all Richard Simmons enthusiastic, checking off my things-you’re-supposed-to-say-to-your-kids list in my head. Brett flashed a look, and I knew exactly what it meant–thank you, but I’ve got this. So I smiled and nodded.

Later, when we were alone, Brett returned to the subject. “I don’t want to tell the kids they have to be leaders,” he said. “The world can’t be full of just leaders, you know.”

“So what, you want to tell them to be followers?” I asked, snarling at the preposterous suggestion.

“I want to tell the kids to be themselves,” he confidently answered.

And for a second, everything about parenting made perfect sense.


I’ve always hated Right/Wrong Parenting where things are black and white and parents make blanket statements about how things should be done. Parenting, like so many other things in life, is gray. There is no one right way to raise your child. And yet, I’ve had this black and white idea of leader vs. follower in my mind–Don’t be a follower. Do be a leader. And teach your kids to do the same.

But I love the truth that falls perfectly into the gray middle–teach your kids to be themselves.

It’s true. We can’t all be leaders, all the time. But we can help our children be themselves and, by doing so, discover ways in which they can both lead and effectively follow.

Lainey doesn’t need to hear me telling her “Be a leader.” But she will certainly feel confident when I tell her I recognized the way she took responsibility to help her sister learn some letters.


Or how proud I am to see her hold Nella’s hand and lead the way on our afternoon walks.


How I love that she makes up songs, creates new games, puts together crazy clothing ensembles and sets her friends straight.

Sometimes–lots of times–Lainey is an amazing leader.

But following is important too, and we all have ways in which we both lead and follow. At four-going-on-five, Lainey takes good direction, quietly observes situations and wants to wear her hair like her best friend. And that’s okay.


The older the girls get, I find I am continually reconstructing my parenting views–my own views–as I take on more responsibility of being a role model for my girls. I think about what I say more, how I act, what I teach my kids, and sometimes that involves changing my perspective.


I won’t always have the answers, but I do love the simplistic truth that lies in that one statement–be yourself. Letting that principle guide my parenting makes it seem so much easier. Whether my children are leaders, followers, extroverts, introverts, artists, scholars, sensitive listeners or strong influencers–I don’t need to worry so much about how to make them that way. I simply need to encourage my girls to be true to themselves. To never apologize for expressing how different or alike they are to someone else.


Same hairstyle as your best friend? Totally okay if you love it. Different hobbies than everyone else? Fantastic, you go, Girl.


There will be times in both my kids’ lives when they will have opportunities to step up as leaders. And there will be necessary occassions when they will need to follow. Through all of it, I hope they will be themselves. Because we showed them how.


I will both encourage leaders and guide followers, but for now? They’re still little. They walk on my feet and hold my hands. Baby steps for both of us.



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Tomorrow, I’ll be dancing with some awesome people. More to come.



Leave a Comment
  1. Lainey is getting SO grown up!! SUch an awesome big sister she is! And Nella…well she’s just too cute for words! Gorgeous girl!

  2. beautiful! love the words too :)

  3. Oh my does this post hit close to home. Just the other day, the “leader” expectations were flying out of my mouth. Thank you (Brett) for the reminder of what we REALLY want for our children.

  4. This struck a chord with me. Love this: “Parenting, like so many other things in life, is gray. There is no one right way to raise your child.” And love this: “teach your kids to be themselves.” LOVE LOVE LOVE! Thank you!

  5. and also that close up pic of Nella…just melts my heart and their personalized pictures are perfect for them! Leader…follower…Ebb and flow baby… :)

  6. I love how Lainey is doing Nella’s hair in the last photo!
    Raising ‘followers’ sounds so bad, I know, but I cling to the fact that if I raise them to be themselves, like Brett said, they’ll ultimately be leaders because they’ll be strong and confident and that’s what everyone looks for in leaders.

  7. Loved this post and I just have to ask, were you a leader or a follower as a child?
    Just wondered as I often saw my oldest of four being a follower when she was younger (Lainey’s age) and yet now she is going on 10 she has become a bit of both.
    I was always a follower as I lacked confidence to be a leader and yet now I too am a mix of both.
    I think sometimes it is our knee jerk reactions to how *we* felt that evoke those responses. I know it is in my case anyway.
    I just don’t want to see my babies pushed around and made to feel that they can’t lead the way and take their own path because they lack the confidence to do so as I did.
    As your hubby wisely said though, they are their own people and they need to just be themselves.
    Thanks for celebrating the small things and the joy of being a parent to little ones.

  8. Kelle, I loved this. I had never thought of it that way…the leaders vs followers. What a great reminder. “Let them be themselves.” Encourage them to be and love who they are.

