Growing Together: Lara of Joy, Lovely Joy


growing together

There are writers whose words inspire me to breathe deeply, take a moment, and give into the power that softly lilting phrases have over me. There are bloggers and people who I talk with on Twitter and think about as I wander through the pages of the book I’m reading. And then there are people like Lara. She is both. I am honored that she is here today for Growing Together, sharing a beautiful story of growth with her little girl. A story that will speak to you, I’m sure, as it did me.

Enjoy her story here today and be sure to visit her at Joy, Lovely Joy!


My daughter clambered through the front door after school one day, spun into the kitchen, and slapped a piece of paper on the counter in front of me. “You need to sign this,” she said. I glanced down and saw Talent Show Auditions printed at the top of the page.

“The talent show? What are you going to do?”

“I dunno,” she said, still spinning across the hardwoods. She stopped to grab a granola bar from the pantry. “But I want to do it.”

This would be the third year she’s announced that she wants to do the talent show only to change her mind a few days later. I didn’t think this year would be any different. The paper sat in an accumulating pile of papers on the kitchen counter until the day before audition forms were due.

“Mommy, you need to sign the form,” she said as I tucked her into bed. “Tomorrow’s the last day to turn them in.”

I had assumed she’d changed her mind. I also assumed she didn’t really understand what she was getting herself into.

“You know that you’ll be on stage in front of teachers and your classmates?”

I told myself that I wanted her to be prepared so she wouldn’t freeze with shock when her turn came. In hindsight I realize that I was steering her away from auditioning in an attempt to protect her from disappointment.

“Mommy,” she said, drawing out the ‘o’ in mommy, a sure sign of annoyance or exasperation. “Of course I know that.”

Lately, I’ve needed to remind Mia that when someone speaks to her she needs to speak back. When someone says hello or good morning, it’s kind to reciprocate. And when she does do these things, I need to remind her to speak up. Her voice that has no trouble carrying through the house suddenly becomes mouseling-quiet in front of strangers or people she doesn’t know very well. I had a difficult time melding together this child and the one who claimed to want to stand on stage alone in front of her entire school to perform an as-of-yet unstated talent.

“I’ll sign the form,” I said. “But what are you going to do?”

“Jump rope,” she said, and when she smiled I saw two grown-up teeth poking through the space previously occupied by chiclet baby teeth.

A few days later Mia received an audition day and time, and then she promptly forgot about it.

“Don’t you need to practice?” I would ask her. “Do you have a routine? Are you using music?”

She brushed me off. Once in a while I would catch her jumping rope on the back deck, but whether or not she jumped with her audition in mind I couldn’t say. I was at once frustrated that she wasn’t preparing more and in awe of her self-confidence.

The night before the audition, she informed me of the song she planned to jump to, and I spent the next hour trying to track it down on iTunes or elsewhere, all the while gently scolding her for not thinking of it sooner. The truth is, up until that point I still believed she would back out. I even tried to prompt discussion that would allow her an out, but she wasn’t biting.

Finally, I asked, “Don’t you think you’ll get nervous?” And that’s when my husband wisely stepped in.

“It’s okay if she gets nervous,” he said, throwing a cutting glance in my direction that told me to back off. He was right, of course.

When I tucked her into bed that night, I asked her if she was ready. She nodded, kneading her blanket in her palm the way she’s done since a toddler, the CD that’s lulled her to sleep every night for the past seven years playing in the background.

“I’m ready,” she said, and I realized with an aching clarity that I wasn’t. I listened to the lyrics wafting through her room, the same lyrics I listened to as I rocked her as a newborn, and marveled at the girl whose unruly tendrils spilled onto the pillow, whose fingernails were painted sparkle blue, whose legs had slimmed and lengthened, whose feet could now fit into my socks. Mia’s childhood is something buttery slipping through my fingers even as I try to grasp at it.

Her audition was scheduled for 4:05. I pulled into the parking lot at 3:55 and raced into school. I peeked through the closed doors of the audition room only to see Mia on stage and out of breath. She was done. But when I stepped into the room, she caught my eye and smiled that cavernous, gap-toothed smile. She was beaming.

“I messed up,” she told me. “I dropped the rope and tripped a few times.”

“Did you have fun?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she said. “But I don’t think I’ll make it.” Then she let go of my hand to catch up with her friend.

As I watched her skip ahead of me, I started to pick up on the lesson my daughter was teaching me. While I worried over her lack of preparation and wondered if her ability to jump rope was stretching the word talent a bit too far; while I fretted over stage fright and possible peer reactions and resulting disappointment, she raced straight into the ring, jumped her heart out, and had fun. I realized that the worries I tried to project onto her in the name of protection were my own fears, not hers.

