FYI Moms: We are in this together

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FYI Moms: We are in this together

Wow. I have never seen blog banter like I have the past few days. And like any shameless, opinionated blogger, I feel the need to weigh in.

But I’m not going to give you my take on whether teenage girls need a little education in social media or whether boys can only think of towel-clad girls after seeing such in photos. I will say this: all of these Moms are saying essentially the same things. To save you time from reading blog post after blog post, I have summarized them for you here:)

Dear Teenage Sons and Daughters of America,

Here’s a list of lessons I have gleaned from a set of blog posts from some very loving, thoughtful and respectable Moms. They have had a LOT to say, but I just gave you the bullet points here.

Respect yourself. And respect me enough to understand that some things I tell you won’t make sense until you are older.

Express yourself, just maybe not in a public forum or text or email via photograph. Choose wisely.

Don’t think a photograph represents everything you could possibly learn about someone. Or—don’t let a photograph be the exclusive reason you are attracted to any one person. I hope you like his/her personality, sense of humor, mind, values, etc.

Make mistakes and fix them. If you lose people along the way because of your mistakes and can’t mend the relationship, they probably weren’t worth it anyway.

Attention from your peers be they romantic, affectionate or something more is something every teenager wants. You just have to choose what type of attention you want to trump all others. You have many amazing traits and talents that have nothing to do with how you look, just so you know.

Protect your reputation. On your worst days, it’s all you’ve got. People will tell you to “live your life without regret” or “don’t care what anyone thinks.” These are things that people say who have a lot of regret and who also happen to care a lot about what people think.

If you see a girlfriend, sister or brother selling themselves short, in any way, clue them in.

Love yourself first. Don’t let any number of likes you receive on a photo be the metric of your worth.

If you are having a day when you are not loving yourself, call a friend, a brother, a sister or your Mom and Dad. Or anyone who you know will always love you unconditionally.

Don’t ever do whatever you call that thing Miley Cyrus did. Just don’t. Like ever. I mean it.

Beware of any man that talks about blurred lines. All boundaries having to do with you and your dignity should have very precise, crystal clear lines.

Remember who you are without having to look at a Facebook profile or Twitter handle for help. Know what you stand for in your real life face to face relationships. Because those are the only ones that will really ever matter.

And, while you’re at it– make sure you thank your mother for the 76 blog posts she read and commented on deliberating what were the most important values to instill in you. Because, she, like every Mom, wants the best for you and the people you may choose to love someday.

Sweet, Innocent Summer

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You can’t help having a pit in your stomach at the end of summer. The arrival of Labor Day reminds you of all the things you didn’t do that you wanted to, the people you didn’t get to visit with and the things you just couldn’t pack in–in time.

One summer of my childhood memory, my family was coming home from a rare trip out to dinner. There was a band playing at the park in my hometown. At some point, the band initiated a dance contest. I danced my little girl heart out hoping for first prize. It was a couples contest so my Dad was my partner. Slowly, couples were eliminated all around us. Then, much to my little girl expectations–we WON!

Is it my fondest memory of summer? Probably. It’s now a blur in my mind but I will always know for certain that one summer my Dad and I danced in Johnson park together and won a dance contest. It was pure. It was peaceful. It was innocent. It was summer.

Looking at my own children at the end of each summer unloads this same type of sappy overwhelming nostalgia. As parents, summers become emotional threads by which you hold onto your children. You tug gently on them, to pull them close, to take a mental snapshot, to keep them as the little people they are this summer.

But you also bear the burden of being the to ringmaster of their summer circus. You want the memories they have to fit the very carefully composed painting you have of the-perfect-summer-you-want-them-to-have.

My days this summer were filled with sandy feet, snarly hair, sticky fingers and sunscreened cheeks. I watched them wade in the lake, bury each other in the sand, suck on purple popsicles and race each other all over the beach. I saw, in them, what summer truly is: sweet; fleeting; precious.

You hope for their memories to be as sweet as your own. The hunt for “beautiful rocks” to add to our rock collection, the way you danced with them to “Wagon Wheel” with the Friday Night band. You want them to have your own memories and be able to say, “I had such great summers when I was a kid.”

But your memories, over time, will become their memories too. I will be able to tell Parker ten times over about the time he posed with the Asian family for a photo at Central Park Zoo. I will be able to tell Celia how she at two years old would putter around the shops with me and her grandmother, as if she were just another girl on the shopping trip, checking things out. I will tell them about our summer bucket list, our long car rides and even the struggles I had with them as a parent.

So, my sweet Parker and Celia, this is what I hope for you:

That you appreciate a refreshing swim in the lake, a stunning Adirondack view, a good hot dog with ketchup. That you carry the zest for playing– everything in your life and never grow tired of games of any kind. That you cherish quiet, long, pajama mornings as much as you love loud, boisterous family gatherings.

