#LTYM

It seems like a lifetime ago when I walked into an audition room, wearing hot pink leg warmers and began to read the absolutely wrong piece. As soon as I opened my mouth I knew everything about it was wrong. Wrong but not lost.

I must have made some sort of impression because while the piece was not right, apparently I was. My audition experience is documented in Listen To Your Other. After resubmitting another piece I was accepted to the 2016 cast of Listen To Your Mother.

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I was humbled, excited, and honestly the entire concept scared the life out of me! Needless to say my emotions were sent into overdrive when I found out that I was set to be the closing act of the show. At first, I reasonably assumed this was some sort of mistake, and for several days waited for the email from the director that, in fact, things were going to change and I was no longer the closing act. Of course.

That email never came. My piece, I No Want It was the closing piece for the show.

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The experience itself was life affirming. I did something that scared me and lived to tell about it. I now have a life long connection to these other women. Our stories came together to create an experience for all of us as well as all of those that came to the show.

Here is the closing piece for the 2016 Listen To Your Mother Baton Rouge Show:

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I No Want It.

My daughter was about two and a half when I first heard her utter the words, “I no want it.” I was getting her ready for Grandparent’s Day at school and pulled out a precious dress for her to wear. The conversation went something like this:

Audrey, grabbing the hem of the dress and shaking her head, “I no want it.”

Understandably shocked, I questioned, “What do you mean you don’t want it? Of course you want this! This is adorable!” In my defense, it was adorable. Fine wale corduroy animal print dress with a bishop collar and hot pink trim, what’s not to love?

“I no want it.”

I took a deep breath, a mental step back, and let her choose. She selected a drop waist stripped number with cap sleeves. For me, the dress fell into the ‘play clothes’ category and not really the ‘Grandparent’s Day’ category but she looked adorable and most importantly, she was satisfied with the opportunity to choose and was happy with her selection.

Audrey has taken me down a very different path when it comes to defining herself through her clothes. I was not at all prepared, considering, I really, really liked smocking. Instead of forcing my preferences, I have allowed her to make choices. Within a few limitations, I have given her a wide opportunity to exercise choice, thereby defining herself for who she is. We have long since abandoned the idea of smocking, monograms, or dresses. Our preferences now include leggings, pants that don’t get ‘wiggly,’ tunics, and layers. We love crazy socks too, especially when they are mismatched.

Whether we like it or not, at the earliest age, our children have a sense of self. They have preferences. These may not be our preferences, of course, but who am I to stifle my child?

I think as parents we can get caught up in the fear of what other people will think. Not only about what others will think of us as parents, but what other kids will think of our kids. As an adult, I know that what other people think of me is none of my business. For kids, however it may not always be that easy; there may be struggle. Like it or not, we are hardwired as humans to struggle. The important thing is to give our children the opportunity to cope with the struggle instead of rushing in to save them from ever having to struggle.

A family member shared an instance when her young son wanted to go to preschool wearing his sister’s pink barrette in his hair. She asked him if he might want to just carry the barrette with

him instead of wearing it. His choice was to wear it pinned into his beautiful blonde hair. She hugged him tight and wished him to have the best, most fun day. My son recently asked me to paint his fingernails yellow…and wear it to school. I offered the option of wearing the nail polish only for the weekend but he chose to try it out at school. I too, sent him on his way wishing him the happiest of days.

By supporting their choices, we instantly communicate how much they are loved no matter what. We are telling them that their choices matter and that they are good, valued, and loved even with pink barrettes, yellow nail polish, and mismatched socks.

So what is our message when we tell them no?

I can’t say with absolute certainty what this means for our children. I’m sure that the little boy who wore the barrette may have gotten some giggles or even a few high-fives. It’s possible that my daughter may have received a strange look or comment about her socks. I would bet at least one child asked my son why his nails were yellow.

I would argue, though, that whatever they experienced, they all learned something. He possibly learned what it means to be courageous. She may have learned what it’s like to feel different and whether or not that is okay with her. He may have learned how to deal with embarrassment or even how to handle loads of positive attention.

I know for sure they learned that within the space of life, they can make choices and no matter the outcome, they will always have a soft place to fall – into the loving and accepting arms of their mother.

Letting them be who they are. Enjoying them through every questionable ensemble, mismatched socks, yellow nail polish, and pink barrettes…reminding them of their awesomeness each and every step of the way. That my friends, that is mothering.

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For more information about the Baton Rouge and other LTYM national shows, visit Listen To Your Mother.

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