Big G, Little O

So, let’s talk about letting go but hanging on just a little for yet another time (you’ll have no problem finding Cut the Cord posts from the archives). 

Okay, let me start with a photo–the only photo I took at Lainey’s 2-day cheer camp which consists of nearly 100 girls (I think I counted over 70), all ages, who learn a few cheers in preparation for performing with the big girls at a high school football game.  She wanted to do it and was fine with the fact that she didn’t know anyone who was participating.  And I thought this was awesome.  Growin’ up and stretchin’, that girl is.

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Cute pic, huh? 

Brett saw it and was all, “Oh my God! Why is she alone? Why is she in the back?  She can’t even SEE!”  Which is funny because a:) this picture was taken during the closing huddle at the wrap-up of the camp and is a horrible representation of what it really looked like (fun and happy); and b) this is a perfect example of a parenting optical illusion.

You know the drawing that shows either an old haggard lady or a beautiful young woman depending on where you focus your eyes?  There’s hundreds of similar scenarios in parenting–experiences that shape our kids, and we as parents will emotionally volley back and forth between two perceptions:  they’re sad, their heart is breaking, they’re going to be traumatized (translation: we’re sad, our heart is breaking) or they’re learning about themselves, this is good for them, they’re developing tools to face challenges in life and be amazing.

I’m sensitive to both scenarios, and what I really want to do more than half the time is run in, knock everybody down and hold my kid.  But I don’t.  Because I know that to teach my kids how to be truly happy in life, I have to know when to let go. If you keep a plant in a little pot, you might keep it alive but you’re going to stunt its growth.  I want my kids to stretch their roots, so we constantly move to bigger pots until someday they find a stretch of land where they’ll want to be planted to grow on their own.  But listen.  My lawn chair won’t be far, and I will have reserve watering cans on standby for the rest of my life. 

We moved to a bigger pot this week.  It looked like a gym full of girls, and it was loud and crazy–clapping and giggling and shouting and lots of synchronized high kicks.  For a second, I could have seen it as too overwhelming for a little bird who’s still trying out her wings.  I mean, she ties her shoes with the bunny loops and hasn’t even lost a tooth yet.  But she wanted to do it.  And she got right in there the first day, barely turning around to see if I was watching her. 

She held her own in a swarm of girls–smiling, carefully following directions, mimicking every clap and kick and “BIG G, LITTLE O, GO! GO!”  And I watched from one end of the gym, alternating between waving, smiling and using my eyes to transfer psychic thoughts of I’m right here!  I see you!  You’re doing great! and putting on my game face–This is no big deal.  I’m so confident you’re fine that I’m just going to read this book and pretend I’m not acutely aware of your neon pink sweatshirt in my peripheral vision at every moment.

Kids are like bees.  Don’t let them smell your anxiety. 

I kept my helicopter parked through this whole cheer camp thing.  I sensed her uneasiness in the middle of that gym, surrounded by all those girls she didn’t know; but I sensed too that she wanted to work it out on her own.  I didn’t jump in to fix it for her.  I smiled and waved and sat by the bleachers, but I also read a book and even left the gym to take a call (gasp!).   

Lainey left the camp tonight with a permagrin, a new herkie ambition and a chant we’ll be hearing for months.  BIG G, LITTLE O, GO! GO!  She grew.

For the record, I see a beautiful young woman in the drawing.


Might I add, I’m glad his pot is still just a little one.  Baby herbs need their mamas.

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And papas.
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And this one’s pot is cracking.  Sister’s had some attitude this week, wanting to do everything herself. 

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Happy October, Friends.  It’s Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and I’ll be sharing more later.  I must tell you how awesome you all are though.  The Be Your Tee campaign and our 626 shirt goal?  Um, how about 2029 shirts sold?  That’s $15,000 raised for the NDSS–and one of Teespring’s top ten t-shirt campaigns ever.  We’ll be bringing more designs for teens and adults soon.  Thank you, thank you.

And a virtual computer hug.  Can you feel it?  I hope so.


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  1. This same feeling of living on the periphery of a child’s life has started to happen with my little girl, who is 2.6 and wants to hang out with the “big kids” at the park, which often leaves her standing on the outskirts, but in her world she is participating, so I bite my lip and let her go.

  2. Just wait, Mama. The stretching of those little wings continues and it doesn’t get any easier on us. My daughter turned 15 on Monday and is going to TX for 8 days in December with the marching band. Her wings are ready to soar…and it kills me to let her do so. This is the same young lady who has her life planned out, down to where she’ll purchase acres of land for her own horse rescue in Montana (FTR–we live in Nebraska). Sigh. Stretch those wings honey, I’ve got your back!

    Dash and Nella…adorable as ever! Nella, attitude? Perhaps her own wings are getting a little fidgety and needing to stretch :-)

  3. <3

  4. I love that first picture! It’s adorable, I didn’t see her as being in the back all alone at all. My first thought was how it’s a perfect illustration of a little girl wanting to be a “big girl”. Although….I am a super protective parent so if that was my daughter I probably would have had the same initial thought as your husband : ) Parenting really makes us see life through a different lens. Anyhow, it was adorable, thanks for sharing!

  5. beautiful post. beautiful photos. your beautiful. amazing. the end.

  6. Oh, the pains we parents are going through to be able to pretend it’s nothing, while our little bird is out there, flapping their wings in the midst of grown-up gigantic bird herds! But it’s worth all the pain, this growing beautiful process! :)

  7. I don’t know why, the picture of Lainey in the back just made me cry! I don’t know if it has to do with the “I can relate” or that her little bitty self was trying her hardest and stuck in the back. (That’s just how I felt when I saw it before I read through.) Mama, she’s telling you with all her heart that she wants to grow, it so sad to think of her growing up.

  8. Beautifully written – I completely get this. The art of good writing is to capture in words what another human only thinks inside. You did it :-) Lou x

  9. Oh my- how you have a way with words. Love you from the tips of my toes to the tippy top of my head (I don’t know where that came from, but hey- that’s how I feel), Big G, little O Lainey! Go Sister! Nella is cuuuuuuute, I want to squeeze her, seriously. My daughter is starting to grow out of her ‘I do it all by dyself’ and ‘Just worry about me’ when she really means Stop worrying about me. Oh they grow so fast. Dash made my heart do a little twirly! Thanks for the pics and the awesome perspectives.

  10. Can’t wait to get my cute pink onesie in the mail for my bubba girl due end of Nov :)

  11. I love Nella’s braid!

  12. Love it! I love the pot comparison – all three of mine are in need of transplanting and my littlest little and Nella are at the exact same stage . . . she can do everything her brothers can even though she’s tiny and don’t anybody try to tell her different! I’ve seen Isabelle walking away with that same head down, belly out determination too many times in the last weeks to count.

  13. Very well said, this hard part of parenting. You’re doing a great job with your “plants” and still making time to share with the world.
    The day may come when your babies are scattered far and wide, but trust me, the relationship established in childhood carries over into their adult lives. Our 3 live 12 hrs, 26 hrs, and 14 hrs away from “home”, yet they still call for sometimes support but usually just chats.
    I firmly believe raising well adjusted society contributing adults is the most important thing we can do.

  14. I still tie my shoes with bunny ear loops! I’m tucking this post away for the future as my almost 15 month old daughter is going to be 6 in the blink of an eye!

  15. Great mothering skills! You are so attuned to your children’s feelings which is a real gift. I was an impossible helicopter Mom…still am and my son is 30!! The worry never stops. Oh and by the way…being a true helicopter Mom I can’t help but worry that cheering is one of the most dangerous sports as far as spinal injuries…so if they move beyond just “Big G Little O” to more daring maneuvers..e.g. throwing her up in the air…time to move that little pot to a gentler environment!

  16. Thank you for this today; I so needed it! I allowed myself one blog before day prep began and I am so glad I chose yours. My preschooler is having a terrible time transitioning and I find myself lying awake at night worrying about the next drop off. And at 3 am, I’m pretty much sure I am going to pull him from the class. But by the time the sun rises I’ve reminded myself that this is the best thing for him. And so we go …

  17. I can’t tell you how many times your posts speak right to me. My oldest turned four this week. Four! Now if you’ll excuse me while I lock myself in a padded room and rock myself 😉 Seriously though thanks for what you do!