But mostly, I hope this summer and every summer you have is pure, peaceful and innocent. Just like that girl dancing in the village park.

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Goodbye Babyhood: Meditations on Moving On

In less than month, Celia Catherine turns two. And while I know she will always be my baby, I have been coming to the very real realization that the part of my life where I take care of babies, little sweet wrapped up in a blanket bundles is, well, over.

And before you say, “well, just have more then,” I must tell you: I have realized two big things summer. I am not cut out for stay at home motherhood and I am not ready for more than two. Or at least more than two of kids like mine.

It seems like just yesterday I was waddling around chasing Parker with a belly full of baby, ready to take on sleepless nights and swaddling and worries of weight gain (hers) and weight loss (mine).

And it seems like I was just a ball full of nerves and excitement the day when my two children got to have their first sniff of each other.

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The second child’s milestones blur in comparison to the first. You remember exactly how many months old the first child is, read up about their latest growing pains and can assess how far ahead or behind they are. With the second, keeping them clothed and fed is the priority and every once in a while you say, “Oh, I guess that phase is over. Wow, that was quick.”

When Celia was 5 months, I didn’t want to start her on solids. I had a lot of trouble and just wasn’t ready for it. I felt like the departure from the bottle was so ceremonious and meant the rest of her infancy would fly by. She gave up her bottle without a fight, slept in a big girl bed with little fanfare and eats everything and anything with a spoon, knife and fork. She’s a big girl more and more each day. And I feel a complicated mix of emotions about it. She’s growing up and I’m realizing a part of my life I thought I was just trying so hard to survive is almost–done.

It’s no wonder that the idea of potty training her makes me sad. I was all set to make it happen this summer, but felt like there are some things I am not just not ready for yet. It’s the last piece of her that is baby. Her sweet, little, puffy, diapered butt.

So in bidding farewell to babyhood, I have a laundry list of things I’ll miss. And I’ll try not to do the hiccuping ugly cry as I recite them for you here.

1. The noises. The little sighs and coos and snorts. Words are nice but nothing beats a good little baby sigh.

2. Baby nuzzle-cuddles. Parker used to rub his nose in my chest until he found just the right spot to sleep. He would do this in the middle of a work party, in the middle of a room full of kids, whatever. I miss it so much.

3. I loved the period of time before they could pull themselves up when you could just peek over the side of their crib and they would look at you all excited and surprised.

4. Baby talking like here.

5. Baby tricks like here and here.

6. The smell of baby laundry soap. And the smell of Burt’s Bees baby wash. And the smell of their little heads after a bath.

7. A baby falling asleep on you before you realize it’s bedtime.

8. The outfits. And the poses you could make them do.

9. Baby giggles and the discovery of their laughter with each other.

10. Middle of the night- just me and baby time. It may have been exhausting and hard. But nothing beats that type of cuddle time.

I am excited to be a mother of an almost two and almost four year old. But I will remember, so dearly, the blur of three years where I had two of the sweetest blabbering, cooing, crawling, toddling babies a Mommy could ever ask for.

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The Dog Days of Summer: A Pep Talk for Parents

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So, you’ve exhausted your summer bag of tricks. You’ve tried 7 different parenting methods/ incentive strategies, you’ve guiltily googled several disorders you think you or your toddler may suffer from and you’ve had it. Like. Had. It.

Every morning I nuzzle each one of them so tightly but still somehow every day, I am counting down the minutes until nap time. So I can sit. And think. In quiet.

Some days Parker has negotiated his way through everything short of putting on his underwear. And has done it with such guile that I just want to wave a white flag and retire upstairs. For a long nap.

There are conversations you can only have 75 times before you start to feel crazy. And the conversation about how he wants to know which play doh ball was “his” on the table full of play-doh toys, that’s one you can only have once before you just turn into a puddle of squishy play-doh yourself.

So you bribe.

And you overuse the IPad, Kids on Demand and your DVD collection.

But you are doing it in the name of your own sanity, right?

In between convincing myself that I am doing penance for every time I ever stuck my tongue out at my mother and convincing myself that I am really just a great Mom trapped in a grouchy Mom’s body. I think this:

In three weeks, I will tearfully be bidding goodbye to another July and August with my little people. The new habits and words they have developed (Celia calls her blanket her “gippey”– no idea why) will become old news and we will all get caught up in the blur of life that is back to school.

And I will kick myself. For being so negative and for feeling so frustrated.

So, in prevention of that receiving that kick from myself, I give you this:

Watch them.
Splash in puddles with them.
Follow their gaze.
Listen to their laughter in the other room.
Sing songs together.
Put down your phone.
Read one more book.
Let them sleep with you.
Give them one more cookie or Popsicle or cupcake or hug.
And tell them what a special summer it’s been.