    What great food for thought.

  9. I love that you said parenting is not black and white. I wish more people realized that… thanks for sharing!

  10. Loved this post! I am a “leader” and find myself teaching my girls to be the same, but this brings things into perspective. I need to let them be them.

    Love the picture of Nella playing with Lainey’s hair at the end.

    My girls are 18 months apart and fight all of the time – more the older one being mean to the little one. I just want them to love each other and themselves…. Whether they become leaders or followers :)

  11. You have such a creative way for leading up to important topics. I love the way you include your family in the bigger picture of what life expects or doesn’t. I am always intrigued by what you have to say…and then captured by the pictures you put with it. In this instance, I want to be a follower and be just like you! Haha…would be grand if we could all write this way:)

  12. Love this… but as I was reading realized that I don’t have such a bad connotation of being a follower. I am a follower, have always been… I follow my heart, my instincts, my gut. I don’t follow blindly, but with the pure intent of staying true to myself.
    Becoming a parent has forced me to find my inner leader… finding ways to teach my boys exactly what Brett is saying… to be themselves.
    Amazing close up of Nella… got lost in those beautiful baby blues of hers.

  13. You are an amazing writer. I feel like EVERY post you write I can completely relate to and to me that makes an awesomw writer.

    Just to be completely honest, it would be so cool to go have a cup of coffee with you. Your perspective on life is so inspiring.

    I always look forward to your post!

  14. Didn’t have time to read since I’m off to school, but I loved the pics, as always. Especially that one of Nella chuckling (is it the word?)

  15. You have an amazing family Kelle. If some are chiefs and some are indians. So be it.

  16. I like followers just as much as leaders.
    I am glad she wanted hair like her friends. I think that means she is cool : )
    The girls get cuter and cuter every day,
    I think Brett is an awesome dad.

  17. KWQR~Love that perspective and the confidence in your awareness of being a follower. I think I have a lot of both and so agree that being a parent makes you realize areas of leadership where you might surprise yourself. I’ve changed over time–become a leader in areas where I used to follow and vice versa.

  18. Loving this post!
    Our Miss 10 had been bullied at another school for being different (intelligent, liking healthy foods and wearing what she wanted to wear, not what the others said). She now has the confidence to be herself, stand up for what she wants/believes in. I dont’ think she is a leader or follower, just being herself.X

  19. You know…I am just now realizing how much I’ve always thought that being a follower was a negative thing. I would consider myself a follower in many circumstances, and most of the time it’s because I am not passionate enough about the subject or task to take the lead from someone else, honestly. And I think in a way that’s always made me feel like a bit of a failure in that area. “Follower” seems to get such a bad rap, but Brett so geniusly pointed out, we need both to make the world work.
    Thank you for posting this, and for opening my eyes a bit to the fact that this part of me is okay. :)
    Love the picture of Nella laughing right before the one of her shoes…

  20. Honestly, in being more of a “follower” myself, it is really frustrating because a lot of our society DOES see being an outgoing leader as what is “good.” However, being an introvert has absolute positives as well. Not just being a sheep and blindly following, of course, but quiet and good at following directions doesn’t mean bad. Your post reminded me of an article I read recently about the power of introverts.


  21. So good. It’s amazing what having kids teaches us, I think that there are many days that I’m learning more than they are, I’m stretching and growing, expanding my horizons, realizing what it really means to lead and when it’s right to follow my instincts, my heart. Love this!!

    And goodness, I’m missing my family something fierce!! I’m in Chicago for a couple more days but can’t wait to get back to their arms and the warm sunshine of Florida :)

    ~Tabitha Blue

  22. Great advice. I make the same mistake a lot. And there is so much truth in teaching a child to be themselves.

  23. Such an insightful post. My mom friends and I say we always want our children to be leaders – so they’re strong enough to stand up for themselves and go their own way. I was definately a follower growing up – but I was fine…I was more shy – wouldn’t want to be a leader!! My girls are 5 and 7…I can’t peg which way they are leaning yet. My Ella who is 7 – does not like to stand out – much like her mama was! But my Ava?! That girl just eats it all up! Being themselves is all I can hope for! I hope they are always proud of who and what they are – while also accepting everyone else.

  24. LOVE this. I was often given a ton of praise in my family for being athletic and a leader, whereas my book loving, quieter sisters didn’t get as much vocal praise. We’ve talked about this and how much each person deserves to be praised for exactly who they are. Great post.

  25. Your hubby is awesome! I agree with him, though I tend to want my son to be a leader. I guess it’s my weakness! I must change!

  26. Love the post!!! I think all of us moms need the reminder to just let them be. We are so caught up sometimes in teaching them, and molding them that we forget about who they are.

