Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

Mother, May I?

When we were young, we played a game called “Mother, May I?” Someone was the “mother” and the rest of us asked permission to move forward. “Mother, may I take three giant steps forward?” “Mother, may I run forward for 2 seconds?” “Mother, may I jump like a frog for 2 leaps?” The mother could either grant us permission, or say no and give us another task such as taking 10 tiny steps backwards. The object of the game was to be the first person to reach mother, at which point the kid would win and become the next mother.

 mother may i

When I think back on it, there really was no way to win. Not unless mother got tired and let someone reach her. Every forward motion was at her whim. We were unable to take even the tiniest movement in the right direction unless we were given permission.

When we were in school, we had to get permission slips signed from our parents any time we went off campus with our class. We had to get permission to go to museums and zoos, shows and parks – anything fun and non-academic. Sometimes we even had to get permission slips signed to participate in a specific extra-curricular activity like ice skating for gym class, or joining ski club.


We had to ask permission to go to our friends’ houses after school and to ride a different bus. We had to get permission to go out at night, go to the movies, go to a party, go to a game. That is part of growing up – getting permission and learning to follow the set boundaries.

The problem is when we become adults and we are still looking for permission. We don’t trust ourselves to know what is the right path, so we ask the opinion of others. We may not think we can do whatever it is that we want to do. We may worry that others will think we are stupid for doing it. We may wonder if it is worth the time and energy we will have to put into it.

We may seek this permission overtly by literally asking for it. Our friends, family, spouses, bosses, even strangers are great sources and usually more than willing to state their opinion about any given venture. And often, we take whatever they say and deem it gospel.

“Oh, you don’t think it’s a good idea? Ok. Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
“Why would I want to do that? Yeah, I guess it is a crazy idea, huh?”
“You don’t think I have the time (talent, gumption, wherewithal) to do it? Yeah, probably not.”

And next thing you know, that idea is shelved, right up there next to the dream of being a fairy princess or a rock star when you grow up.

We also seek permission subconsciously from everyone around us. Notice how you feel next time you are at an event and you are either overdressed or underdressed. You probably feel a bit self-conscious, wishing you had known that you could wear jeans, or that you should don some hose.

What about when we are in a presentation or a show or movie and we guffaw at something that was said and everyone turns to look at us. No one else thought it was funny. And we sheepishly sink down in our chair hoping that we can control our next outburst.

Think about the first time someone asked you what you were doing when you were working on your dream – writing a book, painting, training for a marathon. Maybe you didn’t know if what you were doing would turn out to be any good, or if you would be able to pull it off. Maybe your dream was in the baby stage and you felt the overwhelming need to shelter it from potential ridicule. Did you stumble over your words, maybe mumble a bit, when you responded?

Your family and friends will either support wholeheartedly, remain coldly disinterested in your pursuits, or laugh at your attempts and be ready with an I-told-you-so when you fail. Complete strangers will either try to advise you or look at you like you have grown two heads. Whatever their response, you cannot let it matter. Your goal, your dream is yours and yours alone.

The thing is – no one is going to give you permission.


The world does not care if you write another book or paint a portrait of your grandma or run in the mud. The world has plenty to read and look at and do without your contribution being added.

And I will tell you a secret that you may not realize…

You do not need anyone’s permission to follow your dream.

It’s true. If you need it in writing, simply fill out the form below. Your opinion is truly the only one that matters. If it kicks up your skirt – and it’s legal, of course – go for it!


What have you been waiting for permission to do? Why not give it to yourself right now?

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