It’s OK If You Cry (and Other Things You Don’t Learn in School)

It was a Saturday morning. Stanton was driving, and the girls were in the backseat. We were on our way back to the town soccer fields.

Grace had already played her game, at 9 a.m. The four of us had been there together and were now heading out again for Anna’s 12 noon match, after a quick lunch (and more coffee) at our house. This would be Anna’s very first soccer game.

From the passenger seat, I overheard Grace (a veteran, you might say, at this point) giving her little sister some pro tips. There were orange slices at half time, Popsicles at the end. Nobody really gets excited about the orange slices.

Sometimes the grass is wet, from dew or rain, Grace noted. Kids can fall. “If you fall, just get back up,” Grace said.

I smiled and turned around, just in time to see Anna nodding along, taking everything in. She trusted Grace, completely.

Then Grace paused, considered. “If you fall, you might get hurt. It’s OK if you cry.”

In that moment, friends, I wanted to cry. “Grace,” I said. “That’s beautiful advice.”

My older daughter smiled.

“What else, Grace?” Anna wondered.

Nobody really gets excited about the orange slices.

Kids are back to school now, and every school day abounds with thoughtful curriculum and instruction. I love listening to Grace explain fact families to me, and looking at Anna’s preschool artwork. I’m deeply grateful for the girls’ wonderful schools and teachers.

Also, overhearing Grace’s soccer tips to Anna reminded me that sometimes we learn meaningful lessons outside classroom doors too. Athletic fields, playgrounds, performing arts stages—even sitting cross-legged on kitchen countertops, keeping our parents company while they prepare yet another after-school snack—all these places offer up additional spaces for learning.

“It’s OK if you cry” is a good first lesson for sure. There are times when life hurts; acknowledge that, let it out. Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed; ask for help when you need it. Cry, and then try to move forward.

Here are some other lessons that I try to teach my children on a regular basis, and live out every day. And tell me, friends—what else should be on this list?


2. Spend time outside every day. Even if it’s just a few minutes to walk around the block, or sit on the front steps to open the mail. Give yourself a break from your desk, your screens, the unending stacks of dishes and piles of laundry indoors.

Feel the sun on your skin, breathe in the scent of pine needles, watch a monarch butterfly glide. This is life. Don’t underestimate the power of fresh air.

3. Let the people you love know that you do. If your sister’s standing next to you, hug her. If, someday, she lives in another city, call her, get together; stay close.

Mail your oldest friends cards on their birthdays, and when they welcome a child into their family. Invite new friends over for dinner. Send your 91-year-old grandma, who took care of you when you were a baby, flowers every now and then, just because.

Don’t take your people or their love for granted.

4. Don’t keep score. Not in personal relationships, anyway. I called you, now it’s your turn to call me. I made dinner tonight, you’ve got tomorrow.

Tallying up life’s minutiae is painfully time-consuming, if not practically impossible. We each have our own strengths (and weaknesses). Aim for fairness. And if the circumstances start to feel unfair, bring that up; talk it through.

5. “No” is a complete sentence. Recently, a friend shared this perspective with me, from an article she had read, and I love it.

As we journey through life, peers may invite us into situations we may not feel good about. Later, people may offer us jobs that conflict with our values, or volunteer opportunities that conflict with our time. This has happened to me, and for years, I’ve tried to finesse my negative RSVP’s with diplomatic explanations and apologies. I realize now that a simple “no,” expressed kindly yet firmly, is enough.

Feel the sun on your skin, breathe in the scent of pine needles, watch a monarch butterfly glide. This is life.

6. Home is and isn’t about the “stuff.” Anna calls our family room “the cozy room.” When I first heard her say that, I asked her why she liked to say cozy room. “Because this is where you snuggle me on the couch and read to me,” she replied.

That answer resonated with me. We’re lucky to live in the house we have, in the neighborhood it’s in. Those material things are important, yes. But what happens in that house—the time spent together, the warmth and safety and acceptance of the space—is equally important.