    I love that picture of Nella in front of the chalk board with the NO! written on it. Made me laugh so hard. My girls play “teacher” all the time and I find things like that written on paper. So funny.

  27. Love.

  28. Love both yours and Bretts views on this :)

    I guess I’ve always been a follower.. My son is three years old on Tuesday and he’s already showing signs of being a Leader. At the end of the day as long as he’s happy I don’t mind whether he’s a follower or leader! xxx

  29. Love the pictures hanging up in the girls room

  30. Great advice. Lead them to be themselves! Brett is a smart husband :) You should probably keep him, hehe.

  31. parenting it’s a hard job…. a job you can never give up….
    it’s true what my friend says “we grow with them”…. we teach them but we also learn from them how to be parents, better ones…. we have to have the courage to change our points of view and admit we’re not always right and that there are ways other than ours…

  32. You’re so wonderful mom! Your girls are adorable and you’re a very sweet and beautiful mom! “I simply need to encourage my girls to be true to themselves. Never apologize for expressing how different or alike they are to someone else” how right you got!! Bringing up children is a hard work and you you manage perfectly! Go on like this … Many kisses!

  33. Growing up my mom always told us “I can be a leader or a follower, but in order to be a follower someone else must be a leader and if they don’t then I will” This has always stuck with me. In many ways I am my mother’s daughter. I believe she is very proud of the fact that she has been able to raise three young women who can be the leader or the follower, but who are willing to be the the leader on a moments notice if no one else will.

  34. You married a smart man, Kelle!

    I love the pic of Nella in front of the chalkboard with a big NO written. Looks like Lainey is learning to write pretty well!

  35. I think you hit it spot on. As a third grade teacher I can sometimes have “too many leaders.” It’s so important to be able to be yourself, stand up for what you know is right, not be afraid to be an individual and to know how to work cooperatively within a group.

    I think leadership is a natural ability. If you teach them to be themselves you’ll see leadership qualities develop.

    PS I am so in love with that picture of Nella @ Ballet. Oh-my-gosh-sweetness!!

    ❤Jodi from…
    ★★The Clutter-Free Classroom★★
    Helping Teachers Get Organized

  36. I think I just found my inner peace, thank you.
    Trying to fit my kids into some mold because of what the village says they ‘need to be’ and wondering why I am so unhappy.
    “Teach your kids to be themselves” ~so freeing and confident-building, for me, and for them.
    (Beautiful photos to go with this beautiful post, Kelle!)

  37. Well, if this isn’t God giving me a message. I have been struggling with the whole leader vs. follower this year in school. Last year my daughter attended a private kindergarten and they strongly suggested that I hold my daughter back due to her late summer birthday and because she was so young that if I did not do this then she would end up being a follower and not a leader.

    I struggled with the decision to let her move forward or keep her back. Actually, it was pretty dang overwhelming and upsetting. I did not have anyone to talk to about this and I did not want to do wrong.

    So this year my daughter repeated kindergarten. While she is being a leader in someways, she is just as much as a follower. It had been on my mind a lot lately. Especially, the guilt that I held her back.

    Truly I am glad you wrote this post. It was the message I needed to hear.

  38. I can be a leader in certain situations but I am a follower in others.. I don’t just follow clueless… I follow by being me and what is important to me.. My son is a follower right now.. but I hope this will change a bit.. unless he learns to follow with the right intent.

  39. my step-daughter (15) is a “follower”. My husband and I have lots of conversations about both how alien it is (we are both leaders and very individual people) but also how it’s OK. We want all three kids to be happy no matter what, but sometimes we do have to bite our tongues and step back!

  40. Gandhi said it best; “There go my people. I must follow them, for I am their leader.

    Makes you think…

  41. i think you can be both. a little of a follower & a little of a leader. no problem with that. they are growing up so quickly. so cute. (:


  42. Wow Kelle, You are an awesome writer/photgrapher. Daily I wait for a new post. You never disappoint me, always giving us something to think about and enjoy. You leave me always wanting MORE writng and more photos. What an inspiration you are to so many. I just want to say THANK YOU for just being YOU whether you are a leader or follower.

  43. Beautiful thoughts, Kelle. Those girls are so beautiful, too. Love those close ups of Nella…and the silhouettes of them? To die for!

  44. Be yourself. That’s such great advice for everyone – young or old.

    Love dancing like that with my babies, now grandbaby(ies soon).

  45. Oh yes, the world needs both leaders and a supporting cast! I am not comfortable being a leader but I have learned a lot about how to do so. It’s important to hone some of those skills. However, I am a wonderful “helper.” I love joining a cause I love and bringing along my supporting skills, but I rarely want to start a cause of my own. But it’s OK, because I’m capable of so, so much in my support role! I feel so fulfilled helping others. I need to choose good leaders to follow, and practice standing on my own, but I don’t need to change who I am. Great post!

