From a Kid Who Isn’t Known

the doll show by

Before I started my Hands Free journey, I put off living. I banked on vacations and holidays to make up for the lack of time spent connecting with the people I love. The other 349 days of the year I was too busy, too distracted, and too productive to slow down, enjoy life, and simply be with the people I love.

That’s sad, isn’t it? It’s painful to write honest sentences like that, but I know I am not alone. I’m learning that this notion of being “too busy” to spend time with the people we love is not so rare. Unfortunately when we place our moments of togetherness in far off future occasions, the opportunities of today are lost in that delay of truly living.

I’m incredibly thankful that is not the way it is for me anymore.

Now I don’t wait for holidays to slow down, laugh, and play.

Now I don’t bank on family vacations to create my children’s fondest memory recollections.

I’ve discovered that the most meaningful experiences in life happen when I take pause in the ordinary, mundane moments of a busy day.

I am thankful I know that now. In fact, when I find myself in such a moment of peace and connection, gratitude spills out in the form of warm, happy tears.

Just like it did the other night.

My six-year-old was instructed to put her snowflake pajamas on and then hop into bed. When I entered her bedroom, I saw that after putting on her pajamas, she got sidetracked by her dolls.

(Dolls do that kind of thing when you’re six.)

I overheard her mentioning unusual names like “Ajett” and “Marleeze” as the dolls conversed about heading off to school. I had to chuckle. My cousin and I used to come up with exotic names when we played Barbies back in the day. In fact, I am pretty sure Marleeze, or someone eerily similar, visited the Barbie Dream House on a few occasions.

I continued listening and realized my child’s storyline was just too good to interrupt. The words “it’s past your bed time” that were sitting on the tip of my tongue quickly dissolved. Without a peep, I sat down in my child’s oversized pink chair that was generously proportioned for adult-size posteriors.

My daughter glanced up, visibly pleased that I had plopped down and made no mention of bedtime. She continued playing.

The teacher doll was telling her students to place their phones in their desks. (I told you this was getting interesting.) As if reading my mind, my daughter looked up and explained that the students kept phones in their desk in case they got sick and needed to call their moms.

It only took her about ten seconds to decide this would not be a good idea because according to my child, “The kids would call their moms for things they didn’t need to call about—like if they ‘runned’ out of hand sanitizer or they couldn’t find their brown crayon  or if they felt like going out to lunch.”

(Oh, yes. I could see it now; requests for The Cheesecake Factory would arise at least once a week.)

The teacher doll quickly confiscated the phones and told the students they could call home only if they really needed their moms.

As the playing continued, I closed my eyes so I could soak up the sound of my child’s voice minus her two front teeth. With a tinge of sadness, I knew that her inability to pronounce the “th” sound would only be temporary. She would never again be without those two front teeth. I did my best to savor it.

Suddenly a little gray paw stretched out from underneath her bed. It belonged to our rescue cat, Banjo, who often retreated to the sanctity of my 6-year-old’s light green room to sleep. The sound of my daughter’s chatter seemed to be a comforting sound to him, just as it was to me.

our cat 'Banjo' by

That’s when it hit me—the overwhelming feeling of gratitude that brought me to tears. Encountering little unexpected gems hidden among the long hours of a mundane days are the times I feel most thankful that I no longer live distracted.

I don’t have to wonder what it would’ve been like if I had continued my frantic, fast paced, multi-tasking, media-saturated existence.

I would not have been sitting there in that pink chair.

I would not know this feeling of peace … or how to slow down … or how to just BE.

I would not know my child like I know her today.

toothless beauty by

I do not have to wonder what it would be like if I had not freed myself from the grip of daily distraction, but I am offered glimpses. These glimpses come from young people who stumble upon my blog and read my messages and share their hearts. That very next day, a brave teenager left an unforgettable comment on a post I wrote about knowing, really knowing, your child.

Here is a portion of her comment that I wish every parent in the whole world could read:

“I’m in my late teens, and I’m sitting here with tears running down my face for the first time in a long, long time. I’m not a mom – but I have one. And she doesn’t know me. I know for a fact that she dislikes or downright hates many things that I like, feel or believe, so I lie to her almost constantly. I’ve grown pretty resigned to the fact that I will never have a relationship like I want with my mom (or dad, for that matter) and then something like this comes along and rips the feelings open all over again, making me question. Why couldn’t she have bothered to know me?

