where wildly different is perfectly normal
Get in the parade
Get in the parade

Get in the parade

get in the paradeWhen I was in middle school, about A’s age, my band director shared a piece of advice that has stayed with me ever since.

“Get in the parade. Don’t let life pass you by.”

It really is a brilliant little tidbit. By keeping it in mind I’ve pushed myself out of my comfort zone more often than I would have otherwise. It’s how, while in high school, I found myself in the lip-synching finals as the lead “singer” doing Leader of the Pack with some friends. True story. Somewhere there is a video of that, and I have yet to see it twenty-five years later. It’s why I pushed myself into blogging eight years ago, and why I said yes to a book contract and then a second book contract. And it’s why I said a huge YES instead of crawling under my desk last fall when the Huffington Post asked if they could repost something I’d written for a GHF blog hop (however my own Impostor Syndrome has made it impossible for me to write another one for HuffPo, despite the fact that I could and should and eventually will, once I throw the Impostor Syndrome into a sack and “take it to a farm to live out its life.”).

My willingness to get into the parade has also backfired on me.  It’s why I’m overwhelmed every single day, it’s why I can’t allow myself to just sit and read a book, it’s why mindfulness and being present are nearly impossible. I’m in too many parades, I’m leading too many parades, and some of them had better end soon or I’m just going to plop down in the middle of the road and call it done. Cross your fingers I’m ahead of the horses, and not behind.

So while I have a string of parades in my past and several going on right now….A seems to think that getting into a parade would cause irreparable harm; damage to life and limb, so to say. He doesn’t so much have a comfort zone as a comfort planetary system. He marches to the beat of his own drummer, and has for years, so it really shouldn’t be much of a surprise that he’s not all that interested in getting into a parade. There are none that can handle his rhythm and tempo. And if we insist on him getting into a parade, any parade, we end up having to drag him along kicking and screaming.

I think he and I could learn from each other. I don’t need to get into every parade that interests me, and he could surely stretch himself to join one every so often, just because sometimes it’s good to be part of something larger than yourself. I suspect a lot of our current problems would ease if he got involved in something (preferably out of the house, away from me, and around other kids like him) and I pulled out of some of my commitments.

This summer? I’m turning in my shako and handing over my baton; there are a few parades I just can no longer do. I’m going to sit and be mindful instead, and take my sons to the parades that interest them. It’s just time.

I’m not letting life pass me by, I’m just gonna sit awhile and enjoy the sights for a change.


Yes, that really is me in that photo above, with the ginormous white sunglasses trying to eat my face. And yes, I was a drum major (or, in our band program, student conductor). That picture was taken in 1988, the summer after my freshman year in high school. Our band wasn’t going to march in the town’s 4th of July parade, so a friend and I (with the director’s blessing) organized it ourselves. We got the musicians (including incoming freshmen), we ran the rehearsals, we got the application in, we designed and ordered T-shirts as uniforms (and may I add that this was in the dark days before emails and texts; we did it all by phone, as we were badasses).

I was 14.


  1. Hello Jen, I’ve recently joined the Homeschooling a 2e kid parade. I am completely overwhelmed! I read your book (or rather I sobbed and laughed my way through your book) while sitting on the El during a very rare hour I had to myself. I don’t know anyone else who has a child who would rather stay at home (ALL DAY EVERY DAY). I sometimes feel that I am helped hostage by my child, but then all of a sudden he gets a wild hair and wants to go dance in puddles, or swing, and we have a glorious time of chatter, stories and wild adventures (always close to home) with his sister. I’m just glad you are there writing what you write, and making me feel like I am not alone (in my isolation). I am going to search your blog for information about inspiring learning as there is SO much refusal around being taught in any shape or form. I feel like my head is going to explode sometimes. How fantastic that you are going to watch some parades this summer and not lead them all! Good for you.

    1. Jen

      You’re not alone in the sobbing/laughing while reading. 😉 I’ve heard that a lot and it always hits home. There was a lot of sobbing/laughing while writing it.

      My son is willing to go out as long as it involves tech/hacking/making/science/computers. Those tend to be solitary pursuits, so finding groups is a real PITA.

      You’re not alone, not by a long shot. 🙂 There’s a lot of us here, all trudging along as best we can, meeting up online.

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