  46. Thank you, Kelle. I needed to hear this. I too am always pushing my kids to be leaders. Make their own path for other to follow. Etc. Being themselves is a much better message…thank Brett (and all his years of wisdom) for me.

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  48. My Noah has Ds and for most of his life he has been a follower and I am so okay with that. He has learned SO much. So I think we definitely need both. I thank those leaders every day for teaching my son so much!

  49. I love Lainey’s dress in the first 2 photos!!

  50. Your pictures take my breath away – literally! I find myself holding my breath when I look at your pictures. Love the one of Nella laughing that is 5th from the bottom but that’s not my only favorite on this one blog. I per-ordered your book and cannot wait to get it. Love your thoughts that you put down for us to read. I so wish I was your neighbor!

  51. Love this post!!! As parents we learn something new everyday and you helped remind me that it is okay to let our kids be themselves today and always.

  52. Here is a great video on the worth of followers, and how it takes guts to be one. Changed my mindset that only leaders are brave.


  53. Great post! A great leader always knows when it is time to follow, and I think your girls will live up to that challenge. :)

  54. I believe that everyone needs to know how to effectively do both. Yes we are all gifted in one or the other, but there are times when we may be more effective as a leader or more as a follower. Yes, teaching our children to do both – their own way is how we raise confident children. As always I am inspired by your words.

  55. “just let them be themselves..” Amen! How beautifully written and stated.

  56. k q — loved that clip. so simple and true.

  57. Good for you! It’s SO hard for us Type-A moms, used to being leaders, volunteering to be in charge of everything, to accept that our kids may not WANT to lead or ENJOY leading. My eldest son is very laid back, and would have considered any leadership position punishment. It took me until he was in high school to finally come to terms with this. Now he’s in college, on the dean’s List, and engaged to a girl I adore. He has plans for a career he will find rewarding and fulfilling, but it’s won’t involve him being responsible for anyone’s actions except his own – that’s what makes him happy. The jury’s still out on my youngest, but I know now to focus on what makes HIM happy, not what makes ME happy :)

  58. You are beautiful! :-)

  59. Thank you, THANK YOU. You always inspire me, but this is just what I needed to read today.

  60. Kelle – you have a magical way of weaving pictures and words together to create a beautifully strong theme in each of your postings. The first picture of you “walking” Lainey brings us full circle to your conclusion that you all need to grow through “baby steps”. Wonderfully done as always…and the moments you capture through your pictures are beyond precious. Hmmm…I’m beginning to think that your inspiration to us through this blog, brought about by the unique circumstances of your life, hasn’t happened accidentally. I think you (and we) are blessed by it.

  61. Remember the old Garth Brooks song…Life’s a dance you learn as you go sometimes you lead and sometimes you follow, dont worry ’bout what you dont know, lifes a dance you learn as you go…this post reminded me of it! I feel the same way about my girls, I hope that they are true to themselves sometimes being assertive and leading the way and other times following (who wants to hang around the bossy girl who is always the telling everybody waht to do :)

  62. I also think its fair to say that not being a leader doesn’t inherently make you a “follower.” Some kids just want to do their own thing. Obviously, that’s fine too. You may not be the leader of your peer group but you also might not be easily influenced by the leader..or even your other peers. You might just be focused on being you.
    That said, I am total type A as well. So I enjoyed this sentiment and I will hold it as a good reminder as I raise my young daughters, now ages 5, 3 & 1.

  63. One of my favorite posts Kelle. What an aha moment. I will print this out and remind myself of it often. thank you and thank Brett too. Refreshing.

  64. A really important part of being a leader is knowing when to let others take the main role and shine. THAT is what makes a truly great leader. :)

  65. Ran across a wonderful “be yourself !” book for children this week – Woolbur by Leslie Helakoski. It made me laugh and helped me to worry just a little less about my 20-year-old who wants her beautiful blonde curls styled into dreadlocks !

  66. My personal belief is that being a leader means following your own heart…which can mean that you follow, that you blaze a new trail, or simply stand still for a spell. Brett nailed it with his “tell the kids to be themselves”….that’ll have them going to the right spot everytime. And, others will always turn to them for advice, because their contentment, happiness and joy will be a beacon of hope for others who have lost their way.

    Your kids certainly hit the jackpot landing you and Brett as parents. xo

  67. I think it is important to remember that following is just a powerful a role. If you decide to lend your power to something you believe in, you contribute. If you are the first person to follow, you are just as important as the leader- you are showing others the way.