 … She snapped at me for writing short stories instead of doing schoolwork; I stopped writing for years, and have only recently started again. Even now I cannot write short stories or songs because of the feedback I got from her. She divided her interaction with me between laying down her laws, leaving me alone and without instruction, and then calling me stupid and many other things when I slacked off or made mistakes.

… She never even talked to me about the birds and the bees. I still can’t get over the stupid hurtfulness of that whole business.

 And now that I’m older, I’ve found out that she had terrible parents, as did my dad – so now my siblings and I have to suffer because of that. And knowing that she thinks she’s a terrible mother doesn’t help her stop being one in many areas–knowing that she stares at the computer or works on something else while talking to me because she wants a ‘buffer’ doesn’t change the fact that it hurts when she does it.

I feel tired now. I’m sorry that I kind of emotion-dumped, but the article just stirred such strong feelings because for me and my mom it is kind-of too late. I’m working as hard as I can to form some kind of relationship with her now but it will never be as good as it could have been.

Any parent who’s reading this, this article is spot-on. You need to get to know your kids when they’re little – and then never stop getting to know them. Always make sure they can tell you anything, without fear of getting put down or being judged.

 – A kid who isn’t known”

In my response to this bright, compassionate, and courageous young lady, I told her that her message would make a difference in the life of someone who stumbled upon her comment one day. I knew this because her words immediately made an impact on me. Within minutes of reading her words, I found myself making a little more effort to look in my children’s eyes, to build them up every chance I got, to hug them a little longer. Like an angel from my children’s future, this young lady reminded me how desperately my children need my time, love, and attention. She also reminded me how important it is to know them as people.

Perhaps that is why I hated to put an end to my child’s doll show. There is so much that can be learned about our children simply by being present, by listening to their words, and by observing them while they are doing their favorite activities.

My child finally yawned and looked ready for her nightly “question time.” But once we were settled in next to each other, she didn’t have any questions. She simply reached over and said, “I need to hug you.”

I couldn’t recall a time when my daughter ever spoke those exact words. I felt incredibly thankful I was there when she needed me.

I plan to be there for her anytime she needs me throughout her lifetime …  even if it is just to tell me she ran out of hand sanitizer or that she really wants to go to lunch.

I pray that she does.




In honor of the young lady who posted the courageous comment on my blog, please hug the children in your life …  tell them you love them …  listen to their words … know them and accept them even if they didn’t turn out exactly the way you hoped or expected. There is something to be said for unconditional love.

If you feel inclined to share this message, please do. Through you, this message can reach a multitude of parents and children. 

 Thank you for being a part of The Hands Free Revolution. I am thankful for each and every one of you who have joined me on this journey to let go of distraction and grasp what really matters in life. 




  1. 1


    “You need to get to know your kids when they’re little – and then never stop getting to know them.” So true. Keeping that open dialogue has got to be the key to happy children, along with affection, love, and empathy. I love the way your stories continue to remind me to slow down – it’s never enough to hear it once.

  2. 2


    I am bawling. From the comment from the teenager, from your insightfulness and beautiful writing. Thank you for sharing. Oh I wish I could hug you both. I wish I could take her under my arms as my 5th child, my only daughter and get to know her. I wish I could take you to coffee and say thank you for daring to change and sharing it with all of us. It’s a gift. Have a great day!

  3. 4


    Will do! Thank you for sharing this young girls comment…wow! We can all learn something from her. I will take this message and use it to spur me to put my focus and attention on what is most important and I will pray for this young girl. Praying that a relationship will come that she longs for. I didn’t have a relationship with my parents and for many of the same reasons…they just didn’t know how. Thankfully over time I have developed a better relationship with both of my parents. Thank you for another great inspiration!

  4. 6

    Meribah says

    Beautiful post and so tragic for a beautiful young lady to feel that way. Inspires me to be ever more present for my children, thank you!

