Finding Ninee » Sharing our parenting and special needs stories with heart and humor.

Our Land: Born Leader

Today’s Our Land post has been brought to you by my amazingly touching and funny Listen to Your Mother DC co-reader, Lisa Cadigan. Lisa blogs at My Daily Presents, and runs Cadigan Creative, a site whose mission is to foster community, art, inclusion, and making a difference in this world through art. Sound a bit like Our Land? To me, too! Which is perhaps one of the many reasons why we bonded so much during the Listen to Your Mother auditions and parties. Lisa rocks. Seriously. And today, I’m honored to share her Our Land Series contribution.

Our Land: Born Leader

As I watched my son stand confidently, clipboard in hand, commanding the attention of 25 first graders on a chilly Field Day, I flashed back to his pre-school days. I remembered waiting with trepidation in the parent pick-up line, wondering if his name had stayed on the green traffic light, or whether it had been a “yellow day,” or – God forbid – a dreaded “red day.” On the days when sitting still during circle time and playing nicely with others had not been on his agenda, his lovely teacher, Miss Camille, would say things like, “Oh, Mrs. Cadigan, he’s going to be a great leader someday,” and I would reply, “If that’s true, he may just be president.”

My boy has always danced to the beat of his own drummer.


He would often stand in the back of the pre-school room, beating his little hands on the closet door in the rhythm of Brian Adams’ “Summer of ’69,” singing all the words with perfect pitch in his three-year-old voice. This was far more entertaining than anything that could possibly happen while sitting on a carpet square. Back then, I wasn’t worried about major leadership roles. I just wanted my little man to make it to kindergarten.

Own drummer

A late talker and early walker, we threw the development books out the window when it came to tracking milestones for him. He would go through stretches of worrisome delays, followed by erratic development bursts. During his toddler years, we found ourselves wandering the jungle of early intervention for speech, behavior and social skills.

As a result, I have always been a little more sensitive about preparing him for each stage of his life.

After the school bus pulled away with my baby on it for his first day of kindergarten, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I had spent five and a half years, day in and day out, preparing for that day. I cried like a baby as I watched his Spiderman backpack bounce up and down to the rhythm of his little legs climbing the bus steps. The only thing that kept me from chasing after him was knowing there were kind souls waiting at the other side; people who knew he was coming, and who were ready to greet him with a warm smile and an open mind.


Turns out, my boy aced kindergarten. The early intervention services in preschool totally paid off. By the end of first grade, he “graduated” from his occupational therapy plan, and although school isn’t his favorite thing to do, he has consistently surprised me with his ability to thrive in a well-structured environment.

Now he is about to complete the fifth grade. My “baby” stands almost as tall as I do, with man-feet two sizes larger than my own. Last week, he was one of the few in his grade selected to be an assistant for the early elementary Field Day. I watched him clearly and confidently articulate the rules of “It’s Midnight, Mr. Fox” to his sister’s first grade class. The boy who was his partner stood in his shadow, and 25 first graders clung to my son’s every word.


“Are there any questions?” he asked the class.

Twenty-five hands shot up in the air.

“Not about whether or not you can be Mr. Fox,” he said in response. There was a chuckle from him and the parents watching. A few hands went down. This kid, for whom social skills have always been a challenge, had command AND charisma.

He asked for volunteers for the game’s coveted Mr. Fox position. The twenty-five hands shot back up. He picked his sister. My heart burst with pride. Her admiring smile could have melted snow.

I don’t know whether or not he will be president (he has said he might consider it after he retires from the NBA), but it looks like Miss Camille knew a thing or two about little boys, even those who listen to the beat of their own drummer. My heart grew two sizes as I watched him on Field Day – my son, who I will send to middle school next year. Middle school scares me a lot more than kindergarten did.

I hope we have done well preparing him for what comes next. I remind myself he has repeatedly exceeded my expectations up to this point. Letting go as he grows up is hard, but I am proud of the young man my baby is changing into right before my eyes.

Aw! Hope. Pride. Promise and wonder. I knew you’d love Lisa (I do). Here’s a bit more about her:

LisaCCadigan-web-smLisa Cadigan is a wife, mom of two, and sole proprietor of Cadigan Creative, a one-woman enterprise of graphic design, writing, music, photography, and an online community where creative people can share their work. She blogs at Daily Presents, the Adams County Arts Council, and at  She recently appeared with the lovely Kristi Campbell in the Washington, DC production of Listen To Your Mother.