    Kelle, when you stood up and said “hey, this needs to happen” and raised money with Nella’s birthday fundraisers, you were being a leader. If we all said “you’re right” and then started our own to do the same thing you wouldn’t have had the success we’ve all celebrated. Since we instead choose to fall in behind you in support (and follow, rather than lead) we creating something huge together.

    You’re raising amazing girls, and you yourself are pretty fricken amazing. They will learn by example, you don’t need to tell them.

  68. I just love your blog! I rarely comment, but your words touch my heart and I love looking at all of the pictures of your beautiful girls! And now I’m in tears after watching the trailer for Bloom, and I am so excited to read it when it comes out!!

  69. truly amazing! i mean you really inspire me to be a better woman mother and person. thank you for your words and your truth!
    i really wish you were my neighbor! ha! (;

  70. That last picture of Nella playing with Lainey’s hair melted my heart! <3

  71. Be genuine. That’s all I want for my children and from anyone who is close to me or within my happy bubble. xoxoxo

  72. It’s so true, Kelle. So true. Sometimes I read blogs and think “I should be parenting like them! I’m doing it wrong!”

    But I realize as long as I’m confident with myself my kids will be too! I think I’ve got two opposite kids on my hands. One introvert, one extrovert, although I hate to “label” them. But I’m their mom and I can see how their special little personalities are developing. It is up to me to encourage them to be exactly who they feel like being, regardless of what society is pushing on us.

  73. I’m not a parent, so I can’t claim to know HOW to instill this, but as a college student, I’ve had the opportunity to really see a wide variety of parent/child relationships through my friends, finally at an age where I can understand the influence of parents. More and more I am thankful for parents that taught me to be independent and think for myself and to BE myself. So many of my friends have no ability to make even the smallest decision without calling their parents or the confidence to do anything by themselves. I am so thankful that my parents recognized this importance of letting me be myself. It has made all the difference.

  74. This is fantastic. I struggle so much with trying to figure out the “right” way of parenting and have come to the same conclusion – it’s not black and white and you have to do what works for your family and your kids. I love the idea of teaching them to be themselves, instead of what we think they should to be. Thank you for this!

  75. Thanks for this! I have had a hard time lately because my oldest child, my only son, is very much a follower and very shy. ANd I just realized I have been looking at that as a personality flaw. THANK YOU!!

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  77. Alright Kelle, do us all a favor & start giving us YOUR clothing references, already! 😉 Love your outfit!

  78. Love, love, love this! Yes! Love this! Be yourself! LOVE!! Perfect. :)

  79. This is one of my favorite posts you’ve written. I was just thinking about the leader/follower thing when my 4 yo had a follower momen this week. I’ve always felt like you do about raising leaders, so I panicked. This helped clarify me the thoughts I’ve been mulling over–thanks! :)

  80. Wonderful post Kelle!! I love the picture of Nella in the dance class!
    And I agree with the first commenter; Lainey is looking SO grown up!!!!

  81. This well may be my favorite post. Be yourself. Ha! At 46 a lovely reminder.

    You have a beautiful way with words and with a camera!

  82. I LOVE Lainey’s silver shoes!!!

    As my girl was falling asleep last night she was missing her Valentine pup and was worried about it. I told her, “I’ll find her. I promise.” I thought to myself that it’s so nice she can trust me without a second thought. I wish I could always promise her I’d be able to make things better for her, but I know that’s part of learning and growing.

  83. Love Nella’s little red shoes! So cute!

  84. Such a good post. My kids are grown and have their own kids. They made their own life choices and the paths that they choose are not exactly what I thought they would do. I never let my kids play with guns and I have a federal agent in my clan, hah. It is hard to let them choose whether they want to lead or follow. A little of both is good.
    Love that Lainey. She is a special little girl.
    And of course, you know I love me some Nella.

  85. Your husband is a VERY WISE man! Let them be themselves, best advice EVER! he’s got this parent thing DOWN!
    I have been guilty of telling mine to be leaders way too often, this post hit HOME to me!
    love your honesty, you are such a fantastic mommy!

  86. Love it, beautifully said! Brett Rocks! Thanks for sharing.

  87. Beautiful……

    The photos you capture of your girls ~ and the way they look at you when you are behind the camera…are absolutely adorable.

  88. I usually read your blog on Google Reader, but I had to click over here today. Just wanted to tell you that I learned something from you (er – Brett) today. Thank you!

  89. this is a beautiful post. like you, i hadn’t ever considered the fact that you wouldn’t want your child to be a leader. but brett is absolutely right… you want them to be themselves. and if you instill values and confidence in them, they WILL be leaders when they need to be. thank you for helping me to learn these lessons before having children… my (future) kids will be better for it 😉

    ordered your book yesterday. cannot. wait. to. read. it.