  5. 7

    Jen says

    I was a kid who wasn’t known. Its a desperately lonely existence. My mom too “didn’t know any better” because of her mother’s version of parenting. But the anger remains, the question: “Why did she not BOTHER to try with me?”. I’m 38 now,with a daughter 14. I’ve spent the better part of those 14 years in therapy making absolutely CERTAIN that I do not repeat this pattern. I’ve had to validate myself instead of from my mother. I’ve had to figure out how to be comfortable with eye contact with my children. I’d have to push out of my comfort zone, force myself onto the floor to play ‘pretend’ even though it caused panic attacks at times. We are NOT destined to repeat the mistakes of our mothers. I haven’t gotten it perfect; and I’m online or plugged in more often than I probably should but I have made a change. But, my daughter and I have shared interests, can sit in silence together or can talk for an hour losing track of ‘bedtime’ all together. With my son, I still try to “make up for” not being really in-tuned to him as an infant and toddler (due to grief and medical issues not intentionally). We’ve spent bedtime reading “kid books” (Dr. Seuss, Biscuit books, whatever) when he was age 9-11… and still do when he is interested; a snuggling 11 year old boy?! Who knew it was possible. While you can’t change the past, it is NEVER too late to change NOW. Even at my age, if my mother were to CHANGE some of her behaviors some anger would melt away, our relationship would change – not to what it should be – but a little better. If she were to CHANGE and be more “there” with my children, my feelings toward her would be more positive. Sadly, she couldn’t be an attentive grandmother either and the kids felt it and the relationship is distant and formal.

    Thank you ‘kid who isn’t known’ for bravely sharing. You being aware of the issue is 75% of the work to not repeating it.

  6. 9


    I so often think of you and your beautiful blog as I watch uninterested parents “care” for eager children who so desperately and obviously need their attention. I volunteer at the media center in my boys elementary school and today, during story time, I went to sit with one of my twins and, of course, the other son came to sit with me, then a boy I coached, then a boy who likes the same books I do, then a boy with sad eyes I know only by name. All these soon-to-be-men piling like puppies against me.
    You know what’s funny, Rachel? Normally I shelve books or laminate or something, but today, today, well, they all looked like they needed someone to sit down with them.
    If I could only read one blog, forever, it would be yours.

    • 10


      Bill, I am so glad you were in the media center today. And that you realized it wasn’t a day to laminate or shelve–it was a day to love. I am so glad you are here to walk this journey with me. The world needs your messages, and I am so privileged they are here for me to read and keep close to my heart. Thank you.

  7. 11


    I was already teared up reading your post, then I read further and read the comment from that girl. I was her once. And I’m trying not to be a mother like that. But life is distracting. And it’s hard. Your blog does help keep me grounded in what’s important though. Thank you for this post. And thank you to that girl for her comment. She has made a difference today.

  8. 12

    Jennifer says

    Thank you for this beautiful reminder. My heart aches for the “kid who isn’t known” and all kids who aren’t made aware of the blessing they truely are. I have tried to start the bedtime chat with my 4 year old son. (Someone once wondered why bedtime wasn’t earlier in the day when we have more energy and patience, instead of the end of the day when we are out of both) Our chats don’t always go well, but I make sure to at least remind him how much he is loved. I hope I am laying a foundation for future talks. Thanks for the inspiration! Keep it comin 😉

  9. 14

    Kim F. says

    She has touched more than one mom with her comments. I will definitely be turning my attention away from the screen more often when my children walk into the room.
    I pray that she is able to have a good relationship with her mother. It is never to late to start understanding each other.

  10. 16


    This gift of time and truly paying attention, getting to know your child, has the potential to change the world, as individuals grow up knowing that they are known, valued, trusted, deeply and unconditionally loved. Think of the power of these children growing to be parents. Think of the potential for treating others– friends, neighbors, spouses– with this kind of peace, attention, and love. Pretty amazing…

  11. 18

    Amanda (UK) says

    I am so glad that I found your blog it is so beautiful and inspiring. I want to thank the young woman who contributed too. Just by being honest and sharing what you do, it helps me so much to be the kind of mum I want to be, I love your ideas and philosophy. Thank you. x