  • Kerri - Letting go kind of sucks because it hurts so much. But the upside? They soar to the sky when we let go. You must be so proud of your boy (and girl). But the boy because he defied the odds and the naysayers. You rocked it mamma!June 4, 2014 – 11:19 amReplyCancel

    • Lisa C - Thanks for reading and for cheerleading for me and my kids! They’re pretty great kids…and hard as the letting go can be, it is fun to watch them fly <3June 4, 2014 – 1:46 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - So true, Kerri! Letting go is SO hard. Until they fly. But it’s still hard.June 4, 2014 – 8:29 pmReplyCancel

  • Janine Huldie - Absolutely warmed my heart, but I would be lying if I said the kindergarten part didn’t make me tear up and choke back a few tears here. See, my oldest will be starting kindergarten in the fall. She tells me everyday she can’t wait to go, but of course, being my oldest I am a nervous wreck. So, I am excited for her, but definitely nervous here, too and could relate so much to your words here about that. Thank you for sharing with us today.June 4, 2014 – 1:50 pmReplyCancel

    • Lisa C - For each of my kids, I wrote them a letter on the day they started kindergarten. As soon as I got home from putting them on the bus, I took out a pad and paper, and wrote all of the things I was thinking/proud of/wishing for them and sealed them up for them to read later (maybe at their high school graduations?) I am thinking I will do the same thing next year with middle school, too. Looking back on those letters, I have grown and changed a lot as a mom, too…but the letting go remains bittersweet always <3June 4, 2014 – 9:01 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Janine, you and I will so have to stick together in September because I’m telling you now that sending Tucker to kindergarten brings me huge anxiety and ickiness and the best of the best hopes!
      Feeling your pain, Sistah!June 4, 2014 – 10:00 pmReplyCancel

  • Diane - It doesn’t matter if your child struggles or sails through every stage of development. There is nothing more difficult than letting go. Inspiring, Lisa. Absolutely inspiring!June 4, 2014 – 2:57 pmReplyCancel

    • Lisa C - I am so glad you all liked it. And it’s true, Diane – I have a daughter, too, and she’s a kid who glides through school and social situations with ease, and sending her to kindergarten was heart breaking in its own way…my baby 🙂June 4, 2014 – 8:52 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - So so right, Diane, nothing harder than letting go. Until they fly? xoxoJune 4, 2014 – 11:03 pmReplyCancel

  • Emily - You brought back many memories for me, both good as well as the worrying ones, about my son who had early intervention services to address his delays and challenges. We were once told he may never talk, or be a team player or be mainstreamed. At the age of 16, he is a walking, talking, basketball playing guy who goes to not just a regular high school but a prep school for boys who are smart, love sports, and are his friends. We are now just 2 years away from sending him to college. That thought makes me yearn for those first days of kindergarten or middle school or even high school. Yikes! I’m so happy to read about another success story from early intervention – I bet your little man will keep surprising you in all aspects of his life.:)June 4, 2014 – 2:59 pmReplyCancel

    • Lisa C - WOW! I love your comment! And my boy-o loves basketball, too! Coincidence?? Thanks for the preview of the future 😉 It’s all good stuff.June 4, 2014 – 8:54 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Emily you are awesome for the reminder about BD! For real. And thanks for sharing him with Lisa!! <3June 4, 2014 – 11:03 pmReplyCancel

  • Lisa C Cadigan - I’m just so excited to be here, Kristi! Thanks again! <3June 4, 2014 – 3:15 pmReplyCancel

  • Lizzi Rogers - Ohhh this is awesome. So full of happiness and hope. Love it 🙂June 4, 2014 – 4:18 pmReplyCancel

  • Tamara - Aw!!
    My daughter is graduating preschool next week so I’m all kinds of weepy/weird/excited about it all. She’s totally excited. I wish I could be that cool.
    My son is the opposite – early talker/late walker. Well that was then. Now he runs.
    It’s funny to have seen so many different types of development and to know that it’s still hard to watch them grow.June 4, 2014 – 5:33 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Awe Tamara! Tucker’s graduating preschool too. In a few weeks. And how lucky lucky am I to say that I have the amazing YOU to capture his butterflyness on film this weekend? Please don’t forget your camera.June 4, 2014 – 11:15 pmReplyCancel

  • Michelle @ A Dish of Daily Life - I love how when we step back a little, they rise to the occasion! I loved this!June 4, 2014 – 9:38 pmReplyCancel

  • Stephanie Smith Sprenger - So beautiful and inspiring. Loved it. June 4, 2014 – 9:59 pmReplyCancel

  • Dana - I’m sure you’ve prepared your son well, Lisa. Middle school was an easier transition than I thought I would be for my kids, and I hope it’s the same for your son. Thanks for sharing your story with us!June 4, 2014 – 10:29 pmReplyCancel

  • Stephanie - I loved this, letting them go is so hard but our fears aren’t necessarily their fears and I think that’s why they amaze us – because we keep those fears in our hearts and minds (which is good!) and they just keep movin’ on, taking it all in stride and not getting too far ahead of themselves.

