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My Daughter's Balloon Stand

A Life Lesson in Risk, Acceptance, and Parenting

Waiting for a Customer

While I was at work I received a picture message from my wife. It was of my five year old daughter sitting behind a box propped on the sidewalk. The caption was "Balloons for Sale - $1".

I am ashamed of my immediate reaction. "Balloons for sale," I thought, "that's ridiculous! Who would buy that? It is never going to work! They're not even real balloons; they're decades old water balloons she found in a box somewhere and partially filled with air! And the time of day is all wrong - everyone is at work. And even if they weren't, we aren't on a busy street! How is she going to make change?" And on, and on, and on...

And then I realized that the perceived embarrassment that I was trying to protect her from wasn't because of her fragility. It was mine.

The voice picking apart the entire enterprise is the same voice that I hear constantly. I compulsively try to address every possible short coming prior to ever starting. And, since no project is foolproof, I talk myself out of whatever had seemed like such an amazing idea just hours before (you have no idea how many domain names I've registered and never done anything with). I pretend I'm saving myself the embarrassment of failing. Really, though, I'm talking myself out of trying.

On her own, my daughter had figured out (1) people like balloons, (2) she could make some money selling them, (3) a balloon stand is really just a box (we've got lots of those) and (4) there are people right outside the door! My wife talked about how she, the girl unable to focus two consecutive minutes on cleaning her room, made up her own song:

"Ba-LOONS for SALE! Ba-LOONS for Sale! I've got a red one! And a Green one! Ba-LOONS for SALE!"

She was a natural. She was making something happen. She had figured out how to offer something special of her own design to the world. And my first instinct was to shut it down.

Yes, the street was empty and, ultimately, she didn't sell a single balloon. However, instead of being disheartened, my daughter just looked at it as another challenge. "Mom," she said, "I've got a new plan. I'm going to go to the park - I'll bring my brother. There's lots of people there. I'm going to sell my balloons!"