Monday, September 19, 2011

Smart? Pretty? Or Both?

Author Lisa Bloom recently posted an article in the Huffington Post entitled: How To Talk To Little Girls in which she expressed her disdain for speaking to girls about how lovely they are or how pretty they look upon first impression. She claims this action further provides unnecessary emphasis on appearance and contributes to our cultural idea where being beautiful is much more important than being smart.

From her post:
Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything. It sets them up for dieting at age 5 and foundation at age 11 and boob jobs at 17 and Botox at 23. As our cultural imperative for girls to be hot 24/7 has become the new normal, American women have become increasingly unhappy. What's missing? A life of meaning, a life of ideas and reading books and being valued for our thoughts and accomplishments.

Woah.

I do agree our current culture does put an unhealthy emphasis on physical beauty. Every where you look - from the clothes racks in little girl boutiques, to the front pages of magazines, our daughters run the risk of falling prey to the sensualistic versions of youth where being "hot" trumps all. Some outfits look more suited to club hopping than to school going. Girls are wearing make up younger and younger; Teens are seeking out dangerous means to lose weight and acquiring body altering surgeries before they are even finished developing. We do make celebrities and role models out of women who are only famous for being pretty, when women who have achieved success in areas of business, education, medicine or politics are overlooked. 

However.

Does me telling my daughter or one of her friends that she looks really pretty today actually contribute to such mindset?

No.

It is my responsibility, not only as a mother,  but as a woman, to bestow these types of compliments upon all girls alike. In this world where voices scream they are not pretty enough - my voice of truth needs to be heard. Girls need to hear they are lovely. Girls need to hear they are beautiful. Girls need the women in their circles to condone self confidence and contradict the poor messages they absorb through television, internet and the school building hallways. Girls who lack these kinds of messages  are the ones who search for something or someone to make them feel pretty. It is our job to ensure they know it.

Are these compliments of outwardly appearance the only thing they should hear from us? Of course not. We should go out of our way to admire the things they do well - be it athletics or academics or personality. Girls need to hear they are smart. Girls need to hear they are funny. Girls need to hear they are talented. It is our duty to encourage them to fulfill their greatest potential. Our daughters have decades of hard fought opportunity at their fingertips and must be encouraged to take advantage of everything their fore-sisters secured for their futures.

 But.

Why must it be one or the other? Smart OR Pretty?

We must find balance.

A young lady who is exceptionally bright grows up only hearing how smart she is will also grow up with a poor self image, constantly doubting her appearance as a grown woman. A little girl who grows up only hearing how pretty she is will also doubt her intellectual capabilities as a adult.

We personally have to provide an environment where we recognize the intelligence and ambition of   our daughters while not devaluing the importance admiring their beauty. We may not be able to change the culture as a whole, but we can influence the young ladies in our own homes and backyards.

You can be smart AND pretty.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fabulous Four Farewell

If I said that I truly enjoyed every child that came through my doors, I'd be lying. There are some that are definitely more fun to be around and some that are well, just annoying and some that just make me shudder thinking about them. I do not wish to be sound mean, but it is the truth! It is also the nature of children.

One of the ones that I find delightful is another 4 year old little girl who we'll call K.  She is a beautiful child, smart as a whip and pretty darn funny. She is one of those kids that you can just look at and know that she'll be successful in whatever she chooses to do. She is very girlie but not as high maintenance as you would imagine. I find her to be very easy going and pretty laid back. She and Raegan have played together for a couple of years now, and for the most part get along pretty well. I say "for the most part" because they both share a bit of a diva-esq attitude at times and they both are female, so occasional tiffs becomes part of the territory.

K was over today and I over heard some great expressions between her and Raegan:

"Hey Raegan, Do you remember when I saw you in heaven before God sent us to our mommies?" (They were talking about babies)

"K, I only like frogs when there are princes in them..."
(As they were talking about frogs)

"Raegan, this dress is soooo cute I just want to kiss it!"
(As they were playing dress up girls on the computer"

They were both just so pleasant and played so well together. It was one of those moments where I just wanted to take a snap shot of it and keep them both so young and innocent forever. Not only because I will blink and they will both be 16, but also because K is moving this weekend - in addition to being friends, the girls have also been neighbors.

