If Confidence Were a Balloon

Slumped beneath the weight of her backpack, my daughter slinked from the school bus steps. Her ocean-blue eyes had faded to stormy skies and her skin was muted.

“How was your day?” I asked. I was concerned. Most days she raced off the steps with a grin so wide her eyes were shut. This day, she didn’t even wave.

“Fine,” she said. The word pushed out of her lips unwillingly, like the last puff of air leaving a balloon. She was deflated.

“Are you sure?” I pressed.

“Yep.” I watched her kick an invisible rock across the driveway.

“You know what?” I said as I cupped my hand around her small shoulder. “I think we should get some ice cream.”

“Really?” she stopped and looked up to me, squinting her eyes against the sun. I realized, in that moment, how fragile she still was. “Before dinner?”

“Yep,” I winked. “Let me get my keys.”

Ten minutes later, we were sitting at the table with bowls of pink frozen yogurt in front of us and I asked again, “Is everything alright, Hun? Did you have a bad day?”

My daughter stuffed her spoon deep into her cardboard bowl and swallowed a mouthful of creamy treat. “Sorta,” she shrugged.

I lowered my eyes to meet hers, pushed my bowl aside, and whispered, “wanna tell me about it?”

She looked away and tears started to gush from her eyes. “Mama, they chased me,” she sobbed. “I wanted to collect rocks and they chased me.” Her chest heaved, catching breath in spurts, and every bit of my heart crumbled.

“Who chased you, Hun?” I scooted my chair closer and wrapped my arms around her. I prayed that somewhere in my embrace she’d find strength, and a that my arms would take her sadness so I could store it under my own skin.

“My friends at recess,” she pressed against my heart like she did as a baby and continued to bawl. “I just needed some alone time.”

“Aww Sweetie, I think you were so brave for standing up for yourself. It can be hard to not give into the pressure of our friends,” I encouraged my daughter and inflated her balloon.

“I don’t know,” she said, then looked down at her sparkle-covered sneakers.

“Trust me. Sometimes our friends don’t understand when we need personal space,” I explained. “We have to tell them when we need to be left alone.”

“I did that Mama, but they kept chasing me!” she stuffed a spoonful of frozen yogurt into her mouth and wiped her face with her shirtsleeve. The parent in me wanted to scold her for staining her shirt, but the mother in me couldn’t. Instead, I handed her a sticky napkin to wipe the tears beneath her eyes.

Conversation comes easy for my little girl when she’s with family, but sometimes large groups of people drain her batteries. An only child for the first five years of her life, my daughter recognized at an early age that alone time helps her recharge. It’s especially necessary during the flurry of a long school day, when staying focused is so important.

“I know it can be frustrating. I need my personal space, too.” I took her soft cheek into my hand. “I get grumpy if I don’t have time to just be quiet and write each day.”

“Really?” she asked.

It is my job, as a mother, to ensure my daughter has enough air in her balloon, enough confidence, to succeed.

“Really,” I said. “Just keep reminding them. And if they don’t get it, it will be okay. At least you know what’s best for you.” I half-hugged her shoulder, then took a bit of my melted yogurt. “Mmm! Is this tomato flavor?”

My daughter laughed and straightened the slump in her shoulders. “Mama, you’re so silly. It’s strawberry!”

Photo courtesy of Seabass Creatives/Unsplash

Categories nonfiction, UncategorizedTags , , , , , , , , ,

28 thoughts on “If Confidence Were a Balloon

  1. Hey I am actually going through a phase right now and this blog of yours made me relate with it thanks for the smile you bought to my life

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for allowing your readers a seat at the ice cream table. Your dialogues are so well-written; I feel like I’m right there with you and your daughter having a listen. You know how to capture simple-yet-powerful moments. Looking forward to many more of these.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. You captured a sweet moment between you and your daughter. I’m glad she has a mother who understands her. I’m also glad she’s not bratty like I was. If my mother had told me we were going to get ice cream and she bought me frozen yogurt I would have pitched a fit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Theses days, kids don’t really know the difference. Plus all those toppings?! Gummy bears make everything better, according to my kids.


      1. But they taste completely different. How could kids not notice that?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Do you guys have Sweet Frog in Chicago? It’s our go-to. Nothing like Carvel, but it’s delicious!


      3. Chicago might, but I wouldn’t know because I would never go to a fro-yo place. Never.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Love gelato. Doesn’t taste like yogurt.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. No not at all. It’s all delicious, though. Ice cream, sorbet, gelato, froyo. 🙂


      6. I mean, I believe you. I just…what?

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Seriously, the words are interchangeable in my house.


      8. I think I’ve learned about myself that calling frozen yogurt “ice cream” is against my religion.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Donna-Louise Bishop March 9, 2017 — 9:58 am

    I loved the rhyme in this sentence: “Her ocean-blue eyes had faded to stormy skies, and her skin was muted.” It drew me in instantly.

    Strong dialogue and you told the story well D. Great job 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you DL! That line was one of the last added. Kids wear their pain so obviously on the outside, don’t they?


  5. I love how you draw your story and your daughter out both slowly and carefully. it’s all so fragile.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Nancy. I think the most teachable moments are. Six has been the toughest age for us. I can only imagine the lessons that we’ve yet to learn.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. All I can say is it gets much more complicated, and fro-yo doesn’t work as well 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. You already know I love this piece! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The image of the balloon is perfect for the moral of your story. Recharging/refilling with air… we all need to find our own ways to do that, don’t we.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Ellen. We certainly do.


  8. I love that we can get a little snapshot of an important conversation with your daughter. The dialogue works really well. The only criticism I may have is that it could have done with just a little bit more proofreading, as a few sections had grammar mistakes that pulled me out of the action. Otherwise, your daughter is very lucky to have a mother than understands what she’s going through. ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Very nice depiction of this kind of moment we mothers all have – I can’t stand it when my daughter crumples into tears after a bad day, it breaks my heart, but nothing makes me feel more like a mom than being the one that makes her feel better when she’s sad. Thanks for sharing the tough times with the good times 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I prayed that somewhere in my embrace she’d find strength, and a that my arms would take her sadness so I could store it under my own skin.

    I could feel the close warmth of the arms consoling me. This is written so beautifully.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. “It is my job, as a mother, to ensure my daughter has enough air in her balloon, enough confidence, to succeed.” I love it ! Even though I am not a mother i know that when i am i will instill in them confidence, self worth, self love and strength. This post just shows how awesome of a mother you are and your daughter is lucky to have such an amazing person like you !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! That is the absolute best compliment.


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