Because soon, you’ll wish you had it all back.

17 More Reasons My Toddler is Losing His/Her Mind

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1. There’s a balloon. In a store. And he doesn’t own it.

2. Tomatoes aren’t apples and she keeps biting into them expecting them to be.

3. I have showed him a dip in the vicinity of where he is consuming his chips and HE DOESN’T LIKE DIP!

4. There’s a black speck on his grilled cheese. Suddenly the sandwich “doesn’t taste such good.”

5. I have bought a new toy in his and hers colors and neither are a color he likes.(She, however, likes them both).

6. I’m making him/her brush his/her teeth more than twice a week.

7. I won’t let him bring 14 different stuffed animals into the grocery store.

8. I cannot make a show that he wants to watch come on the TV in the 3 seconds after I turn on the TV.

9. I’ve asked him not to wake me up at 5 am all summer long.

10. I won’t let him chase ducks and seagulls at the beach for fear of my children being pecked into submission.

11. I’ve asked her not to play with sand toys and eat goldfish at the same time.

12. Someone called his “circle toast” an English muffin.

13. Her gogurt is “broken.” (Read: she doesn’t know how to push up the yogurt yet.)

14. I’ve asked to use shampoo in his hair in the bath. He screams “My eyes! My eyes!” before I even squirt it on my hand.

15. I’ve told him he’s not the boss of me.

16. I didn’t pack a cold refreshing beverage to hand to him/her as soon as the car starts moving on a ten minute drive.

17. He or she is hot/cold/itchy/sweaty/ and/or has an invisible boo boo.

A Legacy of Words: Talking to [and About] Your Children

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Words are our legacy. No matter who you are, people will remember you by the things you have said. I am reading a novel right now—Looking for Alaska by John Green. The main character has memorized the last words of famous people. If words had no import, no one would take the time to catalog what people’s last words were. If words were fleeting things, no one would be able to recall exactly the insult you gave them on the exact date as an adolescent.

Words stick to us. They stay with us. They can live inside us happily or unhappily. Sometimes they make monsters of us. On occasion, they make us better people. But overall, words are a powerful, powerful legacy. And we need to handle them gingerly and use them with great care.

I’ve written about the impact words can have before. And, I’ve written about having a daughter before. But now that my own daughter is actually using words, I am thinking more and more and more about the words I use around her.

This all started when I came across the image below. Since I had always secretly hated calling little girls (or grown women) princesses, I was in full agreement with this one. Little girls need to be told they are strong, capable, bright and well, awesome. But don’t we all?

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(Answer: yes. But take a minute to think. What do you remember more vividly—the last time you were complimented on your appearance or the last time you were complimented on your abilities? If your answer is the latter, then you are in great shape. And chances are, your parents used words that complimented your actions more than your appearance.)

Me, not so much.

My mother sang a song to me when I was a baby. “Bridgette Holmes, my Bridgette Holmes, pretty pretty Bridgette Holmes.” And still, I think about that song with ballooning nostalgia. The way my mother sang, the sweetness of the made-up song just for me—and the message. I was pretty.

Having suffered through a chubby phase and your basic, run of the mill teasing when I was in sixth grade, I could not help but be focused on the messages I received about my appearance. I have never, until now, linked the feelings I had about myself to the words that were used around me. I noticed the ways that I was different from my peers. But, the slippery slope came when you realized adults noticed it too.

But before I make the blanket statement that my sweet little mother messed me up by calling me pretty, let me tell you a story about her childhood. A childhood that was not full of roses, devoid of praise and bereft of any really attachment as a family. My mother was left at age four by her mother. I can’t imagine what it would be like knowing your mother left you and then learning to get along without her. My mother was shy, quiet and was very aware of the labels that were passed out in her family. My aunt was the funny one, my uncle was the smart one and she was the hard worker. She vividly remembers overhearing her father say what a hard worker she was and she has carried this with her through her entire life. At 71, my mother works 40 hours a week and maintains a 3 bedroom house, yard and pool all on her own. Anyone that knows her would say that she is one of the hardest working people they know.

If I asked my mother what her parents thought of her, this is what she would say. And while it is indeed positive and motivated her to do good things, think about what other words my grandparents could have used that could have impacted her even more. The legacy of those words could have led her somewhere completely different. Words are just that powerful.

So, when I started snapping pictures of Celia on Instagram and wanted to give her her own original hashtag (the true demonstration of Mommy vanity), I chose #prettycelia— for obvious reasons. I mean, my little Celia, is, well, so adorable!

And then this article threw me for a loop. Do I say pretty too often when talking about her hair, her clothes, her eyes, her painted nails? Have I already begun to define her thoughts of herself?

