the lemonade stand

I’m really bad at giving directions. Not because I’m too vague, but because I’m far too specific. For example, to get to town from our house, it’s easy: Left out our driveway, then your first left, then your first right onto the main road. That’s it.

But when we have guests, I’ll tell them this:

Okay, when you leave our driveway, make a left. Then you’ll pass about six driveways. At the stop sign – it’s a bit hidden, there’s a hedge there – you’ll see that the road either goes straight or to the left. You can’t go right so don’t worry about that, if you went right you’d be on somebody’s front lawn – I don’t know who lives there. Turn left at that stop sign. Then just drive straight until  you come to a T-junction. You won’t even have the choice to go straight at that point – straight would take you through a fence and into a bunch of alpacas. You’ll know you’re at the main road because it has a double yellow line on it. When you get there, stop – there’ll be a stop sign anyway, you have to stop – and then turn to the right and drive straight. Just follow that double yellow line. When you look around and you see the town, you’ll be in town.

It sounds like I’m exaggerating. I wish I was.

So why am I so bad at it? I was thinking about this the other day. I think it’s a function of failing to trust that the other person will be able to make two simple turns in an automobile.

I do the same with babysitters. I try to game out every iteration of what could possibly happen that evening until Liz is literally pulling me out the door and assuring the babysitter that we have complete faith that she will be fine.

So if I’m like that with how I speak to other adults, you can only imagine how I am with my own kids.

This brings us to Lucy’s Lemonade Stand.

Lucy had been asking all week if she could set up a lemonade stand. I kept putting her off. But Saturday was a beautiful day and she really wanted to do it.

“Pleeeease? I’ll even buy the lemonade powder package from you! I’ll do it all myself! I promise!!”

She’s 8, by the way.

I desperately didn’t want her to do it.


Because I imagined her sitting out there, alone, and nobody coming to buy lemonade. And my heart was just breaking over that.

“You can trust me dad, seriously!!”

This is what got me thinking about trust to begin with.

She was right – I didn’t trust her. Not about the lemonade stand, I knew she would be fine doing that. I didn’t trust that she would be okay if nobody showed up and her heart got hurt. In the same dumb way I overprescribe navigational directions for visitors and instructions for our babysitter. I have this weird thing where I’m really afraid people will be uncomfortable. It’s why I never play pranks on people – I hate people feeling uncomfortable.

But not in a normal, healthy way of I-care-about-other-people’s-feelings. No, this is a neurotic, anxiety-laden way of I-must-protect-all-people-and-all-things-because-they-can’t-handle-the-world.

It’s weird. I know.

So I decided to trust Lucy.

I got her a little table and chair. She made a sign. She made the lemonade. I helped her carry it all out.

“You can go inside, dad. I got this.”

“What if people don’t come, honey?”

“It’s okay, if nobody comes or I get bored or something I’m just going to practice my handstands.”

And I said okay and I went inside and I couldn’t help it, I just watched from the kitchen.

Nobody came. She practiced her handstands in the grass.

But then somebody pulled up!! This sweet mom got out. I opened the window and listened from the kitchen. This Godsend of a mother was telling Lucy how great her lemonade stand was and how she would love some lemonade and she gave her a dollar.

And a little later, I wasn’t even watching, and Lucy came running in and told Liz and me that we had to meet our neighbors, they were outside.

Meet our neighbors! We had been there a year and we hadn’t really met many neighbors yet. And more neighbors came and suddenly we met like a half dozen families. All because Lucy started a lemonade stand.

My anxiety wasn’t limited to Lucy. On Friday, Liz and I were taking Finn to the Introduction to Middle School event after school, when the 4th graders all go to the middle school and a volunteer 5th grader (middle school is 5th-8th grade in New Canaan) would give our family a tour and answer any questions.

Super sweet, right?

We were about to go inside when Finn realized that pretty much all his fellow 4th graders boys were in t-shirts. He was in a button down shirt. He stopped in his tracks.

“Dad. I really don’t want to go in wearing fancy clothes. I feel really embarrassed.”

(That’s Finn. He’s sort of incredibly mature and very good at saying what he actually feels. Me, I would have just thrown a tantrum. Finn just tells us he feels embarrassment.)

Liz and I tried for a couple of minutes to tell him he looked great and that it wasn’t a big deal and that we didn’t have time to change because we would be late and it was about to start.

And because he’s Finn, we could see him steeling himself and nodding. But we could just see the apprehension on his face.

Liz and I looked at each other.

“Okay, I’m going to save us seats,” Liz said. “Daddy’s going to take you to change into a t-shirt.”

So we sprinted back to the car and drove quickly and got a t-shirt and we were late coming back. But Finn was overwhelmed with relief.

It sounds dumb but it felt like one of the greatest parenting decisions we ever made.  Because it would have been so easy to lay down the law, to tell Finn he would be fine. To tell him we were already late and his shirt wasn’t a big deal.

But instead in that moment we chose to trust our son.  We trusted that he knew that wearing a button down instead of a t-shirt in that moment would be scarring for him. And maybe it sounds like a small thing but it sure wasn’t to him.

I do better when I trust people.

I do better when I trust that my kids are actually feeling something and not just being difficult.

I do better when I trust that my wife’s ideas are better than my ideas, or when I trust that her feelings and emotions are real and not just an inconvenience to me.

I do better when I trust my colleagues at work. And when I trust people to find their way to town from our house. And when I trust our babysitter.

So I’m going to work on that. Because I don’t want to be controlling or fearful or anxious. I feel like everyone else has probably got this and they don’t really need me as much as I think they do.

