Thursday, April 10, 2014

Beautiful

I was brushing my teeth in my bathroom as Gia Luna (5) watched me from the edge of the tub.

Gia Luna: "Mommy, when I grow up will I be as beautiful as you are?"

I choked on my toothpaste.

I saw her sweet little reflection in the mirror, her face earnest as she waited for a response she hoped would be affirmative. In all sincerity, she was hoping to be assured that she could look like...me.

My brows furrowed, my mind raced. Are you kidding me? I thought. Are you really setting the bar that low? You are gorgeous, you are radiant, you are young and unstoppable! Why would you want to look like me, when you actually look like you? Good God girl! You have flawless skin, puffy lips, big blue eyes and your father's metabolism. Haven't you noticed my nose is too big? My hair is a fire hazard? My..... and then I stopped.

Is that really who I want to be?

Fighting with passion so others will realize how unattractive I am? My five year old daughter tells me I am beautiful and I am disagreeing with her? I have this moment to show her how to handle a compliment with grace, to be comfortable in loving yourself, to show her strength is a part of beauty.

I was not going to fuck it up.

"Yes." I said, biting my tongue so I didn't say "You will be even more beautiful! Way prettier than I have ever dreamed of being!"

Gia Luna didn't need to hear that. She just needed to know she could be like her hero, and that hero is me.

And that is really beautiful.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

I Kid Because I Love

Yesterday was April Fool's Day.

It is kind of a big deal in my house, mostly because we are a bunch of a$$holes who like to show our love by humiliating each other. I know we are flawed, but we are happy.

Well, at least most of us are.

My Aspergian husband/editor is mostly just confused. He doesn't really get teasing as a form of love. "Teasing is illogical" says the Vulcan who understands most emotions by what he reads about them "The message conveyed opposes our previously agreed-upon strategy in which we strive to ensure every family member feels safe; trust is essential to the perception of safety."

Oh, Spock.

The interesting thing about loving someone on the Autism spectrum who is less-than-intuitive in the emotional intelligence department, is that it makes you question your own relationship towards emotion. I grew up with teasing as the main form of affection. Seriously, teasing equaled love in my formative years. I got loud and clear messages of "I love you no matter what" and "I am proud of you" - but always, ALWAYS couched in glib remarks and backhanded compliments. The idea of saying those things and not insulting each other at the same time was just way too cheesy… and vulnerable.

Yes, the irony of Spock being more emotionally healthy than I am is not lost on me.

But now I am a grown woman, a mindful adult raising my own children. I am free to break from my negative relationship feedback loop and plow forward with honesty and integrity in my heart and my words.

Buuuuuuuut…. I can't. I simply can't. I am too hardwired for sassy comebacks and the concept of "Kids, if it makes me laugh, you can get away with it."

It makes for some interesting children. I was driving one day with Spencer (15) and he was telling me about his school antics, it was pretty metal - but it included some mild harassment.

Me: "Why can't you just be nice, like your best friend Logan?" *
Spencer: "Mom, you can either have nice, or you can have funny. You chose funny. You're welcome."

So, long story short, I came home with a half-dozen “cream-filled” doughnuts (in actually I had secretly scooped out the cream and replaced it with mayonnaise). It was pretty gross, maybe a little cruel, and it was AWESOME. Spock was horrified. He is seriously evaluating the relationship at this point. The reactions of the children were priceless.

Cheyenne (13) was totally grossed out, ran around the house screaming and scouring her tongue and gobbling gum to get the nasty taste out of her mouth, dramatically inquiring "How could you do this? Why? Why?"

Spencer (15) realized it was mayo and took one more bite, declaring "Still a doughnut."

Boo (11), ever the skeptic, smelled, licked, and tossed it in the sink.

Gia (5) cried.

Campbell (3) ate two entire donuts and asked for one more.

So, in conclusion, I love my kids and would do anything for them - except give up a really good joke or story at their expense. And that is why this is not so much a parenting advice blog as a realization that we are all deeply flawed.

And mayo-filled doughnuts are deeply funny.



*I realize conventional wisdom frowns upon comparing kids to others - but I am clearly not the perfect parent - or person, for that matter. Give a girl a break. He knows I love him for exactly who he is….
Usually.
Sometimes.
At least I keep him fed.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Warriors in Stretch Pants

Mommies are mad.

First there was Maria Kang who put a picture of her chiseled body and her three young children out with the caption "What’s Your Excuse?" and everyone freaked out thinking she was fat-shaming and creating unrealistic expectations about post-baby bodies. Now there is Caroline Berg Eriksen who posted her flat-stomach selfie in her undies four days after giving birth and it has been called "obscene" and "an act of war".

Yes, mommies are mad - and kind of missing the point.

When we look at photos of these strong mommies, how are we focused on anything other that the fact that she just made a person? She is a goddess and another human being just emerged from that body. She is a creator. Her amazing body has worked exactly how its majestic nature is meant to, which is nothing less than remarkable. She is a warrior in stretch pants (or undies as the case may be).

That is what we should be focused on.

These women are clearly blessed with great genetics and they deserve a lot of credit for taking fitness so seriously, but to say they are waging war seems a little crazy. Maybe, just maybe, they are on their journey and it is not all about you. They are living their lives and not waging war.

When Caroline posted a picture of herself four days after her delivery, she did it with the caption "I feel so empty, and still not." That feels true to me – a sentiment I have felt when I know my little friend is no longer with me in the same way. It seems like a universal feeling for those who have used their bodies to create life, not an obscene comment.