7. Sometimes, you need to let go. Of material stuff, for sure. The other day, I (finally) acknowledged I was never, ever going to fit back into a classic top I had worn for years. So I passed it along to our local clothing drop box, and hopefully somebody else will enjoy it as much as I did.

More difficult, however, can be letting go of the immaterial stuff. Memories of times that could have been better, people who could have treated us kinder. There’s no joy in being a grievance collector, though.

I was taking a walk, and all of a sudden, a memory came to mind. I shook my head, remembering this past irritation. Then I thought, just as quickly, it really is time to let that go. I breathed in deeply (the scent of pine needles, where I was now, content)…and did. It felt so good, friends—letting go.

8. Don’t underestimate the value of a good cup of coffee or a good night’s sleep. Mornings can be rough, and nightfall too. We can be frazzled at the start of day, sad or sentimental at the end. Just hang on ’til morning, and start the new day with a good brew.

9. There are a million other little things, tidbits I’ve picked up here and there, wisdom that’s become mine through “learning experiences” (less kindly known as “mistakes”).

I also want to tell my girls…go to the dentist regularly. Be careful with credit cards. Don’t vape; eat your vegetables. Watch “The Wire” and “Parks and Rec.”

Your first job probably won’t be your dream job. Still, do a good job. You’re investing in your growth, your future.

Things usually come full circle, and make sense in the end. Look for silver linings until they do.

Dine alfresco as much as possible. Roast marshmallows and make s’mores year-round.

Dark chocolate is more delicious than milk.

Travel—make sure you see London, Paris, San Francisco, Australia.

Be a regular somewhere. Overtip. Be generous when you can.

Two things you can never say too much: “Thank you,” and “I love you.”

There are a million other little things, but not enough time or space to share them here. And that is the main lesson I’d like to impart to my daughters:

10. Life goes fast; time is precious. Make the most of everything. Walk out the front door. Do stuff; have experiences. Get kinder and more patient with age.

You can always come home.

(Thank you, Grace, for inspiring me.)

Photo credit: Pixabay


Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short story, “Backtrack.” An engaging read that’s can’t-put-it-down good.

I Actually Think We’re Going to Make It

Some days are super busy. Others are legitimately crazy.

And then there’s Monday.

This school year, Grace has her piano lesson on Monday afternoon, after school. Coincidentally, Anna’s soccer practice for the fall season starts 30 minutes after her older sister’s piano lesson ends, on Monday evening. This doubleheader of after-school activities is for eight weeks only, so…manageable, I thought.

Monday No. 1 of this eight-week schedule rolled around. I cooked a semi-homemade dinner of macaroni and cheese. Spooned equal portions into two food storage containers. Packed the girls’ to-go dinners into my brand-new, extra-large, heavy-duty cotton-canvas tote bag (“You can really hurt people with that thing,” Stanton recently observed, after my bag inadvertently knocked off-balance a little boy at Grace’s back-to-school open house). I stuffed some chocolate-chip granola bars in there too, for good measure, along with Grace’s piano books and Anna’s soccer gear.

I thought about pouring the rest of my freshly brewed coffee into a travel mug, but coffee’s a diuretic, and there would only be porta potties once we got to the soccer field. Not my favorite, friends. Not my favorite.

“Mom, they’re Big Tops,” Grace tried to assure me. “Those are, like, the nicest ones. They have real soap.”

As high-end as that sounded…still, no thank you.

…then there’s Monday.

The girls loaded into the car. I hoisted my bag into the trunk, along with folding chairs for the soccer field. Mounds of sand from our weeks-ago beach trip covered the floor of the cargo space, and someone’s pair of socks (probably worn and in need of laundering) were stuffed into a corner. Yuck.

“Girls, I think our car is a biohazard.”

Grace craned her neck around. “What’s a biohazard?”

Anna craned her neck too. “Did you remember my shin guards, Mom?”

Whatever. “Yes, I have the shin guards. Let’s roll.”

We arrived at Grace’s piano lesson a few minutes early. Early. That is such a rare and pleasant state of being in my life.

Another pleasant surprise was that the waiting room in the music studio had a new box of toys, perfect for any younger siblings who happened to have been dragged along. Anna dashed over. Immediately, she pulled out a neon-green tablet.