Also, Lucy made $26 on her lemonade stand (!!) and now she wants to open a business or something so y’all better watch out.

By | 2019-06-05T07:35:50-04:00 June 5th, 2019|27 Comments


  1. Mark June 5, 2019 at 8:02 am - Reply

    Really important insights, brother. You aren’t alone in wanting to make sure everything’s going to be alright for those you care about, and it can be a fine line between caring for others (loving others well) and controlling them. That’s why I have trouble, at times, with the adage “God is in control” and “He has a plan”. I get it, I get it; these sayings are comforts to those in pain. But the truth is that love does not control, it liberates.

    Btw, I love that it was pink lemonade, which is the best!

    • Conor June 5, 2019 at 9:12 am - Reply

      I know, the God is in control thing is really hard. I feel like I need to handle all the day to day little things. Like He needs a micromanager?
      Pink Lemonade Rulezzz!

    • Sara June 5, 2019 at 10:29 am - Reply

      This is one of my favorite posts! As a parent educator who teaches the Circle of Security, I wonder if you’ve taken a course or done a lot of therapy because this is so brilliant and insightful. Recognizing are quieting our anxiety is key to healthy relationships. And you say all that in a much funnier and relatable way. Thank you!

      • Conor June 5, 2019 at 11:58 am - Reply

        That’s so awesome, thank you! And it’s all the bumps and bruises of life. But I’m checking out Circle of Security. Thanks Sara!

  2. Melinda Smith Vasseur June 5, 2019 at 8:24 am - Reply

    I love that Lucy’s backup plan was to practice her handstand. It’s truly a smart girl who knows how to handle a bit of down time AND comfort her dad all with one, fabulous activity.

    • Conor June 5, 2019 at 9:12 am - Reply

      She was just so calm about it all! A great lesson indeed!

  3. Liz June 5, 2019 at 8:42 am - Reply

    She actually made $30. 🙂 And we got a list of possible babysitters! (Thank you generous neighbors.) And I love this post so much.

    • Conor June 5, 2019 at 9:13 am - Reply

      We heart our neighbors!!

  4. Elsa Brule June 5, 2019 at 8:43 am - Reply

    So SO good!

    • Conor June 5, 2019 at 9:13 am - Reply

      Come back to visit!! We have lemonade now!!

  5. Linda Grimes June 5, 2019 at 11:31 am - Reply

    Great post! You had me crying in my bowl of oatmeal. Realizing that other people’s feelings are real and not something that exists to disturb or inconvenience us… that’s huge. Today, I’m going to pay attention to and honor other people’s feelings. Thank you for writing this post. And, you may want to keep a t-shirt for Finn in the trunk of your car!

    • Conor June 5, 2019 at 11:56 am - Reply

      Thank you! And not just a tshirt, but shorts and sneakers and an entire wardrobe.

  6. Sharon Henderson June 5, 2019 at 1:31 pm - Reply

    This is the best…look how Lucy gathered and met your neighbors without that intention. So cool. She sounds like an awesome girl. Being a yoga teacher, I love that she practiced her handstands when there was a lull in sales 😉 You’re doing a great job Dad!

    • Conor June 5, 2019 at 2:00 pm - Reply

      Thanks! And her hand stands are really getting good! It hurts my back just to look at them.

  7. Rebecca June 5, 2019 at 3:44 pm - Reply

    Love this so much, Conor! It reminds me of a time that Justin wanted to make a stand selling not lemonade, but paper airplanes that he had made out of construction paper.:) And this was in Hong Kong, where there isn’t even a kid tradition of lemonade stands… seeing him stand out there, flying his paper airplanes for people walking by, hoping they would be amazed and buy one, was funny but also heart-wrenching. But he actually sold quite a few! Kids are the ultimate dreamers and can be so inspirational.
    And I love how you listened to Finn’s heart – what a lesson that taught him.

    • Conor June 6, 2019 at 7:50 am - Reply

      I know, I wonder why it’s so hard? Because they’re having fun! But it’s heart-wrenching!

  8. KATHLEEN APPEL June 5, 2019 at 5:00 pm - Reply

    I love this.

    • Conor June 6, 2019 at 7:50 am - Reply

      Thanks Kathleen!

  9. susan June 5, 2019 at 10:17 pm - Reply

    I love that Lucy is a “Plan B kinda girl” and that Finn had the courage to admit openly he needed that T-shirt.

    • Conor June 6, 2019 at 7:50 am - Reply

      I know! They’re very much themselves! 🙂

  10. Gayla June 6, 2019 at 8:04 pm - Reply

    Don’t beat yourself up, Conor. You’re doing a great job at this parenting job. I can’t help but think that your experiences in Nepal have served you so very well for your venture as a father.

    • Conor June 8, 2019 at 10:40 am - Reply

      I think they have!

  11. Alex Theodorou June 8, 2019 at 1:15 am - Reply

    I really enjoy your stories and insight. Keep up the great work 🙂

    • Conor June 8, 2019 at 10:40 am - Reply

      Thanks Alex!

  12. lesli June 9, 2019 at 1:47 pm - Reply

    Great post! I think sometimes our kids’ emotions are bulldozed over by our task oriented focus. Thanks for the reminder!
    This also makes me curious about your enneagram number.

    • Conor June 9, 2019 at 2:29 pm - Reply

      I’m a 9! I’m always told I’m a typical 9.

  13. Marcy Prager July 17, 2019 at 10:04 am - Reply

    Our children are the best teachers! We parents have to remember to listen to them. As children grow, parents have less “control” and they will make mistakes. Do I have stories!!!!! Yet, as adults, my children are awesome, wholesome, interesting, caring…

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