  18. ‘Reserve watering cans on standby for the rest of my life’ – for some reason, that particular phrase brought tears to my eyes this morning. Watching your precious children growing is a reminder than my own little guy is growing, growing, growing. And while I love it – and celebrate every milestone his tiny little 4 month old self reaches – I also dread it a bit as I love the snuggly, needy infant time so much!!! Thank you for inspiring me to be brave today, and to not be afraid to move my son to a bigger pot as needed:)

  19. I loved your post this week. My baby girl is 13 and its hard to sit back and watch her make her way through all the drama of teenage girls and school. She does it with such grace that makes me so proud when she chooses to walk away from fights and drama and be the bigger person :)

  20. I love that she still wanted to go even though she didn’t know anybody. I know plenty of adults that wouldn’t even do that.

    PS. I’m 24 and still tie my shoes with bunny loops :)

  21. You left your helicopter parked? I’m laughing :)

  22. Loved this! Lainey looks so grown up standing there with all the big girls! Another beautifully written post!

  23. Nellatude…..I remember when Penelope went through this; I called it Penelitude. She would yell “I CAN DO IT BY MYSELFIES!” And of course I’d die because when someone is yelling “selfies” it’s so funny. Good luck with that one! Loved this post.

  24. Awesome post!

  25. Your writing is absolutely beautiful. I enjoy reading every one of your posts. Thank you for sharing your heart with the world! :)

  26. Have you heard of the book “Free Range Kids” by Lenore Skenazy? It’s my go-to parenting tome, and I think she would be very proud of you and Lainey! :-)

  27. I’ve never posted a comment here. But I am a faithful reader in Seattle. Your post today is so relevant to my life, as this year was my beautiful girl’s transition into high school. From a tiny private school (250 kids from grades K-8…she went there from the very beginning!) to a 2,000 kid high school. It was harder for me than her, watching her learn how to navigate this HUGE transition…everything from “how am I gonna get to my locker on the 3rd floor on a gargantuan campus when I only have 5 minutes between classes?” to “who will i sit with at lunch?” (Not one friend from the private school, goes to this new one with her! UGH!) You can’t be there to help them figure that out, and it was hard. SO hard. But she did it. She’s a leader, who sparkles when she walks into a room, who will soar through these next 4 years with flying colors…I just have to sit back and trust that it’s all gonna work itself out.

    Thanks for your words of wisdom this morning. It made me smile. (and PS…”no time for locker so just lug it all around” and “my new friends on the soccer team” were the answers.)

  28. Kelle, this is such a thoughtful post. So true that our perceptions don’t always reflect reality. Or that two parents can have completely different takes on the same reality, same kids.

    We homeschool, and currently I’m feeling like we’re hitting the ball out of the park, school-wise. However, just last night my husband let me know he’s concerned that we may be missing something, not doing enough. Same kids, same house, different perspective.

  29. They still do that cheer? I’ll be saying in my head all the livelong day…

  30. I’m going through the same thing right now with my almost two year old who clings to her mama. I dropped her off at dance this week and she didn’t even bat an eye — she’s usually the shy one in the back. I needed this post to remind myself to ‘park my own helicopter’.

  31. I love the sentiment of this post – I have a (newly) 3-year-old and am a few weeks away from number 2 and I try so hard to be a “let them figure it out” parent, but it does hurt sometimes.

    I will say, though, that the simile w/ the old woman/young woman picture isn’t my favorite. Just because she’s old and wrinkled doesn’t make her the “bad” picture! So much strength and wisdom. I get what you’re saying, and usually I wouldn’t bat an eye at that comparison, but for some reason today I just felt bad for that ol’ lady. 😉

  32. We have worked hard to create healthy self-reliance and independence in our children, and I’m proud that my 18 year old can call and make a doctor’s appointment and go to it himself, do his own laundry, and cook an awesome pot of soup. And my 12 year old is as independent as a kid in a wheelchair can be – watch your toes! But each of them, when they went to Kindergarten, wanted to be dropped off in carpool line and not walked in – something they were very proud of and excited about. I don’t know how my older one even knew that was an option! So I’m proud, but it also hurts a little, in a good way.

  33. Just a quick thank you – I look forward to each of your blog posts! Your words and photos are beautiful, inspiring, and truthful. Thank you!

  34. My 17yo daughter with moderate cerebral palsy participated in a special needs cheer group for two years and absolutely loved it. Mom…it stressed me out. Not because she was on the outside, because she was definitely not. She was just one of the girls. The organizer (not a SN mom) was so disorganized I couldn’t stand it. I’m OK with a little disorganization, but she created her own brand of chaos. It was a painful decision to pull Brielle out of that group that she loved so much, but I had to do some self-preservation of mom. Hope Lainey loved the camp!!