  12. 20

    Christy says

    As the mother of two (soon to be three) teenagers (and two younger kids), it has always been of the utmost importance for me to listen to them, for them to know they are heard. In doing so, I created an environment of trust so pervasive that other teens often come in our home and pour their precious hearts out to me. All they are looking for is love, affection (yes teens need hugs too) and to be heard. Many don’t even know where their parents stand on things like underage drinking or premarital sex. It is so sad and makes me determined to not only continue to nurture an honest report between my kids and myself, but also with every child that walks through my door.
    That said, I recently have begun to “unplug” in the afternoons when my kids get home and not touch tech until they are in bed. It is so much more peaceful and now they voluntarily propose “electronics free” evenings where they do the same! Thank you for leading the way and being a guiding light on this issue. You are making a real impact on the lives of mothers and children that you don’t know and may never meet. May God bless you as you bless others:)

  13. 21

    Lynn says

    Can you explain the ‘buffer’ that she talked about. I’m pretty sure my mom does that and I find myself doing that with my own boys and husband. How do I stop?


    • 22


      Hi Lynn, I interpreted that to mean her mother is physically there, but not available and not opening herself up to her daughter–like there is some kind of barrier that prevents the two of them from being emotionally connected. I would try to do some soul searching to figure out why you feel that you need to keep distance between yourself and your loved ones. I am not a psychologist–I’m a licensed special education teacher with a master’s degree in education, so that question is out of my realm of expertise. I am sorry I cannot be of more help. If any of my readers have anything to offer, please chime in!

    • 23

      Jen says

      I am not a therapist or health professional of any kind. This is only based on my experience. Barriers, for me (and my mother), have been things that “limit” or “protect” from connecting or feeling reality. They are often completely unconscious! No eye contact, arm around the shoulder instead of hug, patting on the shoulder but no hugs, pulling away from a child climbing into your lap and instead having them sit beside you, being uncomfortable crawling into bed next to your child to snuggle, holding hands only for safety and often just grabbing at the wrist not the hand. Again I’m NOT a professional; just because someone does one of these things may NOT mean ANYTHING. (Its even more complicated if you have a child who has their own issues with sensory input and pulls away.) ANYWAY… there’s also always doing something else while we’re together (calling it multitasking has made it more acceptable). We never watched a movie or TV really “together”; she always was also reading or writing a letter or paying bills – which made engaging in a conversation about the movie pointless. Claims of taking me or, later, my kids out for a lunch date and inviting someone else (to serve as the buffer – again not even aware of why). With smart phones bringing a “third person” in to buffer is a constant possibility. I was bad about being on my laptop “organizing files” while “watching” my toddlers play – I was merely an observer to make sure no one got hurt; I was not a participant. While for many people that may mean nothing; for me, eventually, I realized I was putting a barrier between me and my children out of fear of the closeness that I wasn’t sure how to handle. People love to talk about “fear of intimacy” in the sense of romantic relationships but it also exists in terms of parents/children. If you have any access to EAP or a counselor or therapist, it is worth any nervousness to at least try a visit. If it’s bothering you, if it makes you worry about your parenting…it is important. It may be just a single visit to get some general guidelines and reassurance; it may be the beginning of a big transformation.

  14. 24

    Mumof3 says

    I’m so glad I “stumbled” upon this site just a week ago. As a child who was known, but not accepted. I have to remind myself as I see the same traits that were portrayed as weaknesses in me (she’s too quiet, not as smart as her sister) and displayed by my oldest child that I not let history repeat itself. Even as I try to make my oldest be like her little sister who has the same traits as the little sister I was compared to.
    As an adult I know that my children are unique but I have to constantly remind myself that I turned out alright and so would my oldest. Thanks for reminding me to love my children, not rush through my day and just BE. I wrote letters to my girls on valentine’s day after reading your post on the 13th. It was wonderful because I got to bring to rememberance how I love them and why. Most especially our girls loved the special letters. Thank you.

