Passenger Side

July 7, 2015

“Hey, I think we should sit her down tonight and go through things,” I say, handing my husband a glass of wine. “We should give her a good idea of what to expect, walk her through that first day of computer camp tomorrow.”  I rummage around in the refrigerator for salad ingredients.  “Otherwise,” I turn to look at him and silently mouth, “FREAKOUT.”

“You think?” he says. “She’s the one who wanted to do it. She seemed excited about it when I asked her.”

I laugh a little and shake my head. “Uh, yeah, I do think. If we don’t prepare her, she will be a basket case in the morning.” I return to rummaging. “Dammit, where’d I put that avocado?”

“I think she’ll be okay.” he says. “It’s just a day camp–it’s not like D.’s sleepaway camp this summer.”

“Yeah, it is a day camp but look at all the new stuff she’s going to be facing tomorrow.” I begin ticking off items on my fingers. “It’s a computer coding camp, and she’s never done any kind of coding before. It’s in Boulder; she won’t know any of the other kids. It’s on the CU campus, which a) is a college campus and b) is huge and c) will be teeming with college kids because it’s a freshman orientation week–and she’s a nine-year old. That will feel weird to her.” I return to the vegetable bin. “I mean, it would feel weird to me. Plus, it’s from 9 until 5 every day. Those are long days.”

He nods and gives a slight shrug of his shoulders. “Okay. We’ll talk to her. You’re probably right.”

Probably right, my fat fanny.

I am right and I know I’m right because this is Miss M. we are talking about, and that child is so much like her mother that it makes my soul bleed. Sure, there are differences–we are separate human beings, after all–but when it comes to emotional wiring, she is my child. We share the same inner landscape, and I hate to say it, but I am dismayed by that. It’s a difficult landscape to bear.

When her older sister, Miss D., hit the toddler stage and began developing a personality and showing her colors, I was so relieved, because D. wasn’t anything like me. My firstborn was feisty, fiery, tenacious, confident and brave to the point of recklessness.

Thank God, I thought. She’s going to have life so much easier.

Don’t get me wrong–she was  a total pain in the ass as a toddler–but it was worth it, because she had a tiger spirit that I knew would serve her well later.

When Miss M. came along, I was hopeful that she’d share that spirit, that she’d rip through life with big, enthusiastic, reckless tiger paws.

I didn’t get my wish on that one. Miss M.’s spirit is…well…more like a butterfly. Or a hummingbird, which is her nickname for good reason. She’s quiet, she’s cautious, she’s nervous, she’s flighty, she’s uncertain. She sticks her toe in the water and thinks long and hard if it’s worth jumping into. The world seems loud and fast and far too big most of the time. She feels all of the feels, and feels them deeply.

She’s me.

And I’m sorry.

Because that sucks.

The world is kinder to tigers than it is to hummingbirds. It just is.

When I wring hands and wail to my husband about this, which I do often because I overthink everything (another stellar personality trait), he tries to talk me down.

“She got a lot of good qualities from you, too,” he says. “She’s kind. She’s gentle. She’s a thinker. She’s a dreamer.”

“She’s toast,” I snarl. “Fuck.”


Later that night, we call M. into the living room. We sit her down and explain, as best we can, what to expect from her first day of computer camp. As is her tendency, she listens quietly and attentively and says she understands.

And then comes the barrage of questions.

Q: Will there be kids my age there?

A: Yes. Kids at camp will be from 7-10 years old. But there will be college kids there, too, walking around, doing college things.

Q: Will I be the only girl?

A: We don’t know for sure. Probably not, though.

Q: How long will I be there?

A: It’s from 9am to 5pm, just this week.

Q: How many hours is that?

A: That’s eight hours. It sounds like a lot of time but you’ll be having so much fun that it will go quickly.

Q: How many hours is regular school?

A: Regular school is about six hours, so this is a little longer.

Q: How is lunch going to work?

A: We don’t know exactly but it’s paid for already and they’ll take you into the Student Union and you can pick out what you want to eat.

Q: What if I don’t like any of the food?

A: We’ll send you a sack lunch, too. Just in case. Snacks, too.

Q: What if the teacher is mean?

A: Well, we doubt that’s going to be the case because this is a fun camp, and it’s been going on for a while, so I’m pretty sure they don’t hire mean people. Let’s revisit that one after tomorrow, okay?

Q: What if I get lost?

A: You won’t get lost because Mom will walk you in and she went to college there, so she knows where to go. (haha! Got a little lost. It’s been well over 20 years since I walked around that campus. S’okay.)

Q: What if…

Q: What if…

Q: What if…


And so on, for quite some time, until all of the rumblings in her head are quieted and we send her off to bed, and I know it will be a while before she will surrender to sleep.