    Each time we hit a new school or schedule I have to take a step back and let them experience it. Day by day. And most days are good.

    And when they aren’t, I’m here, just like you are – and we keep on going.June 5, 2014 – 12:41 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Stephanie,
      I think you’re so right about that being part of why they amaze us so much – they really do keep on taking things in stride. I hope my son does as well as Lisa’s did in kindergarten next fall. Because scary! But yeah, most days are good. Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment!June 5, 2014 – 10:33 amReplyCancel

  • Don - Being a kid growing up is harder on us parents than it is the kids for sure. I’ve never worried about my daughter, but I’m nervous about my 5 year old switching from his private preschool to the public kindergarten. It’s a good school with good people, so i’m sure he’ll be fine, but he’s a sensitive lad so I worry, even though in my mind, I know he’ll be fine, just like your boy. Thanks for sharing.June 5, 2014 – 12:45 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I’m really nervous about Tucker’s kindergarten, too, Don. Going from a preschool class of six to one of 10 students was scary enough. Next year, a class of 24? Gulp. He’ll get extra support but still.June 5, 2014 – 10:34 amReplyCancel

      • Lisa - Kristi – I will look forward to hearing your success stories once your little man starts to make his way in the big world. It’s an adventure for sure…just remember, it has taken me five-plus years to write about kindergarten with some perspective-LOL. But it’s all good!June 13, 2014 – 10:56 pmReplyCancel

    • Lisa - Thanks for reading, Don. I have to keep reminding myself that “all’s well” a lot. But it is. All’s well. They have their own paths to carve, and will make their way, as we all do one way or another…not to say I’m always in THAT space… 😉June 13, 2014 – 10:54 pmReplyCancel

  • zoe - Does any parent NOT cry that first bus day? Sending your kid off on his first day of independent life….oh man I still remember that! It gets easier. ..of course it took 20 years but…..This was a beautiful contribution…thank you! I loved the Mr.Fox comment when all the hands shot up!!!!June 5, 2014 – 2:25 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - If there’s a parent who doesn’t cry the first day of the bus ride, I’d like to know about it! Or not. My son has been riding the bus to preschool for a year now and I still get a little emotional sending him off.
      I loved the Mr. Fox comment too!June 5, 2014 – 10:35 amReplyCancel

    • Lisa - Thanks, Zoe! I had a feeling I would still be melancholy in 20 years. Ce la vie 😉June 8, 2014 – 9:33 pmReplyCancel

  • Christine Carter - AW!! What a beautiful story!! I can so relate to many things about this precious mother and her angst and worry! Look at how that amazing boy is turning out to be… and through each phase and season and challenge and obstacle- she has fiercely led him and helped him grow into the person he was to become. I love such inspiring stories as these. BRAVO to them both!!June 5, 2014 – 3:59 amReplyCancel

  • Kelly L McKenzie - Oh my. That first day of the school bus ride must be an absolute tear jerker. We don’t have it here. I’m thinking maybe I should be happy for that?
    Loved the Mr. Fox response. Absolutely wonderful.June 5, 2014 – 5:24 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Kelly
      It IS a tear jerker but so would any other way. My son’s first day of preschool, I drove him and bawled in the parking lot for a good ten minutes. In fact, I’m getting a little choked up right now just thinking about it.June 5, 2014 – 8:10 pmReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - Awwww! I got goosebumps at “he picked his sister”. This was a beautiful share Lisa and Kristi!June 8, 2014 – 9:17 pmReplyCancel

    • Lisa - I got goosebumps when he picked her, too 🙂June 13, 2014 – 10:57 pmReplyCancel

  • Anna Fitfunner - Lisa: glad to hear about your success story! It’s great when early intervention pays off so well. Awesome that he has such a tight relationship with his little sister!June 12, 2014 – 12:40 amReplyCancel

  • Linda Atwell - It sounds like you’ve prepared him well. Kudos to you (and the teachers and everyone who loves and supports your son)!June 12, 2014 – 11:49 pmReplyCancel

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