How the Running Man Made Me Decide What Kind of Mom I Would Be

Recently there was a gaggle of girls at my house. As it often happens, a dance-off ensued. Never one to shy away from getting my groove on, I jumped in with my signature move: The Running Man. Of course, I have my own take on it, but I think I killed it.

My nine-year old didn’t agree so much. In fact, her exact words were: “Oh my Gosh Mom, you are embarrassing me!”

This was a crushing blow. These words have never come out of my children’s mouths. I almost turned to go back to unloading the dishwasher, but about 45 second later I did what I had to do: a little MC Hammer “u can’t touch this” shuffle and even some moves I learned from one Vanilla Ice. I am one bad mutha on the dance floor. Luckily there was no more “embarrassment” comments, and I even got a few cheers. I ended on a high note.

Later that day I talked to a few other moms about how I finally got the embarrassing comment, and we lamented about how we were entering that difficult time with our girls.  Surprisingly, one mom said that she did scale back on how she interacted with her teenage daughters. Her goal was to be more aloof and cool so her girls would talk to her more, since she had always thought her own parents were ‘lame’.

All I could think of the entire time she was speaking was did this mom not learn anything from watching the movie Mean Girls? Didn’t she see how ridiculous Amy Poehler played the “cool mom”, and subsequently how the girls disrespected her (because of course, Mean Girls is just like real life in my head.)

But in all honesty, when did we get so scared of our kids and what they think of us (I address this a bit in my article Does Your Kid Bully You?) And why do we care?

I think growing up with parents that embarrass the heck out of you truly makes you a stronger person. My dad was a lunatic. He would blast show tunes while I was hanging out with my friends in the pool growing up. He would do the moves to cheers when I was on the sidelines in high school. When I brought my very Italian boyfriend home in college, he asked if he could kiss his ring and call him “Godfather.”

It was mortifying. And hilarious.

I also was embarrassed at times by the rules my parents enforced. Curfews earlier than my friends, calling to make sure I was where I said I was, staying up until I walked through the door…how did I endure this behavior????

But even with all that embarrassment, I learned early on that people loved my parents. My dad was the entertainment and my mom would always feed them. Sure, there were times I wish they would dial it back a bit, but it taught me early on that anyone worth having as a friend thought my parents were cool, even when they embarrassed me. I still do.

And when I look at my friend-set, we’ve all shared the embarrassing parental unit stories. One of my besties told me about how her parents and her neighbors used to ride behind her school bus on mopeds. All the way to school. How awesome is that?

Or another friend talked about her parents who were overly affectionate to each other. Not in a gross inappropriate way like they needed to go to their bedroom, but in a way that I now realize is endearing. It used to drive her nuts, but now we admire it.

Now, I am not saying that I will purposely do things to embarrass my kids. I won’t show up to their school wearing my bunny slippers or chaperone a school dance wearing my old prom dress (well, probably not), but I’m not going to change who I am — or what I believe in — just to ensure they are not embarrassed.

Because where does it end? There is a limitless list of things kids can be embarrassed about: not arriving to school in the right car, not having the right shoes, mothers who don’t wear make up, too curly hair, having to wear glasses, a dad who dresses funny, and yes, even a mom who does the running man extremely well.

And I know that sometimes they will get embarrassed by what I don’t let them do: like wear make up just because the other girls are or go to a party where I know there is no supervision. Because I only get one shot with my kids, and I plan on making the most of it.

I remember growing up in elementary school and a friend telling me how embarrassing it was because her mom wouldn’t let her eat any processed foods while the rest of us stuffed our faces with twinkies and ho ho’s. That mom didn’t care that her kid was embarrassed….she was true to herself and her beliefs. And look at how smart she looks now.

I often think about that mom when I try to explain to my own kids why I don’t want them to drink soda or eat Lunchables. I’m sure they are a little embarrassed by my rules, but I hope one day they’ll get it.

It is a delicate balance when raising older children. I’m pretty sure that at some point in the near future just the mere fact that I exist will embarrass them.  But I’ve already lived through those painful teenage years of trying to fit in, and I just don’t feel like doing it again as a parent. Being “cool” was never my forte, but I was always stellar at having a good time, and I like to think being kind is my version of “cool.”

My job as a parent is more about showing my kids how to enjoy life and be a responsible, productive member of society than being their friend.  And if they learn a few super-cool dance moves along the way, then that’s just a bonus.