In the morning, she will wake and stumble downstairs and then remember that it’s the first day of camp. She will pick at her breakfast and tell me that she is very, very nervous.

I will open my mouth to say, “Don’t be nervous, baby. You’re going to have a great time,” but I will catch myself before I say it, because that is the wrong thing to say to this child.

I know that this is the wrong thing to say, because when I was a child, people always told me “don’t worry” or “don’t be nervous” and it never helped. Not one little lick. In fact, it made me feel like I was wrong inside, that something was broken about me. Because I did worry and I was nervous and how can you un-feel feelings? Feelings can’t be undone.

I will catch those words before they are out of my mouth and instead I will say, “I know. I know you feel nervous and you know what? It’s okay to feel nervous. New situations make us feel nervous and I bet a lot of the other kids are feeling nervous this morning, too. That’s normal.”

That’s what I will say.

Because I know.

Then I’ll walk her in, and stop to point out the Flatirons–the red mountains that make Boulder such a majestic place, and I will keep my hand on her back. I will wonder for a minute how much longer I’ll be allowed to keep it there. I’ll walk her in and let her go, but I hope that she knows she is never alone. Even when she’s gone, I’m on the passenger side.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Erica July 8, 2015 at 6:03 am

Gavin is so much like me and it frustrates me to no end. I see my faults and always want to fix them. My husband points out Gavin’s great qualities and attributes them to me also. I just need to look at my son as a whole person because he truly is an amazing person.


Wendi @ Bon Appetit Hon July 8, 2015 at 6:05 am

You’re making me all teary and it’s only 9:05. Damn you lady ; )


Tiffany July 8, 2015 at 8:16 am

You are such a loving Mom.


Pamela July 8, 2015 at 10:09 am

this is the same scenario I have with my oldest. God you just nailed it. My stomach knotted up reading it because I have been there so many times.

I am always thinking: You’re just like me. I’m sorry.

I loved your response to her when she was nervous. I’m going to use it. Keep us posted!!


elizabeth July 8, 2015 at 11:10 am

I think you nail it at the end–discounting a child’s feelings isn’t going to make them go away, and instead by acknowledging them and reassuring them that they probably aren’t alone in feeling that way makes them…less difficult to handle, I think. It’s easier to feel less like an Other.


Leigh Ann July 8, 2015 at 12:55 pm

I needed to read this today. My girls (7, 7, and 5) are in day camp this week for the first time ever. Sure, the older 2 have been to school before, but this is still new. Our first day was full of confusion because we had a doctor appointment in the morning, so we arrived late to camp and didn’t get the benefit of “here’s how your day starts.” Knowing my older girls, it has rocked their whole week, and not necessarily in a good way.


Dana Talusani July 9, 2015 at 8:07 am

Leigh Ann,

I know what you mean! Even though I got directions and thought I was fully prepared, we got lost getting there the first day. Miss M. was panicked. :(


Biz July 8, 2015 at 2:04 pm

Ah, loved this post Dana! “she feels all the feels” – I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all :D


alexandra July 8, 2015 at 8:03 pm

That last line?




Ashley Renee July 9, 2015 at 7:33 am

This was so cute and touching! I wish more people had said to me “it’s okay to be nervous” as a kid.


Jennifer July 9, 2015 at 8:27 am

But the thing about her being like you is that you know perfectly how to guide her through all of these things. That is an amazing thing. To have someone that understands you. Whether you are a tiger or a hummingbird.


Dana Talusani July 10, 2015 at 9:18 am

Jennifer, when I get down on myself, this is one of the things that gives me solace. At least I know where she’s coming from, right?


Sherri July 9, 2015 at 8:31 am

We’ve “talked” about this before, but my 10 year old son, E, is like this. Everyone says the younger one who is in gymnastics and dresses like a surfer dude is more like me, but I know that E is my worrier, my insecure one, my sweet boy who wants to dream and think and then come back to the real world where… he wonders why he doesn’t make friends as easily as others or he is baffled by the crowd at his recent tech and engineering camp or worries that he won’t get a cheeseburger he likes at lunch – just like I used to be – staring at the others and wondering why they don’t worry that they lost their pencils or how they could feel so close to these new people so quickly, etc. I’ve told you before that she’ll be fine, right? I hope she has a good time.

We just visited the flatirons, hiked around, etc. You live in such a nice area :).


Dana Talusani July 10, 2015 at 9:19 am

Sherri, it is beautiful, isn’t it? Wish I’d known you were in town! Thanks for the kind words.


Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri July 9, 2015 at 2:13 pm

My only is the same way. She’s reflective and introspective and thinks way too much, but it adds to her vulnerability. Loved this post, Kitch. xo


Cancel reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: