Be You



It helps to know who you are. Where your boundaries give, and where they don’t. What you’ll do and what you won’t. It helps to know, but sometimes it will hurt, too. Because you’re not always going to fit in, sometimes you’ll go it alone. But deep down? All that matters? Is that you know who you are.




My daughter rushed in from outside with red cheeks and rainstorm eyes. “They don’t want to play with me!” she shouted as the tears took full sail and tumbled headlong to her chin.


Who?” I put my arm around her shoulder, not wanting to give the moment too much power, because downplaying the gut-rip of how people hurt you seemed sensible.


She threw herself face down on the couch and ignored my question. “What do I do?” she managed through muffled sobs.


Tell me what happened.” I rubbed her shaking back. “Who doesn’t want to play with you?”


The boys.”


Ah.” I couldn’t think of something other to say, so I continued to soothe with my hands.


She wasn’t having it.


I have a Nerf gun and everything. They just told me I wasn’t old enough.”


I knew that wasn’t it. She was seven and so were many of them.


Sometimes people aren’t nice, honey. I’m sorry. But you need to keep being you.”


I rolled my eyes at my insignificant words; words that were like band-aids on a missing leg. I suspected I was failing miserably at this whole “learning talk” endeavor.


“What do you mean?” She pushed the couch pillows out of the way and waited in a “tell me more” position.


I searched for the right thing.


Not everyone is going to like everyone else. And sometimes it’s for silly reasons, like maybe because you’re a girl or you’re too young, and sometimes you just won’t know why, but it’s always important to stay who you are, and find people who love you for that.”


She remained dubious.


I tried again. “Who are you?”


The tears kept falling. “I don’t know.”


You’re funny, smart, sweet, imaginative, and silly. You are a good friend. You like to read. You…”


She hugged me mid-sentence.


I pulled away for a brief second. “I want you to know who you are, OK? Because people might try to tell you different. But if you know who you are on the inside, it doesn’t matter what other people say. So…who are you?”


I am…”


At that second, the doorbell rang. I heard giggling. I jumped up to open the door, not altogether surprised to find the boys at the threshold. The tallest one spoke up: “Can Toots play?


My eyes narrowed. Was this a joke at her expense? I didn’t know if I could stand watching those tears again.


My daughter joined me at the door. “What do you want?” Her eyes weren’t even dry.


They looked a little sheepish, God bless them. “We want to play hide and seek and need a good counter and runner.”


She didn’t close the door behind her. “I am…” she shouted for me to hear. “A good counter and runner!” And off she went.


I followed her out to ensure everything was on the up and up; no one would tease, or lob hurtful words her way. I stayed on the fringes, watching carefully, feeling the full weight of parental responsibility and heartbreak at not being able to orchestrate happy endings for my daughter every time.


All the while certain I didn’t have control over every outcome, and hoping that if there were one thing — one! I could ingrain in her deepest deepest self, it would be to know who you are.


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23 Responses to “Be You”

  1. Laurie Ann says:

    I remember when some kids were mean like this to my nephew and I just wanted to kick all of their little butts. I tried to instill the same idea in him, but didn’t have your eloquent words. Thank God Toots has a mom like you!

  2. Mama Mary says:

    LOVE this post! I will take it as a birthday present to my soul with love from you. Thank you! xxo

  3. Jennifer says:

    I am so using this conversation when my Charlie comes to me with this same complaint. It’s something I didn’t think of, (you’re so awesome and smart) to remind him of who he is and to find the kids who’ll like him just as is. You’re a great mom!

  4. Sugar Jones says:

    Oh Deb… I do so love you and your beautiful words.


    Also, we should totally go kick those little boys’ butts for your daughter. Just for fun.

  5. “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” ~e.e. cummings

    And yet, I can’t imagine the alternative.

    Toots and Booger are fortunate to have you as their mom.

  6. flutter says:

    man is she ever blessed to have you on her side

  7. Lori says:

    YOU, are the best. She is blessed to have you! I loved reading this Deb.

  8. Ellie says:

    OH, how I loved this post. I’m going to carry those words with me, for me AND for my daughter. Those moments are so gut-wrenching, the ones where you feel the weight of what is at stake.


  9. I LOVE that you asked her to tell you who she is. This is the perfect response to her feeling rejected, if you ask me. Well done, mama!

  10. tinsenpup says:

    I was so ready to loathe those little boys and then they went and redeemed themselves. Dammit!

    I think if I could only teach my daughters one thing, it would probably be this.

  11. Mel says:

    You’re a great mom!!!

  12. Ferd says:

    Fantastic lesson!
    You never know. She just might remember that forever!

    Mother of the Year kind of stuff! Seriously.

  13. steph says:

    Thank you, fantastic response in a tough situation. I’ll remember it.

  14. Alexandra says:

    the kind of mother I’d dream of…

  15. La Jolla Mom says:

    Taking notes. So I don’t flub it up when that happens to S. Because I worry that I will.

  16. Laura says:

    Perfect. Just perfect. I love how you handled it, and how simple yet completely to the core true your words were.
    Great post. :)

  17. I LOVE that happy ending. And a girl raised to respond to the world with “I AM….!” Brava to both of you.

  18. SurferWife says:

    Love. Love, love, love this. Not only was it useful for your daughter, but it’s applicable in all of our lives still.

    Sometimes, we can get carried away with who we should be and forget all about who we really are.

    Thanks for the great post!

  19. Rima says:

    Love, love, love, love.

    I think you and Toots both handled it superbly.

  20. I am trying to help my daughter navigate through the exact same thing right now! It’s such a hard age for them to understand about staying true to themselves and to not let what other say or do matter. I struggle with the right thing to say, and you got it perfectly on the first try! I just need to keep your words in mind whenever my daughter comes rushing to me with hurt in her eyes…

  21. Morgan B. says:

    You are such a good momma. Your daughter is so lucky. xo

  22. […] a girl’s gotta break up the monotony of Big Jerks and hack parenting with a post about fun stuff she likes, you […]

  23. Laura Lee says:

    Deb, I love this. You are a great Momma. Thanks for documenting this — not just for you, but for those of us right behind you. :)

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