Despite K's promises of, "I will still see you every day!" to Raegan, I know this will not be the case. Although they are not moving far, never again will they be able to open their front doors and play together. While I am happy for her and her mama, it is also kind of sad.

Best of luck to little Miss K and her family - we really will miss you!



Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Cosmic Loss of Sanity

There are some things that just shouldn't be said or written because they provide excellent opportunities for the cosmos to rain down a little comedic humility to your life. You know what I am talking about.

Like when you see children behaving terribly in a store and think to yourself, "Oh, I am so glad my kids never act like that!" and the very next day your children do the very same thing only exponentially worse. Or when you run into an a former acquaintance and walk away thinking, "Man, time has not treated them well! They looked awful!" and the very next day you run into the convenience store not caring at all about the baby snot dried on your shirt and the cheeto dust wiped across your leg, and you run into a high school boyfriend. Or when you use your car as an excuse to not come into work, only to find the next day that there really is something wrong with your car? Stuff like that.

Same rule applies to a baby's sleeping habits. If you are a new mama, and your baby is a pro at sleeping through the night, listen to me sister, close your pretty little mouth and don't say a word. When all your girlfriends are nearly drooling on themselves due to their lack of sleep and you want to flaunt your well rested eyes, Don't do it! The moment you brag about your quiet nights, that little booger will be up every two hours. That is just how it goes.

I have not written about what a fantastic sleeper Baby John has been his entire life for that very reason. I knew better. All was going phenomenally well in the most beautiful of glorious ways when it came to him sleeping.

From day one, we practiced the art of Co-sleeping. For those of you who are unfamiliar - cosleeping means just that: you and your baby sleep together. It is not for everyone and is somewhat debated - for us, it worked. Basically you feed your baby in your bed and he sleeps snuggled next to you. No delicate ballet of tip toeing him back to his bed and nearly passing out because you are holding your breath as you lay him down, just pure, wonderful uninterrupted sleep.

That worked until he was about 9months old when he started walking. At that point, I could no longer sleep with my favorite cuddle buddy because I was afraid he would sneak out of bed and wander dangerously around. I had no choice to put him into his own crib, in the room he shared with his brother. There was no messy transition - only one or two nights with him crying for about 15minutes or so before he fell asleep on his own. It was delightful. There was no fighting, no sad crying - every night at 7pm, armed with his blankie and his monkey, he laid down and drifted off to dream land not awaking until nearly 7am the next morning. (He would do the same for his daily nap, too!)

Did I mention this was DELIGHTFUL and incredibly good for my sanity? I love my little boy to the moon and back, but I definitely appreciate the hours where I do not have to chase him around and keep him from accomplishing his next devious mission of eating toilet paper or climbing onto a chair, onto the table onto the window seal (true story.).

Sigh.

It all came to a very sad, very restless end.

He is climbing out of his bed, very quietly, surprising me by slouching down the stairs on his belly and greeting me with the most shit-eating-est grin you ever did see. 

SAD, DRAMATIC, POUTY LIP, SIGH.

What the heck do I do? My first thought was to just let him stay up a bit, become super tired, and put him into his bed. Surely then, out of sheer exhaustion, he would just go to sleep.

Fail.

My next thought tapped into to all of those Super Nanny tricks where she advises: Say Nothing, continue to put him back in his bed until he stays there. I attempted that - and on the 50th trip back into his bed in 35 minutes, (I so wish I was exaggerating) I decided that perhaps this trick was meant of an older child. Not a 14month old future mountain climber. He is still visibly tired at this point so I have to do something.

I decided to try my hand at rocking him. Rocking a baby to sleep can be a calm, relaxing, special gift from God. It can also be a very frustrating, very exhausting wrestling match wherein a toddler defeats a much stronger opponent. He pwn'd me WWE style. He is not used to being coddled to sleep anymore as he has been falling asleep on his own for several months now.