  90. I read this today and thought of you… maybe you’ve seen it already, but just in case. It’s two moms with DS kids who have each written a book and they interview each other. Their observations are profound. http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/Good-and-Perfect-Gifts-Amy-Julia-Becker-and-Kathryn-Soper-11-15-2011?offset=0&max=1

  91. Ok that was a very insightful, wise post… It is funny how your reflections somehow are related with what I am going through in life… and being myself has been quite challenging lately, but it is so encouraging to read your words… it is o.k to be yourself no matter how different you think and feel you are.

  92. lovely, lovely, lovely.
    Love the interchange between you and Brett.

  93. Wow–I just experience this realize myself, only it was with being introverted or extraverted. As a child that struggled with being shy, I wished for my children to be outgoing. Like you equate being a leader with “better”, I always felt the same about being outgoing. It is turning out that my daughter is on the shy side and I have to stop myself from pushing her not to be. She is who she is (As am I!) and that is just fine.

  94. I just had a conversation with my daughters preschool teacher on this exact topic. She was concerned that Claire was being a follower that day at school. I told her that I would talk about it with her at home.
    On the drive back to our house I was in a panic. I kept thinking SHE CAN’T BE A FOLLOWER!!! She MUST be a leader!!
    Once I gained my bearings I realized how crazy I was being! For heaven sake she’s 4 1/2! I don’t ever want to discourage her from being “her”. So instead, I hugged her, told her I was proud of who she is and left it at that.
    Parenting is freakin hard!
    You are an amazing mother! Thank you for sharing this!

  95. Nella in the ballet class just made me swoon. And then I just passed out from the cute at the last picture of her “doing” Lainey’s hair.

  96. You are SO in my brain, however you write out my thoughts SO much more eloquently than I ever could! I’ve had the same running debate in my head about encouraging my almost 4 yr old to be herself. Thank you for posting this!

  97. Your beautiful post reminds of this poem that I recited often to my own children, and I made my students memorize every year:

    Be The Best Whatever You Are
    by Douglas Malloch

    If you can’t be a pine on the top of the hill
    Be a scrub in the valley–but be
    The best little scrub by the side of the rill;
    Be a bush if you can’t be a tree.

    If you can’t be a bush be a bit of the grass,
    And some highway some happier make;
    If you can’t be a muskie then just be a bass–
    But the liveliest bass in the lake!

    We can’t all be captains, we’ve got to be crew,
    There’s something for all of us here.
    There’s big work to do and there’s lesser to do,
    And the task we must do is the near.

    If you can’t be a highway then just be a trail,
    If you can’t be the sun be a star;
    It isn’t by size that you win or you fail–
    Be the best of whatever you are!

  98. http://video.msnbc.msn.com/nightly-news/30144540

    Have you seen this?

    It’s a video of this amazing program! I want to start something like this!


  99. Kelle – what a great post!

    I had to comment because that picture of Nella (the one underneath the picture of Lainey holding the orange popsicle) has got to be one of the cutest, sweetest pictures I’ve ever seen. What a beautiful little girl!

  100. Oh that close up of Nella. Oh, first she masters walking and now her face is maturing; the beauty of her almond eyes.

    I read KWQR’s commentary and was nodding my head “yes” in response. Poignant thoughts from both of you. I find myself more and more learning from my husband. The insight, the calm, the humor, and the sensitivity he brings to the table floors me. And I take each moment he offers as a chance to learn. Brett makes a wonderful point. Good man.

    Happy Friday!


  101. Kelle,

    This post encompassed so much of what’s been on my mind lately when it comes to raising my daughter, Chloe. Sometimes I spend so much time jumping between what seems like polar opposites — one day I’m thinking I don’t teach enough, don’t challenge enough, I didn’t put in my “two cents” in at the right time or when I should have — while other days I’m telling myself RELAX, let her enjoy what she enjoys, let her do things in HER time, let her BE who she is.

    Like you, I also think about that concept of being a leader vs. a follower. For so long I’ve thought — Yes! Chloe will be a leader, with her fiery personality and strong willed ways. She’ll defy odds, she’ll assert herself and her independence, she’ll give the world a 1-2 *sock-em* kinda punch and pave the way!

    Do I doubt this? No. Do I know she’s already doing so many of these things already? Yes. Do I know she she’s a life-changer? Absolutely. I know that because she’s changed ours in the most beautiful of ways. She’s MY blessing.