  15. 25

    nicole says

    I have read your blog from time to time, but I struggle. I am a work-at-home mom who has bills to pay. I work from home to be here with my kids, but I still must work. It’s almost impossible to unplug. I have purposefully NOT gotten a smart phone, even though it would give me more connections to work, so that I can be totally with my kids when we go out and about, but now they are in school. I feel like we never see each other, talk, etc., but what choice is there? They have to be in school, and I have to work in the evenings when they are in bed, and also during the day when the baby is here. It’s not an option to simply go “handsfree.” Sometimes these posts make me feel so guilty because, frankly, I can’t disconnect or I would lose my job. The only other option would be to go to work. Isn’t it better to have a mom who is home, who can run the lunches to school when they are forgotten, but who is a little distracted, then a mom who is at work from nine-to-five and comes home so tired she can’t “be there” for her kids?

    • 26


      Hi Nicole, thank you for reaching out. I am so glad you asked this important question and shared what’s on your heart.

      First, let me start by saying I am inspired by your commitment to your children and your dedication to being present in their life. I commend you for wanting to foster a close relationship with your kids when you have so much on your plate.

      I lived with years of regret due to missing a lot of precious time when I was highly distracted. I now know that harboring guilt and regret just sabotages the opportunities in today. I hope can let the guilt go and remind yourself you are doing the best you can.

      Being “Hands Free” can mean different things to different people. To me, it means temporarily letting go of distraction to offer one’s full presence to a loved one. Maybe that is 10 minutes. The doll show I described with my child in this post lasted 10 minutes. But in that ten minute period, we shared a special moment.

      My advice is to keep in mind that small acts, even brief amounts of time with your full focus, can and will make a difference to your children. For example, you may try to take a few minutes each day with each child to check-in with that child to see how he/she is doing … even if it is only 5 minutes. On days that you cannot find time to do this, don’t give yourself a hard time. Just keep in mind you are doing the best you can. Like I said, I have found that feeling guilty or putting myself down as a parent is not productive and it does not help the situation at all. Remind yourself that even good parents make mistakes and that you love your children and that is what is most important to their growth and fulfillment.

      My other suggestion is to create just one daily ritual where time with your loved one is sacred, meaning void of distraction. Whether that be tucking them in at night, having dinner together, enjoying morning snuggles, do it every day so that no matter how crazy the day, your child can always count on that one period of connection. And if you can’t do it every day, try to do it several times a week. This gives your child a chance to talk to you and build that relationship.

      I don’t know if you saw my post that lists what things kids remember being their favorite activities that their parents did with them when they were young, but you might find this inspiring. Many parents write to me and say how much it gain a new perspective and took the pressure off of themselves.

      I wish you the best! Please come back if you need encouragement. Thank you for being here.


  16. 27

    Patty says

    This is beautiful, thank you. When my son was younger, I was actually angry at the hero worship he had for my parents. I would think to myself, “if you only knew how they treated me!” But he was far too young for that conversation. Good thing. Because as I continued to grow and observe, the truth was that they were better grandparents than they were parents. And as more years went by and I became a better parent myself, I eventually said to my son, “there are so many things I wish I had understood, but I cannot go back and re-parent you at age 5. The only thing I can do is to improve now. And when you see me with your children, being a loving, patient, involved grandmother, THAT is the closest I can come to making it up to you.” He is an adult now, and we are very close. No grandchildren yet, but I can hardly wait! The takeaway–it’s never too late.

  17. 29

    Kristin says

    So beautiful! I find your posts so inspiring. They help to keep me focused on my connection with my family, where I find tre contentment and fulfillment.

  18. 30

    Elizabeth says

    I would like to say to the young lady whose partial comment you posted that she is already an amazing young lady and no doubt will be an even more amazing mother *because* she knows the reverse.

    I would also like to say that while I lost the only child to whom I gave birth, I was the luckiest woman ever when I got to raise my 4 step-children. I made a tremendous amount of mistakes, no two ways about it, but the one mistake I did NOT make was about the trust. I told my kids (and they ARE mine now, they were abandoned by the b-mother) that they could tell me anything and they do! They are all now adults and I get told way more than I would actually like! LOL The thing is, if I tell them “I do not want to know” then they will not be comfortable sharing those things with me and that in itself can lead to them keeping more me. So I bite my tongue and love them harder. And yes, one of my kids TOLD me that if I chose to start limiting them, it could really limit the other things.

    This is the first post I had read of yours, but have bookmarked your blog so that I can visit more often. My cousin shared it with us!

    God bless!