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Top 10 Signs You are a Mom On a Girls Weekend

I’m guest blogging on Mom Meet Mom today, a great site that connects like-minded moms with each other. Once you sign up, you can meet moms, find playdates for kids, and get the support you need. They use an exclusive matching system designed just for Mom Meet Mom to help you find local moms with similar interests, schedules, families, and personalities.

And the founders are fun! After reading my posts about 5 Signs You’re in Need of a Girls Weekend and 5 Signs You Have a Girls Weekend Coming Up, they asked if I could close out the series with Top 10 Signs You are a Mom on a Girls Weekend. I had a lot of fodder from the fabulous girls weekend I just went on, so of course I said yes! You can read the blog here, or it’s also posted below.

I just returned from a girls weekend to celebrate my dear friend’s 40th birthday. It was fantastic. She somehow assembled an amazing group of ladies from the different stages of her life ranging from her college sorority sisters to business contacts she had turned into good friends.

Although all of us were very different, we shared the common bond of motherhood. Each of us could relate to the challenges of raising a child, whether it was: “Should I send my daughter to private high school?” or “When do I wean my son from the boob?”

We all needed a break, just like I believe all mothers do. Time to worry less about everyone else and more about enjoying life. Some of us needed a break from being a working mom and the pressures of juggling a career, a marriage and a family. And some of us needed a break from being around our kids so much that we forgot what it was like to wear real clothes.

Girls weekends give moms the opportunity to recharge and remember what their life was like B.C. (before children.) It is not about what you do, where you go, or what you spend. The important thing is to get away from the rut that can be parenting and connect with the people who know what it’s like to be in the trenches.

I like to believe I am a subject matter expert on girls weekends (check out my blog post on Five Signs You Need a Girls Weekend here or Five Signs You Have a Girls Weekend Coming Up here). No, I am not off galavanting every weekend, but I have been able to spend alone-time with my friends a few times a year. Sometimes, when my kids were younger, it was just a few hours; this last trip was a beautiful three and one half days in glorious Boston.

And although I came back feeling exhausted, with aching feet from dancing the night away, I now feel ready to take on the end of school craziness and the summer months with my kids. My husband did great shuttling them to all their activities, and I think it gives him a better perspective of what my life is like on a daily basis. My kids were bursting at the seams to see me and share all their adventures over the weekend. I think we were all the better for it (or at least that’s what I’m going to keep telling myself!).

So, although there is an unspoken rule that what happens on girls weekends, stays on girls weekends, I did want to share my “Top Ten Ways You Know You Are a Mom On a Girls Weekend.” I normally write Top Five lists, but there were just too many to narrow it down.

Let’s just say that I am going to use the same disclaimer as the Law & Order episodes: “Although inspired in part by a true incident, the following story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event.” Yeah, let’s just leave it at that.

So here it is – Top 10 Signs You are a Mom on a Girls Weekend

  1. A Liquid Lunch has nothing to do with breastfeeding.
  2. After one cocktail and a Maki Roll you decide to lose your Spanx. You need two of your girlfriends to actually get you out of them in the restaurant bathroom.
  3. You log a night of dancing in a club as activity points into Weight Watchers.
  4. When mentioning you think you are about to get a blister, five different character-themed bandaids are thrust at you.
  5. When a fight breaks out in a bar, it initiates a discussion about time outs versus positive parenting.
  6. When you get “hit on” by a guy, you actually text your husband to tell him you still got it.
  7. The only time the discussion gets heated is when debating whose labor/delivery was worse.
  8. When the cabbie slams on the brakes, your hand goes out to protect the other passengers.
  9. When someone wets their pants, you know it was because they were laughing too hard, not because they refused to go on the potty.
  10. You wipe off the table with a Wet Ones before dancing on top of it.

Whitney Fleming has nearly ten years of parenting experience, 15 years of public relations and marketing experience, and almost 20 years of wine drinking experience. This make her extremely qualified to write a blog about family, relationships, and getting through this thing called life. To read more from her, please visit her blog at www.playdatesonfridays.com.

 

Graduation Advice from a Middle-aged Mom

It’s graduation season, and as I do every year, I love reading the commencement addresses from so many thought-provoking people. From Sandra Bullock’s “If someone doesn’t want to play with you, it’s okay!” to a U.S. Navy Admiral’s “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed” I am constantly inspired by the great nuggets of information.