Can't we just be a little more open minded and tolerant and accept these women for exactly who they are? If we aren't supporting moms who are fit after pregnancy, we aren't supporting moms. And that is a mistake.

New moms need support. All new moms.

We don’t really know these women from a two-dimensional image. We don't know about their happiness or their struggles. Let's just assume they are doing their conflicted best and fighting the good mommy fight like the rest of us.

Aren't we criticizing these women for saying moms should look a certain way after giving birth, all while telling them they should look a certain way after giving birth?

I understand the pushback against the pressure to be fit, thin, sexy - or anything other than what and who you choose to be after giving birth. The choice is a personal one and no pressure need apply.

Disingenuous women who lose baby weight through starvation and surgery and then tell people it is through exercise and "eating right" are being fairly criticized (I am looking at you Tori Spelling and Kim Kardashian). Lying about how you treat your body - that creates unfair expectations, and that is what we in the business call EVIL.

I have had four babies from my body, and I didn't look like these women after any of my pregnancies, or before any of my pregnancies, or now - but that is not the point. The point is that I wouldn't give up any part of my body or myself for the remarkable bodies these women have - I love myself too much.

Maybe if we all focused on loving ourselves a little more, we could hate these women a little less.

Maybe if all warriors in stretch pants supported each other, the world would be a better place for all moms and children.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The "Facebook" Town Square

There is a problem.
Technology, as it so often does, has moved faster than our collective enlightened maturity. Now we have the ability to create a visual message that is widely available from our homes with a single click. So, now Facebook is serving as the old town square, where people spread the word, get up on the occasional soapbox, and - most dangerously - visually place someone in a stockade when they have wronged the owner of the Facebook account. No judge or jury needed, just the ability to coerce someone into giving up their dignity and holding up a sign stating their transgressions.

And hey, if that fails, there is always Photoshop.

This is a trend that has been bothering me for a while: Parents posting pictures of their kids on Facebook while they hold signs reading "I don't know how to use social media, so I must close my account", or "I think drinking is cool, and that is bad", or "I picked my nose at my dad's office."

Not so sure about that last one. To be honest, I have kind of stopped paying attention.

I have stopped paying attention because it disgusts me when I see parents holding up their children in humiliation for all to see. I think it feels good to kids when they get the feeling that parents are on their side, helping them through the rough waters of school, friends, and society. They are children after all, it takes some time to figure out the world and their place in it. It must feel lonely and frightening for kids when their parents exploit them to prove some kind of point. They offer images of their own children as proof that they are bad-ass parents, and they will shoot their kid’s computer and film it to "Teach them a lesson" – all for the parent to collect accolades and fame. I’m not sure what is really going on here.

I know this generally inspires derisive hoots and hollers from those with deep and wide synaptic trails built by phrases like “kids need to be taught to obey”, "kids should know their place", “more stick, less carrot”, and “spare the rod, spoil the child”. But for just a moment I ask that we back off from our passionate and somewhat frightening calls to "Learn those kids a lesson like my Pappy done learned me!" and think about what all this public Facebook humiliation really means.

It means we are putting minors at risk.

Before these people reach the age of maturity, while their brains are still in "it is all about invincible me!" mode, and before they are mature enough to really know and feel comfortable in who they are, we are literally labeling them and telling them who they are. And, thanks to a world of rapidly shrinking privacy and that little phenomenon known as Facebook, we are creating an image that will last forever.

In a single click, we instantly strip away any chances for these young people to create and define themselves, or to be free from any stupid mistakes made before they were fully grown.

Why would a parent do this to their own child? Why would a parent send a message to the world that their child’s humility and self esteem didn’t matter? When I see children holding these signs, I immediately imagine their parent standing right next to them hold a sign reading “My child doesn’t feel safe, and I’m responsible.”

And now, it has become even more dangerous. Now businesses think it is acceptable for them to do this as well. Infamous Ink, a tattoo business in Waco, Texas, just decided to practice vigilante justice by posting a picture on Facebook of a 15 year-old boy who had stolen from their store, holding a sign reading "I am a thief". With this action, they circumvented the United States justice system and all the systems in place to protect minors from permanently damaging their lives when they are young and stupid.

Are we to trust in the wisdom of the Tattoo studio's owners more than in the wisdom of a carefully written, voted upon, law that the United States crafted to uphold justice?

I vote no. I vote no because this boy is a boy - a boy making stupid choices for sure - but a boy who may have lost his way. I vote no because I don't think he can be disgraced and shamed back to the straight and narrow. I vote no because, presumably, the tattoo studio owners are adults who should be exercising good judgment, but we clearly have no guarantee of that. I vote no because I believe in compassion, and not coercion.

This is dangerous people. We have put the fate of a 15-year-old boy in the hands of people who own a tattoo studio, not in the hands of those sworn to have his best interests at heart.

It is dangerous because people commenting on the picture are recognizing this boy, revealing where he went to school. Some are asking for his last name. It is dangerous because now this boy is receiving threatening texts on his personal phone. It is dangerous because in the comments below the picture people are threatening this boy, saying he deserves to be punched in the face, his fingers broken, and held down while horrible slurs are tattooed on his face.

The picture and comments about this boy advocate for the 17th century methods of The Scarlett Letter. Have we really not progressed beyond that?

Let’s use Facebook to share our lives, recipes, and cute cat pictures.

Let’s stop using it as a way to publicly, if not literally, flog children in the town square.