  19. 31

    Lynne Baker says

    I dropped everything when my son had something to say, but it was a different time. I am now helping him raise his sons because their mom is to selfish to give them more than 36 hours of her time each week.
    My son is very attentive and can not get enough time with his 2 and 4 yr old. I just fear I was a better mother than grandmother sometimes.

  20. 32

    WiscoMom says

    My heart aches for the “child that isn’t known”. I understand and know exactly what she is feeling. For years I too hoped for a better relationship with my mother, and then at some point I realized that sometimes we are not born to our “mothers” but sometimes we find them ourselves along our life path. I have had many women serve in a mothering role to me over the years. Strong, beautiful, amazing women that i keep in touch with even though geography now separates us. I truly appreciate each of them so much. Writing this now, I realize that i haven’t told them this lately and I shouldn’t wait for “mother’s day” to do so.
    Thank you Rachel for your blog…I hope that you never stop writing it, for it is my lifeline to staying “on track” with my own boys and remembering to continue to be present, to really know them, and to offer love and encouragement freely – every chance I get.

    • 33


      Wow. This is a beautiful and empowering perspective: ” … at some point I realized that sometimes we are not born to our “mothers” but sometimes we find them ourselves along our life path.” It offers so much hope. I would love to play this role in a young person’s life. I will be keeping my eyes open for the opportunity.

      Thank you for the beautiful words about my blog. I must say every time someone says “please keep writing” it gives me fuel, a much needed boost at precisely the time I need it. So thank you for saying that today. You sound like a wonderful mother. I am honored that you come here for inspiration. xo

  21. 34

    Andee Skaggs says

    I am in my late teens, just like the young woman who commented on one of your other posts. My mother had that same relationship with her mother, but she tried hard to be so unlike her mother when she had me and my siblings. She is such a good mother, and I feel like the communication disconnect that sometimes occurs between us is my fault.

    Anyways, that’s not what made me cry. I read your whole post thinking to myself “I should save this for later, but it doesn’t really apply to me right now.” However, then I got to the part when your daughter told you she needed a hug, and I started bawling. I’m in my second semester at a college 12 hours away from home, and now that I need my mom, I don’t have her like I used to, and I really miss her. I wish that, as a kid, I had told her I needed her more often than I did. Because it’s that simple – sometimes, even as we get older and move away, we just need our moms.

    I’m not really sure where I was going with this, other than to thank you for helping me realize that, and to wish you luck with your children. You’re a few years off, but when your daughter becomes a teenager, sometimes she might need a hug, but not know how to ask for it. It’s good that you’re spending time with her now, because when that happens, you’ll be able to give her what she needs, maybe even before she knows she needs it.

    Thank you.

    • 35


      Andee, I am so grateful you took a moment to share your experience and thoughts. There is so much wisdom we can take from your words–to me it is truly a gift that will help me in my relationship with my daughters. Thank you for sharing the part about your mom overcoming her own troubled relationship to have a close one with you. This offers so much hope. And I will be tucking that last paragraph into my memory bank and in my heart. Those words are golden. Thank you for coming here today and helping us all.


  22. 37

    Lori W says

    I have come back & read this post 3 times now! I love it! I can’t explain to you how much your blog has changed my persepective of my time spent with my children. There are so many days I think “it’s too late to change”, but then I remember one of your posts & I am inspired….and end up turning that bad day into good! Thank you so much for documenting your journey. God Bless you and your sweet family!

  23. 39

    Carey says

    I feel a little shy at commenting, but I wanted to let everyone know that I’m incredibly touched by the comments. Thank you all so much & I am so glad that my words had an effect.
    And Andee is totally right… sometimes you want a hug and you just don’t know how to ask for it. It’s hard to speak up, to make yourself vulnerable, especially if you’ve been hurt or brushed off in the past.
    And Christy, you’re really inspiring! One of the things I want most in my life is to become an adult that kids know they can talk to safely, whether they’re mine or someone else’s.

    • 40


      Yay! I am SO happy to know that you got to see first-hand the impact you have made, Carey! 20,000 views and counting–and behind those views are many parents taking steps to know their children today or make amends for not knowing them when they had a chance. You have given SO many people a life-changing gift! You are one extraordinary young lady.