So, I started imagining the speech I would give after winning my Pulitzer Prize (don’t mock, you know you do it too.) What have I learned and what did I wish I knew back when I graduated college? And here is what I came up with:

Sleep. As you continue to build your life, there will be more and more reasons that you will not get enough slumber. Go to bed early, and get eight hours of sleep. Do it now, as there will be a time when you would give away your left arm for just one more hour.

Don’t think college —  or high school — is the pinnacle of your life. Ever. And if you do, you’re living your life wrong.

But keep in touch. Your friends that knew you before you started your “real” life will be important support systems when you fail. And notice I said when.

Find a hobby. Networking for business is important, but networking for life is essential. Take a wine class, learn to play golf, get your black belt, join a bike riding club, take up running. Do something besides work, because some day you may have a family and real responsibilities, and your “passion” may be the only thing that keeps your sanity. Trust me.

Go to the dentist. Less than half of people age 22-34 go to the dentist yearly. And guess what? They also have the most tooth decay and cavities. Root canals suck. Take care of your teeth, and they will take care of you.

+ Always say yes when someone asks you to go have a drink, a cup of coffee or a meal. Building relationships can help your career, but it also helps you live a happier life. And when you’re young you move a lot and can always use some help.

Don’t ever be afraid to start at the bottom and do the grunt work. No matter what age you are. You learn the most by doing. I can still solve any paper jam known to man based on the skills I learned at my first job.

Live frugally. You will feel like you are making a ton of money, but that will not stop Visa from knocking on your door.

Travel. Go. Anywhere. Travel abroad, take a drive, go to a museum. Experience life. Because one day you are going to be so busy that a three-day trip will seem like a small military maneuver.

Call your mom and dad. Often. They invested a lot in your upbringing, and you owe it to them. Ask their advice, even when you don’t need it. But don’t ask for money. Even though they’ll give it to you anyway.

Congratulations to the class of 2014! Go forth and conquer!

 

 

Does Your Kid Bully You?

It used to be that kids were scared of their parents. Now parents seem scared of their kids.

A TIME magazine article came out recently that I found fascinating. “How Children Have Become Their Parents’ Bullies” underscored something that I feel like I have seen time and time again — parents so scared of upsetting their child that they give in to their every whim.

The piece begins with a situation we have all lived out a thousand times. A mom is in a toy store to buy a birthday present. Her son throws a fit because he wants the toy. Instead of sticking to her guns, the beaten-down woman relents and ends up purchasing not one, but two toys. Lesson learned for the boy: if you are relentless in your whining, no means maybe, which turns into Mom will do whatever she has to do to get out of the store without the manager calling the Department of Child Services.

When our kids are younger, I believe we relent for fear of embarrassment. It sucks when you are at the grocery store and your child is lying in the middle of the aisle with snot running down the side of her nose because you won’t buy her the Kit Kat bar (purely hypothetical.)  And for sure that is when you will see the mom whose five kids under five are behaving like angels, just to make you feel a little bit worse about yourself.

Then, as our kids get older, we hate saying no because we don’t want to lose them, so we give them what we think they want, just to hear that “I love you mommy” one more time.

But this is where the author is brilliant. By giving in after they beat us down, we do end up creating bullies. By definition “to bully” means to use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants.

That is exactly what is happening in these types of parent-child relationships.

etch a sketch

I have seen a four-year old slap his mom across her face and not get more than a verbal reprimand (because I was there.) I watched a mom buy her son a violent Xbox game at Target because he was freaking out. And I cringed when a friend told me she extended her daughter’s curfew after she told her she hated her and wanted to move out. I believe my well-intentioned friend also took her shopping.

This leads me to offer the following non-professional, non-medical commentary/advice to anyone who gives in to their child’s bullying tactics:

1. I solemnly swear that if I see you at Trader Joe’s, Target or Toys ‘R’ Us (or anywhere else) and your child pitches a fit for any reason, I will personally applaud your efforts to hold strong. Seriously, I will be in the background cheering you on. There is no embarrassment in sticking to your guns. To me, there are times when parenting is about winning, and you should only be embarrassed if you let your kid beat you.

2. Kids, and especially tweens/teens, are so much smarter than we give them credit for. They smell fear and thrive when engaging in psychological war fare. You see, kids know that we all want to be good parents, and they know we are unsure about what we’re doing. When kids respond to our saying no or setting limits with “You are so mean,” or the crushing “I hate you,” it hits us right in the jugular. It makes us question ourselves as parents and the decisions we’re making on their behalf. Do we want to risk pushing our kids away? Do we want them to think we are uncool? Will they hate me forever or just until The Voice is over?

