Raising a Lion :: A Parenting Lesson in Defaulting to Yes

Parenting is hard, y’all. I recently saw a meme on Facebook that said something along the lines of, “I hope I raise my child to use their genius as the CEO of a Fortune 500 Company, not the leader of a prison gang.” Most people probably chuckled politely and scrolled on by, but I stopped, laughed uproariously, and closed my eyes as I pictured my youngest daughter, Sofia, barking orders at fellow inmates in prison garb. It’s a legit possibility, but here’s hoping a CEO position is in her future instead!

My Youngest Daughter is a Lion

By way of introduction, let me start by saying that I am a mother of five. Of those five, four of my babies were born in a span of two very short years. Three of them {six year old identical twins and their 7 year old brother} are first graders, all having been born in the same school calendar year. After these three first graders comes the baby of our family, who is currently in Pre K. This child is a lion.

We call our youngest The Boss. Or Bathroom Ham. And occasionally #dammitsofia. The Boss is fierce and funny and full to the brim of life and jokes and equal parts sugar and vinegar. She is wild and strong and already roars with the confidence of a lion.

The Literal Lion Suit

On the morning of my kids’ Daycare Picture Day, I woke my children a little earlier than usual. I got them out of bed, saying, “It’s picture day, y’all! I want you to go and pick out something that makes you feel happy about yourself to wear today!”

This open-ended invitation to dress themselves for picture day was not my finest parenting decision. I {belatedly} recognize this. Luckily, my twins and 7 year old son made relatively benign fashion choices. Unluckily, The Boss came downstairs in…a lion suit.

Raising a Lion:: A Parenting Lesson in Defaulting to Yes | Houston Moms Blog

Our conversation went as follows ::

Me :: Sofia, are you sure that you want to wear a lion suit for picture day? It’s awfully hot outside today. Maybe we should save the lion suit for another day…like…Halloween?
Sofia :: You said find something that makes me feel happy about myself.
Me :: Yes, but I was kind of hoping you would find something a little less…lion-y.
Sofia :: You said find something that makes me feel happy about myself. I feel happy.
Me :: Well…ok, then. Lion suit it is, I guess.

Introspection, Courtesy of The Lion Suit

Confession :: While The Boss felt happy about herself in her lion suit, I felt decidedly LESS happy about the situation. My discomfort with her attire made me step back and analyze why I felt uncomfortable about her choice, and what exactly that choice represented. Upon introspection, I realized that my unease about the lion suit had little to do with my daughter, and much more to do with myself.

Sometimes, when given the option, our children choose the lion suit. And sometimes that choice is very much NOT what we, as parents, want for them to choose.

Maybe it’s because we are afraid of how that choice will reflect upon us.
Maybe it’s because we are afraid of how that choice will affect our children.
Maybe it’s because it is not the choice that WE would make, or it is not the choice that we would make if we were them.

But, none of those reasons were compelling enough to ask my daughter to change something that clearly made her feel good about herself and happy with her appearance.

Default to Yes

And so, parent to parent, I’d like to encourage you to let your child wear the proverbial lion suit…or the real one, if the opportunity presents itself.

A friend of mine gave me some sound advice::

When your children are young, try to make “yes” your default answer. There will be so many times in their lives when you will have to say “no.” Whether it’s for safety or practicality reasons, your family’s needs will often require you to say “no.” So, when you are able, try to make “yes” your default answer.

I said “yes” to the lion suit. And when my little lion comes to me with other hare-brained ideas, I continue to say “yes,” so long as those crazy ideas are safe and kind. Eventually, the world around her will likely give her enough negative feedback to curb her desire to wear a lion suit in public. Her nutty ideas will be tempered by a desire to be accepted by her peers. That’s probably a good thing.

Raise a Lion

Before her experiences with social acceptability tame the wildest parts of Sofia’s personality, though, I hope a little piece of that lion-ness sticks to her soul. I want her to retain her fierceness and continue to feel good in her own skin. That confidence required to strut around in a lion suit? I pray that confidence doesn’t allow anyone — even her own mother — to convince her that she should feel embarrassed to express herself exactly as she is. I am striving to find the right balance between allowing her to be herself and harnessing her “muchness” into something that will produce a successful, happy adult.

Mostly, I just hope I continue to raise a lion. And, to do that, I will continue to default to YES!

Raising a Lion:: A Parenting Lesson in Defaulting to Yes | Houston Moms Blog


  1. This. Is. Awesome.

    I’m raising a Hulk, and totally get this idea. My whole goal is for him to choose to use his powers for good…but I absolutely define good as “safe and kind.” Good job, and adorable Sof

  2. I LOVE this for so many reasons, and not only because I know what an amazing human this mother is. While my daughter probably never would’ve chosen a literal lion suit for school, she is overwhelmingly confident in herself and her uniqueness. Some of her decisions make me nervous for her or just uncomfortable about being judged but I try to just love & support her as her own individual. I also pray that the world doesn’t dull her shine or take away her confident weirdness as she’s rapidly approaching those teen years. Thanks for this funny & powerful article and the reminder to try to default to YES.

  3. Excellent article, as always, Kalani!

    I had Stephanie and Jonathan within 20 months of each other. I wanted/needed to continue working in my hair salon so took them with me each day from the time I returned to work after each birth. My patrons loved seeing them and treated the kids as their own grandchildren. I will never forget what one of them said to me one day when I was freaking out that they may be bothering everyone. ‘Always remember … as long as they’re not hurting anyone with actions or words and not hurting themselves, let them be. They are forming their personalities … finding their strengths and weaknesses, and who are we to change that.’ Wise woman that Mrs. Delaney. I truly think of her often as I watch my ‘kids’ grow into the amazing adults they are today.

    You are an amazing mom, Kalani! Keep up the good work you’ve done with your kiddos!

    • You have some amazing kids, so that must have been sound advice! Thank you for always being such a great support to me, Jody. I’m grateful for your quiet presence in my life.

  4. I love this, Kalani! We’ve got to figure out how to parent the kids we have, and not try to turn our children into idealized versions of themselves. I fully support your yes-approach here.

  5. This was EVERYTHING!! My youngest likes to wear weird skirts, high socks, and cowboy boots year round. Initially I opposed it but now I’m working on defaulting to yes as well. Society/kids will temper her spirit as time goes on but in the meantime I want to keep feeding her flame. Hopefully, it will help show her that I’ll always be her biggest cheerleader. Thanks for this post!


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