    But do I come back to Earth sometimes and just go — Katie, whether she’s a leader or a follower, a pioneer, or an assistant to one, whether she gives the world that 1-2 punch or not…does it really matter?!

    And the answer is No. No, it doesn’t matter. Thank you for reminding me of that. What matters most is that she’s happy and just as you (and Brett) said — what matters most is that she’s HERSELF. :)

    Another great post! The girls are getting so big and you captured (as always) some beautiful pictures of them! Now I’m going to go shopping with your new sponsor — I am so impressed and excited to order something personalized with Chloe’s name on it!

    Have a great weekend!
    XO, Katie

  102. What a great post! Please do thank Brett from all of us 😉 That picture of Nella sneaking into dance was absolutely precious.
    Happy Weekend!

  103. Thanks for writing so truthfully about what you learn along the path of parenting. I’m glad you’ve got a 5 year jump start on me- it always gives me plenty to think about. I have only just realized that in my head I have a long list of what I don’t want to do as a parent. I think I need to think of some positives too, but also I guess it’s nice to know that some stuff will be learnt on the job. Like you I want to make the most of the 18 years of wisdom Rob has on me.
    Lastly, if you’d asked me only 5 years ago I would have said follower all the way. But you know what, I’ve a cultivated leader in myself in the last few years. It may not be a total in your face I’m in control leadership style, but I can lead others and I know it’s ok, that I can teach them something, listen to their concerns and guide then through a situation.

  104. so excited to hear about how the valentines dance went. We are off to dinner at out PT’s house tonight with all of her patient families with kids with Ds. Excited to meet more families in our community!

  105. This is my favourite post so far! I tell my kids to be themselves and to think for themselves everyday. Great advice! It took my oldest son to tell me one day that what made me happy doesn’t always make him happy and that it’s ok to like different things. Pretty profound from a 6 yr old. We learn something new everyday <3

  106. Wow

  107. So true Kelle and a beautiful piece of writing.
    I love the picture of Nella with Lainey in the ballet class.
    Looking forward to reading about your dancing experience!

  108. So true. “Be yourself” is something I have to remind myself at times. It’s easy to get caught up in life and not be true to yourself or to think you know how your child wants to handle a situation. Every kiddo is different. Let them grow and experience life at their own pace.

    I like that you mentioned Brett in this post. I too am a stepmom and I struggle with keeping my mouth shut sometimes too. My husband and I have very different parenting styles, so it can be challenging at times. Brett seems like a smart man!

    Your girls are getting cuter and cuter by the minute!

  109. This was encouraging to hear, even at age 22. Sometimes in life I feel TOO unique…but that’s okay. Thanks for the reminder to be yourself :)

  110. This is just a fantastic post… i love it. I had this kind of moment around Halloween when my daughter wanted to be Cinderella just like her school friend. I sort of felt let down that she didn’t want to do her own thing- do something unique. I love the way you (and Brett) have reframed this.

  111. The close-up picture of Lainey in the flowered dress is stunning. You can see a confident, beautiful, happy girl growing behind that sly smile. She knows what’s goin’ on.

  112. What a powerful message. I admire your ability to string all these beautiful words and thoughts together. You leave me pondering it all, being a leader and a follower…

  113. What a powerful message. I admire your ability to string all these beautiful words and thoughts together. You leave me pondering it all, being a leader and a follower…

  114. The close up of Nella and those baby blues. She will break hearts with those.

  115. That Brett…..he’s a good melon. Such wisdom in his & your words here. Sometimes it’s much harder to follow, to be the encourager, rather than the one who gets all the encouragement & recognition. There’s great strength in gentleness. Gentleness and the ability to follow are not attributes of the weak. As long as ther’s a good dose of discernment involved:).

    Love those prints!


  116. Oh, yes if all could dare be themselves, how much grief it would spare so many of us!

    I was brought up thinking I’m not so good, partly because I was a girl and partly because my father just didn’t think I was any good at anything.
    (I’ve forgiven him today!)

    I work as a leader now and have done so for five years and I’m good at it. I never would have thought in a million years that I would, had someone asked me at any given time in my life before that.

    I seem to think that if it would have been OK to be just me, maybe I would have been an even better leader OR perhaps I wouldn’t have felt the need to see if I could be a leader at all – since I would have known that being just me was perfect enough?

    Then the cultural difference between our countries strike me again!!
    Here we don’t talk about being leaders at all. In my country and the culture here the don’t-think-that-you’re-special culture is a damper on any strivings in that direction.
    As usual there are good things and bad things about both cultures. There’s no pressure here to be a leader but at the same time – nobody tells you that you can be one either.

    So interesting!

    I’ve lost some friends ‘cuz I had the audacity to want to be a leader – I guess that won’t happen over where you are?!!