  35. Kelle….
    I love, love, love that picture!! Lainey looks so small, yet so confident!! 😉
    “And a virtual computer hug. Can you feel it? I hope so.”. I awoke this morning feeling moody. Nothing unusual for me, and I am over it!! So, thanks for the virtual hug. I needed it!! ;-D

  36. I haven’t even finished reading your full post and had to stop right after you wrote “My lawn chair won’t be far, and I will have reserve watering cans on standby for the rest of my life” …because I had to comment right then. Your words hit me right in my Mama heart and I can’t agree with you more on being sensitive in both scenarios. So many memories ran through me as I read your words of times when ALL I wanted to do was go “rescue” him- pick him up and run…but I didn’t. They were growing opportunities for both of us. And he is SO amazing because of that.
    I just love how you string together your thoughts and views on parenting…I know you can’t hear me but I’m saying yes, yes I so totally agree as I read so many of your parenting posts. Again, thanks for speaking your Mama heart, so many of us connect to your words and thoughts.
    …now back to read the rest :)
    Hugs to you

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  38. This was just what I needed! As my little family of four moves away today..across the country from our parents I am a wreck of emotions. Never heard it put like that.. We’re just movin to a bigger pot:) And big G little O,Lainey! Spread those wings girl!

  39. Such a good mamma you are, parking yourself in the bleachers. I can so relate to your husband’s reaction about Lainey being on the outside. Sounds so much like our conversations at home. Ooooh, and Miss Attitude! I remember my girlie, clear as day, holding her hand up to stop me and saying, “I DO IT.” can’t argue much with that one.
    Can’t wait for the adult t shirts!!

  40. Good job momma! Raising leaders!

  41. They are all so precious!! I’m loving the picture updates! But I can’t lie and say my first reaction to the top picture was a good one… I was worried that she was standing in the back and being left out :( But now that I know the story, it’s all good. And I’m glad that she had such an amazing time and that she tired something new, just for herself :)

  42. Sometimes just the way you “put” things grabs my heartstrings (and brings a few tears)…beautifully worded and o so true. Thank you for putting to words and pictures many of my thoughts, as my life reflects many of the same things you are walking through with a 6yo, 3yo, and 5 month old in my nest too. You truly have a gift with words (and a sweet way of seeing life)…thank you <3

  43. Beautiful!

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  45. Beautiful! Many pots will be broken…

  46. It’s always your posts about everyday moments in life that punch me in my -be grateful you’re a parent- gut and bring me to tears. Happy tears. They come easily and sometimes it just feels good to dwell in how much I love my kids. So, thank you for the subtle reminders to stop and smell the flowers in our own pots.

  47. I think this post is perfection, what a beautiful analogy for the growing up process and I know one I feel daily. My big girl just started Kindergarten and it is so very hard not to know what she does all day, so I volunteer and pop in to see her, wave and move on, I don’t want to smother her…but it’s nice to at least check in and get a hug. Wonderful pictures and I am glad your little one is still in his pot and needs lots of tending to!

  48. Kelle, Can I just borrow your pot analogy? In my 11 years of parenting, it may just be THE coolest thing I’ve ever heard. You have such great wisdom to share. Thank you. xoxo Dani

  49. IS there anyway to still buy one of these shirts? I’m a special needs teacher and love your blog and would love one for myself and one of my students with down syndrome.


  50. Grow Nella grow! Good for her! It can be tough parenting a lively, willful toddler but what a wonderful privilege it is to step aside and watch them grow.

  51. Oh this post made my cry! After trying for 4 years to have my own little, today I snuggle my precious 3 month old baby girl, feeling both excited and anxious for days like these to come. I love the way you love your girls and know they will grow up to be amazing women, wives and moms. All things I hope for my baby girl. Thank you for your words!

  52. I love the potted plant analogy. GO Lainey.

  53. Hey, you know you have “arrived” when you have “haters” (remember not a reflection on you but on themselves.) and you are PINS on Pinterest!! Now that is cool. Ignore the negative and keep sharing your positive spirit. Even if you make one person happy, it is worth it and obviously you make many people happy. Thank you for taking the time to share and putting up with the negative nasty stuff. Stay brave.

  54. I had to go back and count, but I think it’s the 11th picture? That one of Lainey bending forward in the hay? That is EVERY INCH YOU. Her posture and pose in that picture? So funny, because it’s so unconsciously you. I love it. :-)

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