“Let’s learn the alphabet!” the tablet announced. “A! B! C…”

Wow, that little electronic was loud. And there were other people in the waiting room. I leaned over. “Anna,” I said. “Turn the volume down.”

“I love this, Mom!” D! E! F!

“Yay, I’m so glad. Please turn the volume down.”

At that moment, Grace’s piano teacher ducked his head into the waiting room. He apologized that his other lesson was running behind, so Grace’s would start 10 minutes late. “I’m so sorry,” he said. No worries, I told him.

But I gazed at the clock on the wall, to the right of the black-framed pictures of Beethoven, Mozart and other music legends. Now, leaving 10 minutes later, we would have 20 minutes to get to the soccer field, right in the middle of rush-hour traffic…but… G! H! I! “This should still be manageable,” I said aloud.

A nearby mom started chuckling.

I glanced over at her.

She made eye contact, and chuckled some more.

I smiled slightly. “Um…are you laughing at me?” I had to know.

This lady very kindly replied that she had been in my shoes, many times, with needing to get multiple kids to various places. And it could be tricky, even with loads of preparation and a positive attitude to boot.


The other mom and I pleasantly passed the time commiserating while Grace went in for her piano lesson, and Anna continued learning the alphabet (on a lower volume). Nothing brings forth good conversation like a little commiseration.

Ten minutes later than planned, then, the girls and I headed over to the soccer field. Amazingly, we had green lights almost the whole way.

“You know,” I said, as we cruised through the intersection at Wemple Road and 9W, “I actually think we’re going to make it.”

Indeed, Anna arrived at soccer practice right on time. Not a minute to spare, but still, right on time.

“Making it” when you think you wouldn’t is a good feeling, across the board. From little things like kids’ soccer practices to higher-stakes circumstances like health diagnoses and job opportunities. Sometimes, making it is such a pleasant surprise that the experience—however low-stakes or fleeting it may be—restores our faith in life.

Nothing brings forth good conversation like a little commiseration.

I’m in a book club that I love. I’m so thankful a friend introduced me to the group, which led to new friendships and, of course, good reads.

As it happened, I offered to host our monthly book club meeting on Monday night. Yes, after Anna’s soccer practice. Stanton was out of town, the girls’ favorite babysitter had other commitments…so if I couldn’t go out and meet up with the book club, I’d bring the book club to me.


“I can’t wait to see Sandy,” Grace said, when we got back home. She and Anna adored the fun-loving lady in my book club. “I emailed her, but I don’t know if she got it.”

I let my enormous tote bag drop. “You don’t have an email address, Grace…do you?”

Grace laughed. “I email people on my tablet, Mom.”

Grace’s tablet had an Internet connection? What the heck. I unlocked the back door.

Funnily enough, Anna’s preschool also was hosting a parents night that day. I couldn’t be in two places at once, but…yeah, I probably could have tried harder to make parents night happen. Like any Millennial mom, I felt guilty about that.

Thus, when I saw Anna’s super-sweet preschool teacher the next morning, I attempted to compensate by volunteering to make homemade play dough for the following week. The recipe is magnet-ed to my fridge now. Luckily, I had almost all the ingredients on hand (one notable exception: cream of tartar). I’ve never made play dough, and I’m not an arts-and-crafts-y type of person, but I’m optimistic (as always) this will be a fun weekend activity for my preschooler and me.

Like any Millennial mom, I felt guilty about that.

The girls and I FaceTimed with Stanton before he got back home on Tuesday evening. They caught him up on all our adventures from the past 24 hours: school, piano, soccer, book club, play dough, the weird smell in the backyard.

“By the way, Dad,” Anna said, holding the phone up close, “where are you?”

I laughed. In fact, I belly-laughed, friends. Because there are times when I have to pause and ask myself that question too.

I really don’t like to overschedule our family calendar. Every now and then, though, everything happens all at once.

And every now and then, with a little dumb luck and mostly green lights the whole way, we actually make it. ❤

Photo credit: Pixabay


Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short story, “Backtrack.” An engaging read that’s can’t-put-it-down good.