Lessons from a pissed off 5-year-old about community and belonging

Cleaning up a messy room is hard, overwhelming work. My daughter, Lula needed a break from all of the procrastinating she’d been doing. My husband, who was supervising, needed a break from the pulling teeth agony of trying to get her to focus.

She and I took a walk to break it up. I stopped in front of a yellow house several doors down from ours. I pointed out a statue of a little kid in a garden in front of the house.

I said, “Look. He’s kinda bending over. He looks like he’s about to fart.” Then I raspberried the air and poked her in the belly. Lula didn’t want to laugh so she screamed and hit at me, knocking my glasses to the ground.

I had a moment of “Oh no you didn’t!” panic.

Then she looked up at me, eyes wide. I took a deep breath and decided to wait until the shock passed to give her a consequence. She bent over and retrieved my glasses. “Here, momma,” she said quietly as she handed them to me. I turned and started walking again and she followed, taking my hand.

I walked with Lula silently, remembering that no matter what, she’s in my tribe. She’s not alone. She belongs with me even though she hit me. I had just finished Brene Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability. She said kids aren’t born perfect and don’t require us to keep them that way. They’re born hard wired for struggle. Our job is to help them know they’re worthy of love and belonging anyway.

So much time in my business and life I feel like I’m wandering around in the wild blue yonder.

This is sometimes a very good thing. When I relax it feels exhilarating and so joyful . When I spin my wheels and freak out, I feel more and more alone. The more alone I feel, the more I spin and try to feel connected. I hide, withhold my love, wait for approval, look for certainty, keep quiet, wear pantyhose, join groups of people I don’t even like and try to get them to like me.

What if you really knew that you are worthy of belonging?

Wouldn’t it be so much less scary to put yourself out there? To talk to people and make offers. To trust that somehow you’ll figure this whole deal out. And that even if you don’t get it this time around, it’s not that big of a deal because you’ll figure it out eventually.

You won’t find your tribe until you speak up.

You have to risk being the weirdo cast-off in order to truly belong. You have to stand up, your spine tall with a shaky voice and speak your truth. It’s as if you’re stranded in the mountains with your truth as your smoke signal. It’s your way of signalling to the rescue plane “I’m here! Right here!” You have to risk isolation in order to find community.


We walked around the corner to her favorite climbing tree, the last one in a row of three at the edge of the schoolyard.

“I’m coming up this time,” I said. I’ve never climbed it before with her. She looked at me and laughed. “No, you’re not.”

“I am,” I said. I climbed through the branches and settled in a comforting V high above where Lula usually sits.

“You’re high,” she said, lifting her foot onto the first branch, hoisting herself up. We hung out that way for a while until she jumped down. “I’m pretty good at climbing tress,” I told her. “But I do have trouble getting out.”

“I’ll help you,” she said.

She talked me through climbing down. Then at the very end when it was time to jump, she said,”It will be fine, Mom. I’m sure of it.



4 Responses to Lessons from a pissed off 5-year-old about community and belonging

  1. Katana Leigh September 16, 2012 at 2:44 am #

    Aw, that’s so sweet. It’s so gutting to watch parents scold their kids sometimes…

    • admin September 16, 2012 at 4:34 am #

      I know! I know! It’s so gutting to be the one scolding your kids too. We all have our moments. xo

  2. rebecca @ altared spaces September 16, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

    I’m glad you climbed the tree. When I do things that frighten me I realized how my kids feel: scared.

    Sometimes, as a parent, it’s tempting to stay in that safe zone.

    The intimacy is deeper with my kids because they’ve seen me frightened. And my ultimate fear? That they wouldn’t respect me? Unfounded. I think they respect me more because they consider me one of THEIR tribe as well. One of the risk-takers, instead of a safe-maker.

    • Sarah September 18, 2012 at 4:25 am #

      True story, Rebecca. I embellished my fear so that she could step up and out of her misery. And that–helping someone in the tribe–is so beneficial to feeling like you belong.

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