I do not know what to do. Good ladies suggested a crib tent or a canopy and after some research, I am not comfortable with that. Instead, we are getting him a toddler bed this weekend and I am going to gate off his doorway so that he cannot wander around. That solves the climbing problem, but I have never transitioned a baby this young to a "big boy" bed.

My other children were at least 2 1/2 nearly 3 before moving to such a bed.  We built it up as a big right of passage - there is no discussion like that with my sweet baby John. At 14months, he doesn't give a crap about that kind of logic. I honestly do not know how this is all going to go down.

Hear that? The cosmos are CACKLING at me.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Decade Later - In Rememberance

Thinking of those who woke this morning, ten years ago, as if it were a normal day. Moms & Dads who hugged their babies for the last time, wives & husbands who kissed nonchalantly as there were many more chances, sons & daughters who watched a parent drive away....I wonder if they would've spent those last moments differently had they known what awaited them.
 As a generation, we talk about how this day changed so much. Arguably, it has. Yet, Most of us were spared the deep and profound losses that not only shaped a country, but countless individual families.  
My thoughts are heavily with them this morning, on this decade anniversary. 
My prayers also go to those loved ones who remember the brave service men who have since risked and lost their lives ensuring this does not happen again by pursing those foes and serving their country.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

You, Me, Starbucks, Homeschool?

If I had a penny for every blog I have started and stopped since I last posted, I would have enough to buy you and I fancy shmancy Starbucks!

I am not sure if that defines "writers block" or if that defines what life is like with a relentless Baby John or if that is just one more feather in my slacker cap. None the less, none of those are probably  adequate excuses as so many writers find the time to actually write amidst a plethora of children and full time jobs, all the while keeping their perfectly decorated homes sparkling clean and managing to give it up every night.

Bitches.

Good for them.

My day HAS changed a bit.

I have added teaching Raegan for a couple hours each morning to my daily routine. Now, before you become all, "Shouldn't she be in a REAL preschool" judgmental (as I know some of you inherently will), hear me out.

I realize that education has changed a lot. I have survived kindergarten with her top two siblings. I know what is required and the benefits of preparing your preschoolers for school. However, I have been blessed with the opportunity to be home once again this school year, and have adequate time and ability to teach her the preparatory standards. I am a smart mama, myself.

There are plenty of resources available online as well as many workbooks available at many general stores. All you need is the time, motivation, commitment and creativity. Currently, I am following a Fall Themed lesson plan I found online that introduces the seasons, the days of the week, months of the year, letter recognition and beginning writing skills.

She has done extremely well. She is a very bright child. She is actually a bit ahead of the curriculum - she recognizes 22 of the 26 letters (blasted Q and Y), and can write nearly as many. She can write her first name and jokes about the million letters in her last name.

She has a very good understanding of basic math principles. Once this week, during dinner, I told her  she had to take 3 more bites. Once she finished, I told her she needed two more bites. She said, "But Mom, that is 5 bites! Why didn't you just say FIVE BITES?".

Science time includes her papa as well. He IS Wil Nye: The Science Guy, you know, and since he works afternoon/evenings, he is home.  We learned about trees, bees, and bones this week. She retained all of it and proclaims that she would be the Queen Bee if she lived in a hive.

I have thoroughly enjoyed teaching her as much as she has enjoyed learning. I am looking forward to the rest of the school year. Is she missing out on daily social interaction between children her own ages? Sure. Is she socially backwards? Um, have you met this child? Absolutely not. Would she have one on one instruction amidst all of that social interaction in an actual school building? No, she would not.

If I were a working mother, I would most definitely take advantage of the preschool program offered in my neighborhood. However, I am not and will be taking advantage of the Stay at Home mom title I have earned. If I felt the least bit concerned that she would  be entering kindergarten not fully prepared, I would explore other options.

Judge if you would like, but come the end of the school year, I invite you to sit your preschooler down in front of mine, and we will battle it out Quiz Bowl style. I'll walk away with a "My home-schooler beat your school go-er" bumper sticker.

I kid.

I'd never rock that bumper sticker. T-shirt, Maybe.

To each their own, and this is ours.