I have a theory about skipping: I think that many of us start our lives out skipping, and then at some point we realize that we are too old to skip, or we look around and notice that no one else is skipping anymore, so we stop. Sure, from time to time we may do a little skip, but by the time we are all grown up, we've grown out of skipping.
All of my girls skipped, but my middle daughter, Claire, was a daily skipper. In kindergarten, I loved watching her as she jumped out of our minivan and headed into school. Every day she did exactly the same thing. She started out walking the first several steps, then she'd break into a skip. She'd skip her way right into school. And it made me happy. Because I have another theory: you can only skip if you feel really happy. My daughter was a very happy skipper.
In first grade, Claire would skip sometimes, but some days she would just walk. Or she would skip a few steps, then stop. That's when I came up with my skipping theory. She was growing up, and she was noticing that the other kids didn't skip into school.
There is a "Friends" episode where Phoebe goes running in Central Park with Rachel. Phoebe runs all crazy, with her arms flailing, looking like an airplane, and Rachel is so embarrassed that she doesn't want to run with her. When Phoebe discovers that Rachel is secretly running without her, she confronts her. Rachel finally admits she is embarrassed to run with her friend. Phoebe explains that running is boring, and that she wants to have fun when she runs -- she doesn't care what she looks like. This is what makes Phoebe so endearing -- she is like a kindergartner. She feels happy when she runs wild, and hasn't lost that part of herself that many of us lose.
When I am open to follow, my girls lead me back to my kindergarten self. That place where I don't care what people think about how I look, and where my happiness leaks out all over. I feel terribly self-conscious dancing in front of other people, like at wedding receptions, but at home with my girls, with the right music, I can dance and carry on, be crazy and have fun. My daughters always loved when I played dolls with them: we'd make up characters, put the dolls in families and play pretend. And I'd be reminded that this imaginary world is where my love of storytelling began. And sometimes when we cook together, we have our very own cooking show and we speak with accents, sometimes Southern, like Paula Deen, and sometimes British, like Jamie Oliver. This part of me -- my kindergarten self -- is still there. It just needs a little coaxing to come out.
Claire and I took the train into Chicago for an overnight last summer, to celebrate her moving up to middle school. We ate at the Cheesecake Factory, and I bought her these crazy, colorful, striped toe-socks that went up past her knees. She wore them with her yellow shorts and flip-flops, and as we walked down Michigan Avenue back to our hotel, she asked me if I would skip with her.
I hesitated, because of all the people, but then thought, "Why not?" After all, I was feeling really, really happy. So we held hands and skipped down the sidewalk.
Skipping is more difficult as an adult, and I felt awkward at first, but my fear of what people would think of me disappeared when I looked at Claire.
There was my kindergartner, back for a visit, with her crazy toe-socks, and a smile from ear to ear.
• Becky Baudouin is a freelance writer and speaker. She lives in the Northwest suburbs with her husband, Bernie, and their three daughters.