      I had a reader contact me today. She said she grew up in a very similar situation. She is a mom now to a young son. She said she would very much like for you to have her email address. She would like to be a source of encouragement to you. I would be happy to pass along her email address to you if you would like.

      Thank you for sharing your heart with the world, Carey! The world is a more loving place tonight because of you.


  24. 43

    Colleen says

    I just found your blog and I’m so greatful for this post today. I have tears in my eyes writing this. It’s so easy for me to get distracted with housework etc and I needed this pep talk today. Thank you!

  25. 44

    Jennifer says

    My daughter is 5 months old and like any new mom I want to be the best mom for my daughter. Like our teenage friend my parents provided for my temporal needs forgetting the little and simple things that were important to me – like telling me bedtime stories, playing with me, kissing me, listening to me, spending time with me…. I have learnt a lot from what I missed as a child and I’m determined to give all if that to my daughter and the 5 more I plan to have.

    Not everyone has a perfect or successful family, what we learn from our past can and should help us to become better in the many roles we play at this time.

    I still do get scared of my mom and dad and their threats are scary, but I’ve grown up to say no to them and tell them what is the right thing to do. It’s sad sometimes but my parents can’t just take advantage of me for the poor decisions they take in their life and never learn from them…..

    I love your blog and grateful for all the wonderful & hopeful things it make me look out for.

    Thank you!

  26. 45


    This is so beautiful. Not only a good reminder to all parents, but to all people – because we can be there for others, knowing them, respecting them, and loving them – maybe not to the same extent as a parent, but hopefully in a way that offers some healing.

  27. 46

    Angela says

    This article rings so true, especially when you are at the other end of that journey. I now have an 18 yr old senior , and my daughter and I have such a special relationship. The closeness and special moments you describe where my goal for her youth. I even homeschooled, as it just grew to be an extension of our strong relationship we both wanted to explore. As she aged, she explored other friendships, work , and opportunities. The neat thing was her excitement to come home and share it with me. We still make time to create special rituals that have grown as she has; instead of Beanie Babies we might watch Downton Abbey or paint. We stay connected, really connected. She respects my advice because she knows always have her best interests at heart, and I respect her ilks and interest in things I just don’t understand. But the key here is out of all those little moments grew respect for each other, and a bond that others envy. I will never regret slowing down for us both!

  28. 47


    Beautiful, Rachel. Thank you for sharing this story. As a psychotherapist, I hear a lot about the hurt folks can experience growing up. It really is sooooooooo awesome how so many parents are really in to mindfulness and being present. It totally warms my heart. I see THAT every day too. Love, Lisa

  29. 48

    Kim says

    Reading this blog entry has me crying. I stopped working several years ago, when my youngest sister was diagnosed with brain cancer — I was juggling my career, visits to NYC to see her, and my young children and husband, and something had to give. After she passed away, I vowed to make sure family STAYED the most important focus of mine. And I’ve kept with that vow. We have given up fancy vacations, and we often have to juggle things around to pay for things like appliances that die. We have changed to a simpler life, where we spend less and travel less, we drive crappy cars, and we would love to fix up our house but can’t afford it. I have traded having more money for having more time. Sometimes, I feel the pull of my old career, I miss the thrill of traveling for work or sitting in board meetings, and I definitely miss dressing up for work and being with adults all day. And I miss fancy trips to Hawaii or Disney World, and not worrying about how we’d pay for whatever we wanted to buy. And don’t get me wrong – we have hard days, where I feel like getting in my car and driving away, because juggling the kids feels never-ending and overwhelming. But most often, I feel so thankful to have made this decision. I thank my sister for helping me to see more clearly. I spend hours every week at my children’s schools, volunteering in the classroom, glue gunning costumes together for the musical, providing classroom snacks, or filling in whatever gaps I can to help out. Each of my three kids lights up when I see them at school. They hug me, and they’re so proud to have me in their classrooms. And I love that I’m the one my kids see first when they come out of school everyday. Anyway, all of this to say that your articles oftentimes are a gentle reminder of WHY I chose the path I’m on, and they encourage me to stay the course. Our kids are growing up so very fast. Mine are now almost 6, 9, and 11. My oldest daughter will start middle school in the fall. I remember her fuzzy bald baby head, her unwillingness to sleep without being held, and her bird-like shrieks when the cat walked by – all just like it was yesterday. And the fact that she still hugs me when she sees me in the halls at school – well, that feels better than any trip to a fancy beach or a ride at Disney could ever feel. Thanks for reminding me how important these simple moments truly are.

