Decisions We Make in Childhood

Heidi Hutton Rigoli
3 min readNov 9, 2022


Photo by Oxana Melis on Unsplash

It was second grade. We’d just moved out to California from Wisconsin. I was staying with my aunt and cousin in Tustin.

Mom had to go to Germany. Her mother was dying. Dad was busy in Santa Barbara, starting his new job and finding us a house.

Moving can be difficult. Especially when you are young. They say children are resilient, but the things that happen to them and the decisions they make during those happenings, last a lifetime.

I’d made friends with some kids at school and in the neighborhood. Every kid wants to feel accepted. Especially after being uprooted from my home in Milwaukee, I was looking for some kind of solid footing. Mom and Dad weren’t there. I barely knew my aunt. I didn’t feel like I had a home at all.

The kids invited me to play softball out in the street. So I played. One of the kids threw or hit the ball (can’t remember which) and it hit the window of one of the houses nearby.

We all ran away from there!

Later, someone came to my aunt’s house and told her I had been the kid who broke the window. I wasn’t. I told my aunt that. She was angry. Now she had to pay for it. She was a nice lady but could be strict and harsh.

She didn’t spank me, which wasn’t as uncommon in those days. But she did punish me. I tried to tell her it wasn’t me who broke the window, but all the kids had decided to blame it on me. She didn’t believe me.

I wasn’t only guilty of breaking the window, but now I was guilty of lying.

No one would say the truth. I was a liar and a window-breaker. I was guilty according to everyone else in the world, but I knew I hadn’t broken the window.

I was confused. I couldn’t understand why the kids had lied about it. Of course, now it makes more sense that they would put the onus on a new kid in the neighborhood. They had no ties with me. They didn’t care about me. Just about not getting in trouble themselves.

What decisions did I make then that has lasted all my life?

Don’t trust anyone. They’ll eventually turn against me.

Don’t trust what I think is real. My reality turned upside down. I didn’t know what was real and what was false. After all, when you’re sure that something’s true, but everyone else tells you you’re wrong, you begin to doubt yourself. Especially at seven.

I decided I was a “bad little girl.” Unlovable and no good. I was confused, I missed my parents, and I felt so alone.

I can see why I’ve always felt outside the group. Never really felt “a part of it.” When I make a friend, they will eventually turn against me. Any relationship I had with a man led to distrusting anything positive they said to me. It didn’t take much for me to feel I wasn’t acceptable. I wasn’t loveable.

(Sometimes I see unacceptable when that’s not what’s happening at all. It’s built in to think that people see me that way.)

So, now I’m 67 and still feeling and acting in this way. What now?

It’s good to see these things. To become aware of the stories we’ve told ourselves all our lives. We make really strong decisions when we don’t have the capability of making good decisions at all. then those decisions become the way we live our lives.

To see this is to begin to change it.

Although it still takes me a while to realize I’m telling myself a story that comes from past things, eventually I can realize it. I can move past the old and into whatever’s happening now.

Maybe someone will turn against me, but at least give them a chance.

Maybe they won’t abandon, hurt, or turn the whole world against me (which is what it felt like at seven!)

It could go either way, after all.

But having known the opening of my heart to another, and their heart opening to me, I can say it’s worth the risk.

I now have enough confidence in myself to know that if someone does do something hurtful, I can deal with it.

After all, I’m not seven anymore!