The answer is yes, so what, and probably not that long! Discipline is a gift we give our children that they can take with them for the rest of their lives. Limits are often about safety — for them and for others. Respecting (appropriate) authority and understanding rules will take them far. These are all important life skills.

Sometimes we have to parent blindly — but with resolve — knowing that we will make mistakes. But we cannot let our kids’ words and actions stray us from the course. Yes, we have to pick and choose our battles, but we have to come out on top at the end. It’s our duty as parents.

Because it is a war we are fighting to bring up good kids. In today’s 24/7 always-on culture, there is a lot of noise out there that children are exposed to each and every day, and if we don’t have control in our own homes, how can we expect our kids to have control out in the real world? If they think they can whine and cry to get their way with us as parents, how do you think they will act towards their teachers, their friends or their future employers?

I for one hope we stand shoulder to shoulder in this war, standing up to each and every bully. In turn, I hope we mold compassionate, kind adults.

Because I plan on winning this war. I hope you do to.

The author of the article, Dr. Robin Berman, is the author of a great book: Permission to Parent. It’s all about parenting with love and limits, which is a nicer companion to my post Why I Don’t Negotiate With Terrorists.

Does your kid bully you? What parenting tactics do you use to combat parental bullying?

Why I Became a Toxin Freedom Fighter

The following is a sponsored post, although the opinions expressed are my own.

I try not to get too preachy on my blog about how to live your life, as I like to believe that we are all just doing the best we can with the choices we make for our families. But sometimes things just scare the bejeevus out of me, and I feel compelled to share.

I have several good friends that have been fighting the breast cancer battle over the past few years. We often think breast cancer as being a disease determined by genetics, but unfortunately that is not necessarily true. Only one of my dear friends had a genetic link to breast cancer; for the others, the cause was deemed “environmental.”

Here’s some sobering statistics from The Breast Cancer Action group:

* Seventy percent of people with breast cancer have none of the known risk factors. The so-called known risk factors, like late menopause, having children late in life, and family history of cancer are present in only 30 percent of breast cancer cases.

* Non-industrialized countries have lower breast cancer rates than industrialized countries. People who move to industrialized countries from countries with low rates develop the same breast cancer rates of the industrialized country.

* Estrogen is a hormone closely linked with the development of breast cancer. Numerous synthetic chemicals, called “xenoestrogens,” act like estrogen in our bodies, including common weed killers and pesticides, plastic additives or by-products, ingredients in spray paints and paint removers, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), used extensively in the manufacture of food packaging, medical products, appliances, cars, toys, credit cards, and rainwear.

I don’t know about you, but that’s some scary stuff to me.

That’s why I’m thrilled that one of my favorite brands — Seventh Generation — is moving chemical reform to the forefront of the national agenda.

Toxin Freedom Fighters

The Toxin Freedom Fighters

On April 30th, a press conference was held on Capitol Hill to initiate conversation and awareness on the importance of reform of the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA). The press conference included the Seventh Generation President and CEO John Reploge, Kristi Marsh, a mother of three, breast cancer survivor, and advocate, and David Levine from the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC). These individuals, along with the Toxin Freedom Fighters clad in their superhero capes, presented a petition with more than 120,000 signatures to Congress and Senator Kristen Gillibrand of New York.

Lobbying Congress

Lobbying Congress

The TSCA was last updated by the EPA 38 years ago. The act essentially grandfathers in the approval of thousands of chemicals used to make products that we all use in our homes every day. Very few of these approved chemicals have been tested and proven safe for human exposure — and in fact several have been proven harmful — yet we are unwillingly and often unknowingly exposed to these toxins all the time. 

WTH, America?

In addition to the power of public opinion, what I also loved about this event is that they presented some pretty sobering results of a heavy metals test they took right from the halls of Congress — a place I used to work myself  back in the late 90s. It shows that no one is exempt from dangerous chemical exposure in their workplace, and something must be done.

Whether you are already living a fairly green lifestyle, or you just want to protect your kids from dangerous toxins due to poor industrial laws, I encourage you to learn more about the TSCA and sign the petition to protect our families from harmful chemicals.  Click here to learn more.

One of my favorite quotes is by author Max Lucado: “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.”

Do something today.