  30. 49


    I want to hug that “kid that isn’t known” so hard and tell them they are LOVED beyond measure, by a God who is always there….
    this made me want to go pull my girls out of school and give them the biggest hug in the world…today after school I am going to do just that.
    I am going to make a point to listen more, judge less, look them in the eye, make TIME for them….
    thank you for this.

  31. 50

    Rhoda Fountain says

    Found a beautiful quotation/poem the other day:

    “The greatest poem ever known
    Is one all poets have outgrown.
    The poetry, innate, untold,
    Of being only four years old.”
    by, Christopher Morley
    Very touched by your article in Readers Digest and am immensely enjoying your website. Thank you for such inspiring words!.

    Rhoda Fountain

  32. 51

    allie says

    I am v inspired by your posts. I have 4 kids under 10 and my whole life revolves around them. However, even though im home with them all the time I don’t know how to spend more quality time with them or if I already do enough. I seem to spend all day cooking, doing laundry, tidying, getting ready for us to leave the house and bringing them places, I don’t have much time left to do stuff with them. I dont prioritise non essential housework etc over them but there’s so much work that can’t be ignored! I feel like I’m always telling them I’m too busy to do things with them. Plus its hard to have proper conversations with one when the other 3 are competing for my attention. I try to give them all a turn to talk and try to connect with them as much as I can but I don’t know if I’m doing enough. I remember when I only had two and they weren’t in school yet we used to snuggle and connect so closely all day but now I just feel I’m spread too thin. I hope the small moments we do have are enough to build the trust and closeness I hope to have with them as they grow.

    • 52


      Hi Allie,

      Thank you for sharing. Two of my best friends have 4 children and I am continually amazed and inspired by the effort that it requires to fulfill their daily needs. The fact that you are thinking about how you can make meaningful connection with each one is remarkable, so I hope you will take a moment to recognize and celebrate that.

      Being “Hands Free” can mean different things to different people. To me, it means temporarily letting go of distraction to offer your full presence to someone you love. Maybe that is 10 minutes. The doll show I described with my child lasted 10 minutes. But in that ten minutes period, we shared a special moment.

      I believe that small gestures of love & connection, even brief amounts of time with your full focus, can and will make a difference to your children. For example, you may try to take a few minutes each day with each child to check-in with that child to see how he/she is doing … even if it is only 5 minutes. On days that you cannot find time to do this, don’t give yourself a hard time. Just keep in mind you are doing the best you can. I have found that feeling guilty or putting myself down as a parent is not productive and it does not help the situation at all. Remind yourself that even good parents make mistakes and that you love your children and that is what is most important to their growth and fulfillment.

      I don’t know if you saw my post that lists Erin Kurt’s top things kids remember as their favorite activities that their parents did with them when they were young.

      Erin Kurt’s list reveals that it truly is the simple things that matter most:

      1. Come into my bedroom at night, tuck me in and sing me a song. Also tell me stories about when you were little.
      2. Give me hugs and kisses and sit and talk with me privately.
      3. Spend quality time just with me, not with my brothers and sisters around.
      4. Give me nutritious food so I can grow up healthy.
      5. At dinner talk about what we could do together on the weekend.
      6. At night talk to me about about anything; love, school, family etc.
      7. Let me play outside a lot.
      8. Cuddle under a blanket and watch our favorite TV show together.
      9. Discipline me. It makes me feel like you care.
      10. Leave special messages in my desk or lunch bag.

      Wishing you all the best. Please return to the blog for encouragement anytime.



  1. […] From A Kid Who Isn’t Known via Hands Free Mama | I’m a big fan of this site and of Rachel’s writing and it’s definitely worth your time to subscribe to her feed or go back through her archives. From her About Hands Free Page, “This blog is for anyone who wants to re-think how he or she is living (or not living) life. It’s for anyone who wants to let go of daily distraction and perfection to embrace what really matters.” […]

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