The Red Bandana

Things are not always hard.

But sometimes they are.

Sometimes, your child will dangle her newly-acquired red bandana out the open window of your moving car. At three and a half, she has just acquired the ability to reach the button that opens and closes the window. And yeah, you could lock it, but this time you didn’t. She wants to see the red bandana flap in the breeze. This concept of wind and energy and risk and danger is new to her.

You’ll tell her to stop, to pull her new red bandana in. You’ll tell her that the wind will catch it whether she wants it to or not, and that when that happens you won’t go back for it.

Sometimes that will happen and your child will keep waving her bandana out the window anyway. Of course she will.

You’ll glance at your rearview mirror at the exact moment that the wind catches the bandana. The motion is fast and cruel, just like you knew it would be, and the wind will toss it into rush hour traffic. Your entire body locks because you know what’s coming.

Chaos and tantrums will ensue, especially when you make good on your promise not to go back for it. These are the tantrums you thought would be gone by the time she got to be three and a half, but have only become louder and more painful. The car will fill with screams and yells and you’ll question your decision to have ever had children in the first place. Not because you blame your kid – she’s only THREE after all, and this is how she copes – but because life is hard and tiring and complicated enough without unexpected car window bandana tantrums.

Depression tells you that you are a failure for finding yourself in this situation, and anxiety tells you that it will never get better, only worse. You can’t keep control in the tiny space that is your car, just like you can’t keep control in every other aspect of your life.

Sometimes this will happen. You’ll want to fly away like the red bandana, to let the wind catch you and just throw you away to a place where no one will ever come looking for you.

But you won’t. Just remember, you won’t. The tantrum will pass, and you’ll somehow remember that the lies depression tells you aren’t true. You’ll remember the kindness you showed yourself when you hated yourself most was an utterance of the Divine.



  1. You did the right thing. Kids sometimes have to learn from their mistakes. It doesn’t feel good to see the bandanna slipping away in the wind, but it’s a deposit in the bank of mother wisdom and mother does what mother says. It will pay off in the long run.

    Depression is mean liar-liar-pants-on-fire. It isolates us and makes us feel different from everybody else in the worst way. But you are very much like the moms who have had to let their kids learn things the hard way.

    Things do get better. They really do. The tantrums fade over time until one day you look back and think “Wow, I barely remember those hardships.” But it’s the looking back that’s the key. It takes a long time. One day, though, the time will come when you say “If you do X, then the consequence is Y,” and she will believe you. Because you’ve laid the ground work.

  2. It was a multi-colored parrot and he was four, not three. Girls mature faster than boys and he has proved them right. I wouldn’t go back either, but we are both still standing and I think he’s forgiven me. :) Thanks for sharing such a vulnerable post. Please keep writing.

  3. I love this post. Bet she was just experimenting. (That air-swoosh thing-a-ma-jig at the C’s Museum seems to fascinate her.) Anyway, she is blessed with an extremely wise mommy.


  4. […] Source: The Red Bandana […]

  5. Been here plenty of times. Parenting with depression is constantly fighting the urge to drop everything and run away.

  6. Parenting really sucks sometimes.
    It’s interesting how capturing the suckage like you did was actually quite beautiful.

  7. And then it will become the story you tell around the Thanksgiving table about the time she kept hanging the bandana out the window. Like the story about me at age two throwing my pacifier out the window in the middle of the Arizona desert and crying until the next small town. I promise, it will be funny then. Well, funny to you. Maybe not so funny to her.

  8. It all comes down to kindness, doesn’t it? I love how you captured the truth that depression tells lies. You’re a good mom. Believe in yourself.

  9. Since reading this, I manipulated the title into “So much depends on a red bandana.” I guess it’s the way that that article of clothing means so much more.
    Also, Philip tosses stuff out the window ALL THE TIME. He likes watching it fly in the wind, so he doesn’t get upset when it’s gone. Not as much as I do.

  10. Amazing, as always. Hope you are doing well, Em.

  11. Good mommy. I’m not sure why they call it the terrible twos, when the threes are so very much more terrible. (( hug ))

  12. This is beautiful, Emily. Sometimes I feel like I have a guardian angel on my shoulder reminding me to not be so hard on myself. Parenting feels overwhelming sometimes, all the lessons we feel responsible for. It occurs to me that mirroring self-compassion is probably the hardest and biggest of all. <3

  13. YES, this is hard. And you have given us a perfect albeit bitter slice. The tantrums. The defiance. The fatigue. Trying to hold it together for the kid and go out in the world to make money and present yourself as a together person. (Typed from bed FYI, middle of the day, sniffles, trying to gear up for work in 20 min while hiding from kid and babysitter)

    1. Kids…really why do we keep doing it???? lol Wait until the teens then the problems can really start…sorry but true

  14. Megan Desiato - · · Reply

    Beautifully written. I have many many years of Mommy hood ahead and this was a good reminder that there will always be trying moments, but to stay strong and believe in myself. My kids need that much from me.


  15. Megan Desiato - · · Reply

    Beautiful writing, thank you. I’m reminded that although there will be trying moments as a Mommy, I must remain strong for them and for myself.
    You’re a great Mother.


  16. Today red bandana and tomorrow yellow bandana. There will always be something to throw tantrum about.

    Good thing that you do not have keep guessing what she is thinking.

    Good luck.

  17. Beautiful, I love the way you captured the moment and made it very relatable…even for those without children (Like myself) who are eagarly awaiting the day when they have their very own blessing. It kind of paves the way and gives us a heads up and feel comfortable with handling those moments because we can reflect back and say, this is normal and this too shall pass.

    I look forward to learning more from those with more experience. Better to go in with my eyes wide open, then a fairytale of watered down lies of a twisted reality.

    Best of luck to you and your family!

  18. Beautiful as always.

Now you can hold the magic talking stick.

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