“I can do it!” (Fostering independence, Self-confidence, Risk)


Have been steadily improving things on the home front. Today, I wanted to get some flowers as a finishing touch for the great room. Given that I am dealing with a poison ivy rash from pruning around my tennis court, I wasn’t keen on walking through the store. It’s uncomfortable to have one pant leg fully down. It occurred to me that it might be a good opportunity for a little growth challenge-

Me – “Bellina, I’d like to stop by Trader Joe’s and get some flowers. Can you go in and get them?”

Her – “With you?”

Me – “No, on your own.”

She squirmed.

Her – “No.”

Me – “Why not? What’s the big deal?”

She was visibly uncomfortable as she imagined it.

Her – “It’s just that I’m not really confident about that yet.”

Me – “Thank you for being so honest with me. Look, it’s okay. You can do it.”

Her – “Daddy…”

Me – “When I was your age, I was living in Switzerland taking trams from school to home.”

Her – “Yeah, that was Switzerland!”

Me – “Exactly. I didn’t know the language. I went to kiosks all the time and got candy on my own. And, guess what, if I hadn’t done it, I wouldn’t have gotten that candy.”

She went quiet for a while

Her – “Daddy, if we go to Trader Joe’s can I get some jelly beans?”

Me – “Are you going to go in and do the shopping?”

Her – “Yeah. I’m a little nervous, though.”

We stopped at my parents house and discussed dinner plans. It occurred to me that if she was going to get flowers and jelly beans I might be able to nudge her even further to shop for dinner. We needed three items in addition to the flowers. My Mom thought it was a bit much to ask from an eight year-old.

Nonna – “I’m with you, Isabella. Papa and I can get the things when we go.”

Admittedly, it seemed like a stretch, but I went for it, kept nudging.

The short of it was that she was not at all up for that idea. I figured her concern was handling the money.

Me – “I’ll give you more money than necessary, so they’ll just give you change. If you can’t find something, ask for help. Not getting those jelly beans if they do the shopping.”

That proved to be my leverage. She made a list of the items and an hour later we were at the store. In she went amongst a sea of adult shoppers. This meant her navigating the busy parking lot on her own, too. I watched as she disappeared into the store, a place both of us could walk through blindfold, probably.

For the next fifteen minutes, I tooled around on my phone and listened to politics.

Finally, I turned to see her walking up, pushing a cart! She had rolled a cart through the store. I chuckled.

Her – “I did it!”

She was beaming. I got out and hugged her.

Me – “I knew you could. I’m proud of you.”

She unloaded the items in the cart.


On the way home, I asked for the play by play. Were you nervous? A little but then she told herself to stand tall and go for it. Did you ask an employee for help? Once.

We arrived home, and she was soon bounding on her mini-trampoline. I walked up and used the opportunity to affirm her

Me – “You’re powerful!”
Her – “I’m powerful!”
Me – “You’re capable!”
Her – “I’m capable!”
Me – “You’re resourceful!”
Her – “I’m resourceful!”
Me – “You’re intelligent!”
Her – “I’m intelligent!”

And much louder…

Her – “I CAN DO IT!”

It’s true I nudged and nudged, but she usually ends up accepting these little challenges. This one was quite a tall order for an eight year old, at least for what is normal for her. It expanded her sense of capability and strength in the world.

Me – “You have a house (her room is in the shape of a house). You are an entrepreneur saving money.”

Her – “I can shop on my own. Now all I need is a car, and I’ll be all set!”

I laughed.

Not so fast. You’re still Daddy’s little girl for a good while longer, even if I do nudge you to grow into a more independent person who can prosper without me.

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