    Thanks for a both brilliant and think worthy post. As always.
    Can’t wait to read your book.

  117. Yay for brett!! And KWQR-love your words. and ALICE, love tht poem, it is great!! Love from your Blog Mama~

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  119. Lainey looks so TALL in that first picture- what a big girl! And my heart melted at the picture of sweet little Nella at ballet- so cute!

    I tend to be a follower- I don’t like to make big decisions that affect others, and I don’t like confrontation, so I tend to just let others take the lead.

    But I am definitely unique (quirky?) and creative, too. I think the “be yourself” idea is the perfect middle ground! :)

  120. I really enjoyed reading this post. I am the mother of two (a 3 year old girl and 5 year old boy) and I am constantly wondering if I am “doing it right”. I think all any parent wishes for their children is that they grow up to be happy and healthy. I just always wonder if the choices I make for the kids today will affect them positively in the future, but I agree with the other posters as well in that I loved the statement about letting them be theirselves. I am guilty of trying to persuade my kids into doing certain things or liking certain things, but one thing I dont want for my kids is to be someone they are not. I really appreciate this post and the perspective it delivered.

  121. Oh, I love this perspective! I am just beginning to have these conversations with my 4.5 and 6 year old. I certainly understand that desire to follow and jump on the latest trend (Hello, Downton Abbey! :-) but my heart sinks when I hear my boy say “I don’t like Super Mario because Isaiah doesn’t like it” Because, as you say it “I just want my kids to be themselves”. Maybe they will be leaders, maybe they will not.

    Lovely post — excuse, while I pop over to Facebook and share it!

  122. I too try to make my girl have her own opinions and not always follow what her friends are doing, but I mostly agree with your husband, I want her to be herself, stand up for her taste and her ideas. And I don’t think people are either a leader or a follower in every situation, and I think if I as a parent raise my girls to be a good team-worker, leading, following, negotiating, listening, being able to see when they are wrong – then I’ve done a good and important job… (I know – too long)

  123. As a fairly new mom (I have a 13 month old) this was such an interesting post to read…what a wonderful message!! Thanks~

  124. I have said to my kids: “Leader or follower, be a GOOD EXAMPLE.”

  125. Excellent insight Kelle…thank you! And thank your hubby too!!!

  126. Always inspiring! Reminds me of a favorite quote…”Life is a dance. Sometimes we lead. Sometimes we follow.” Thank you for reminding me.

  127. I love this post. What it often takes time to realize is that to be a good leader you have to be a good follower. And when that knowledge comes, the leaders will become great.

    Just so you know, I love all of your posts. I actually happened upon your blog. It was a random recommendation through blogspot and I’m glad I decided to read. I grew up with a cousin with down syndrome so I especially feel everything you write. And I’m a photographer so I love to see your photos!

  128. I’m a very loud extrovert. To.the.max. I used to think that meant that I a leader was the only place for me being all loud and loving hoards of people. Then, somewhere along the way, I decided that followers are ok.

    It’s been so freeing. So, follow I do.

  129. I can’t believe how fast both girls are growing! I love love love that close-up of Nella. She is so beautiful, and I love how well that photo captures her eyes. I’m sure it’s 99% her true beauty, and 1% your awesome photog skills!

  130. Nella’s big blue eyes are stunning…love the message of this posts, and of course the beautiful photos that accompany it!

  131. such an important reminder…one we all need as parents. thank you. :)

  132. Thank you, I needed this. We can really be grey and be good. I have had the black and white life. I needed this…my kids needed this.


  133. Thank you for this wonderful post. I am not a parent but I hope to remember this if I ever become one and to put it into practice NOW with my nephew and nieces and the many students I work with.

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  135. I LOVE your pictures! They capture so much emotion! And I adore watching your girls interact. They just ooze love for each other. Thank you for sharing your beautiful family!

  136. i really love this.

    it has taken me a very long time to be comfortable with following. as one of 7 kids, standing out has been a part of my identity, but i have found that ignoring the hipster within myself has resulted in an ultimately happier life. letting myself off the hook for enjoying the same things as everyone else without reservation is pretty liberating.

    following positive paths, feeling blissful as a part of a herd is a strength sometimes.
    your kids are lucky to have you for guidance.
    for. sure.

  137. Oh Kelle!! I have read your blog for many years now but this one slipped by me somehow. I am so happy it popped up today in google when I was searching on how to raise a leader. This gave me so much peace in my heart. I am worried about my lil kindergartner and new life experiences that are coming around just about daily….and I fear not being able to guide her in the right direction. Thank you for this. Thank you for your blog. And thank you for JUST BEING YOU!! :)

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