And this isn’t a girl-centric thing, in my opinion. Parker recently informed me that he was handsome, not cute and Celia was pretty. He said boys are handsome and girls are pretty. He frequently describes things as beautiful—our Christmas tree, horses, his aunt’s newly painted house. At three, he already clearly understands what beauty is . While it should be something simple every child learns, it makes me wonder—have I already said too much about the way things and people look around him? Have I described his sister as pretty, his father as handsome instead of emphasizing the other fantastic qualities that we have?

And this is not unlike when I wrote about Parker playing soccer. In reading this article, I saw that the way we talk about what they do is almost as important as being there and seeing it. Our response to them is so often communicated strictly with the words we choose. No pressure Moms and Dads.

This brought me back to the first piece of parenting advice I remember reading when Parker was just a baby. “Praise the action, not the child.” Instead of, “you’re so smart” you say, “wow, you know a lot of facts about animals.” Instead of, “you are a good boy” you say, “you really had good behavior all day.” And, although this article didn’t state this, I would expect that instead of saying, “You’re so pretty,” you might opt for, “I love the way you look in that blue dress.”

But for a Mom like me, who looks for positive reinforcement all too often in my marriage, parenting and career, this is a difficult shift to make.

So that leads me to this. As parents, we are the first people to both intentionally and unintentionally label our children. We all can recount the titles we were given in our families, in our peer groups or even in the workplace. If these labels are positive, we tend to rise to the occasion and make sure we fulfill expectations. This can be a good kind of pressure in some cases. However, sometimes it can really go awry. Fulfilling the label of smart, pretty, thin or funny might work well for some people— but over the course of your life might ignite unnecessary pressure. After all, these are words that become labels. Labels that are hard to always live up to. Labels that are hard to remove at will. Labels that could, in many cases, limit the children we give them to.

So, in talking to children, I am making a conscious effort to do the following: praise them on their actions, the words they choose and the behavior I see. Or, rather, stifle the need to praise them at all. Ask them about their day, their favorite color, their favorite super hero. Engage them. Learn from them. Listen to them. They have a lot to talk about. We have a lot of listening we need to do.

As adults, we know that if someone stood there and said how beautiful or brilliant or physically fit we were upon meeting us, it would seem a little awkward and shallow (but I would enjoy it, okay, I’ll admit it:). With children, it should be no different. Your words should neither define nor demand a certain quality of a child—be it beauty, intelligence or even just “good”-ness. Your real feeling about them should be communicated in how you react to what they think about themselves. Because what they think about themselves should be born inside them and should never be hinged on the words that come out of our mouths.

20 Reasons My Toddler is Losing His or Her Mind

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Okay, so I totally stole this from these Daddy blogs here and here. But, as they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

The summer schedule has been great. The lazy mornings, the sandy feet naps and sunscreen greased pigtails. Popsicles, ice cream cones and S’mores. My kids are having the best summer ever and I think some of the credit goes to their dear old Mom here. After all, if I still am able to organize craft and story time after seeing each of them, on a daily basis, lose their mind over various not-really-apocalyptic events, I think I deserve a great, big, sparkly gold star. And a hot bath. And a pedicure.

Reasons my Toddler is Losing His or Her Mind.

1. I have mentioned that hot dogs are for dinner and he does not eat hot dogs, he only eats hot dog buns.

2. He’s NOT TIRED and I have implied, said, thought, or looked at him in a way that has indicated that I think that he could possibly be— tired.

3. I’ve asked her not to take her diaper off after she poops.

4. I did not “catch the bubbles” that he blew over my head.

5. I would not let her bring her wet towel to bed with her.

6. He pushed his straw into his juice box and can’t get it out.

7. His sister ate the breakfast that he didn’t want that has been sitting at the table for the past two hours.

8. I am not able to pick up the toy he dropped and know exactly where it is on the floor while I am driving the car.

9. The restaurant we went to “just ran out” of chocolate milk.

10. I am not able to dice up his waffle 3.4 seconds after putting it onto the plate in front of him.

11. I did not let her hold the entire bag of chips as she took a bite of each chip and put it back.

12. I got sunscreen in his mouth when he shook his head while I was applying it.

13. I’ve mentioned a word that rhymes with, has the same connotation as or somehow implies the word “nap.”

14. I won’t let him bring the Ipad in the shower.

15. I am trying to put pigtails in her hair.

16. I keep switching her shoes from the wrong feet to the right feet.

17. I won’t let her put on a hooded sweatshirt on a 98 degree day.

18. I won’t let her play with Windex.

19. I’ve mentioned the word “banana” and HE DOESN’T LIKE BANANAS!

20. I’ve asked if maybe he would like anything other than a butter sandwich on the beach.

 

If you have any reasons YOUR toddler is losing his or her mind, feel free to comment below!

 

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