And so this is where I’m growing, little by little. I’m learning to let her feel the buzz of butterflies and the sting of a fall and the electric charge of stepping outside her comfort zone. I’m learning that those lengthening legs will carry her out my door one day and into a world of her own making, and as much as I would rather pack her in bubble wrap and stick her into my pocket for safe keeping, that’s no life for a girl. No, it’s best to race into the ring, feeling the zip and zing of it all against her skin.


lara anderson

I’m a freelance writer and editor, lover of books and coffee, collector of words, mama to three, and blogger at Joy, Lovely Joy. Soon after we survived that arduous first year with twins I felt a fog lift and could see the outline of a routine begin to take shape. I started blogging then as a creative outlet, not realizing the connections I would make with like-minded mothers and writers who get me thinking and laughing and asking questions. I love this community and would love to connect with you at Joy, Lovely Joy. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. P.S. She made the talent show.


  1. “Mia’s childhood is something buttery slipping through my fingers even as I try to grasp at it.” What a beautiful story. These kids surprise us each day with something they’re suddenly ready for, even if we’re not, eh? I’ve been missing your words, Lara, and it’s lovely to find them here. Love to you both…xoxo
    Dina recently posted..Me…UnscriptedMy Profile

    • Lately, I feel like Mia is deciding she’s ready for things that even 6 months ago she would have shied away from. Each time something comes up I find myself thinking, “Wait, already?? I’m not ready for this.”

      I didn’t realize how much I missed blogging until I wrote this piece. Hoping I can end my little hiatus soon and start posting on a more regular basis.

      Thanks, as always, for reading.
      Lara recently posted..Growing Together (and seven impossible things before breakfast)My Profile

  2. This is beautiful. It’s difficult to prepare ourselves because sometimes it seems they “grow up” overnight. We have no warning and are left with fears they don’t have anymore.

    P.S. Happy to hear she made the talent show. 🙂
    Sarah Brentyn recently posted..I’m an Online BartenderMy Profile

  3. “We’re left with fears they don’t have anymore.” Exactly. Who knew that the talent show, of all things, would bring out my instinct to protect her. In my defense, elementary children can be tough critics and they’re not known for hiding their opinions. 😉 Still, I’m learning that I don’t have to, nor should I, be her shield. I’m learning that it’s okay to step aside once in a while and let her experiences be HER experiences.

    Thanks so much for reading, Sarah!
    Lara recently posted..Growing Together (and seven impossible things before breakfast)My Profile

  4. Oh, the moments when we aren’t ready, that sharp slap of realization. You share sit so beautifully and lived it so gracefully. Thank you for sharing this. More poignant still, for the drama club auction Briar has a week from Tuesday….
    Amanda recently posted..Bench Seats and MarriageMy Profile

  5. I love this, especially that last line. Oh, yes. It never gets easier, at least not for me. xox

  6. Pingback: Growing Together (and seven impossible things before breakfast) | Joy, Lovely Joy

  7. I experience the same moments with my son, my boyfriend gives me the same glances when I’m “coddling” him or “projecting” my anxiety/worries to him. I have learned to back off a bit but I still worry and always will but thankfully, he’ll be OK. Glad your daughter was OK during her performance and that she enjoyed it! Have a great weekend Lara and Tricia! -Iva
    AwesomelyOZ recently posted..A Stroll through the Breakers EstateMy Profile

  8. Lara,

    I held my breath during this piece, feeling the emotions centered around your daughter’s performance. They teach us such valuable lessons, don’t they?

    I adore this line in your piece, “I’m learning that those lengthening legs will carry her out my door one day and into a world of her own making, and as much as I would rather pack her in bubble wrap and stick her into my pocket for safe keeping, that’s no life for a girl.” So much truth and wisdom in those words.

    Thanks for this poignant reminder, Lara.
    Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri recently posted..Sometimes the Unraveling Is UnexpectedMy Profile

    • Thanks so much, Rudri. The talent show was Tuesday, and the night before found her in tears. Nerves had gotten to her. I told her to sleep on it and we would talk in the morning. I, of course, didn’t sleep much. By morning, I was ready to tell her that other people were counting on her and she needed to honor the commitment she made, but she woke up smiling and ready. It’s a roller coaster of emotions and lessons with these little ones. Thank you for reading!
      Lara recently posted..Growing Together (and seven impossible things before breakfast)My Profile

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