I read this article a few weeks back and have been corresponding with the author, Vanessa Schenck. I love what she is all about. She’s an entrepreneur, she’s a mom, and she’s concerned with what’s happening to our girls. And she remembers David Cassidy too, so we totally get each other. I asked if I could republish this article that originally appeared on Girilla Warfare, and thankfully she said yes because I love the message.
What I am even more excited about is Vanessa will soon be launching a lifestyle brand for Tween girls called TIA Girl Club – an online community-based retail store providing girls an encouraging and supportive place to shop, play and discover their authentic voices. You can find Vanessa on Twitter at @VanessaSchenck or more information about TIA by visiting the website tiagirlclub.com
“So, something happened to me at school today,” said Julia, my nine-year-old daughter just as we were sitting down to eat dinner the other day.
I could tell it was not going to be good.
My daughter went on to tell me one of her best friends had crushed her that day. Apparently, in gym class, the girls played a game that required everyone to find a partner. Julia told me she had asked one of her best pals to be partners and was told, “Sorry. I already have a partner.” To which Julia tried to reason with her by saying, “The teacher said you can have three in a group” and was told, “Why not go ask someone else?”
Knife to the gut.
This left Julia feeling awful, as it would anyone who was just rejected by one of their best friends.
Being rejected by anyone tears into your self-confidence, let alone a really good friend.
This is not the first time I’ve gone through a BFF Crisis-Management Situation with my daughter, and it surely won’t be the last. Let us remember: Julia is in Middle School.
Ah, Middle School! I’ve done my research, and what I know about girls this age is that it’s the time in their development when they are most likely to change their behavior, act in a certain way that’s not really who they are in order to “fit in”. And they will put up with a lot to do just that — fit in.
Girls this age are more likely to compromise their authentic voices, not say what they really want, need or think to be accepted by their peer group.
One psychologist — Dr. JoAnn Deak, author of Girls Will Be Girls, Raising Confident and Courageous Daughters, calls this time in a girl’s life “camouflaging.” It’s exactly what it sounds like. You change who you truly are in order to blend in with those around you. And, like with any good camouflage, you render your true self invisible. As Dr. Deak tells us, camouflaging isn’t all bad. It can provide “an opportunity for self-discovery and growth”. But taken too far, Dr. Deak says a girl can “hide herself not only from others, but ultimately from herself”.
How many of you remember saying you loved David Cassidy because everyone loved David Cassidy (did I just totally date myself)? Or, how many of us dressed as Princess Leia for Halloween because everyone else did, even though you truly didn’t like Star Wars. One bit.
Here’s the thing: At first it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, not speaking our truth. But the more we do it, the easier it becomes.
Although, as easy as it may seem, it does come with a hefty price-tag. You see, eventually, Dr. Deak says, by continuing to camouflage, we can lose any sense of our authentic voice, and then, suddenly, it’s gone.
Dr. Deak tells us it can take up to three decades for women to get their true, authentic voices back. Thirty years, Moms! She calls this “The Three-Decade-Power-Outage” — and rightly so. Thirty years we go around pretending to be someone we’re not — and most of us don’t even realize it! We’ve played the part for so long it’s become our normal. Yet, it’s not. Not even close. We are being controlled by fear.
Fear, as everyone knows, robs us of living the lives we were meant to live.
That, my friends, was me. I absolutely lost my voice, my confidence in Middle School.It manifested in my life in more ways than one. I attended a University that clearly was not a good fit. But who was I to tell my parents my dream school was in California? Disappoint them? Are you out of your mind?!
Let’s not even begin to discuss my ex-boyfriends. Okay, lets. There was my college boyfriend who was verbally abusive. Remember Oprah’s sage advice: “The first time they show you who they really are, believe them.” Well, the first time he told me I wouldn’t have any friends if I ever left him, I knew exactly with whom I was dealing but I didn’t have the confidence/voice/strength, whatever it is you want to call it, to stand up for myself and leave right then and there. Eventually I did, only to repeat the cycle with the next one. Who I married.
My first husband? Disaster. He and I were no more meant to be together then Jlo and Ben Affleck. I sat in my bedroom and bawled my eyes out the morning I knew he was to propose. Why? Well, because I knew it was coming, the proposal, but, again, I’d lost my authentic voice to be true to myself and say, “Um, no thanks.” It was buried deep under years of pleasing those around me, trying to be someone other than my genuine self.
For me, I managed to recover my voice when I hit my late 20s (this was done through loads of what I call soul-work and self-reflection). I guess you could say I was one of the lucky ones, as my “30-Year-Power-Outage” was cut in about half.
I remember waking up and saying, “Enough!” Once I recovered my confidence the first thing I did was use it to get a divorce (no kids, thank God), move to NYC from Seattle and follow my dream of working in fashion.
I also started my first business. And, last but not least, met and married my one true love, who still makes me belly-laugh after 14 years of waking up together.
My life exploded when I recovered my true voice.
Back to Julia. So, when my daughter sat down at dinner and told me about her friend, the first thing I did was ask her how that made her feel. Knowing about the “30-Year-Power-Outage” and how Julia could slip into it at any given time — starting now, in Middle School — I wanted her to exercise that beautiful voice of hers, to express her true feelings and to know she was validated in those feelings. She didn’t disappoint.
She told me she was upset. Confused. Hurt. All of it. My job, as her Mom, was to listen to it all. And hold her. And tell her everything she was feeling was totally reasonable. That she was allowed to feel it all.
Here’s the thing: Losing your voice is a direct result of losing self-confidence. You are robbed of your empowerment, you feel unworthy and begin to shut down your authentic self. Feeling unworthy leads to all sorts of self-destructive behaviour, for example:
But how does this start to happen? What causes girls to lose confidence? For that answer, let’s look to the Procter & Gamble study — the one which resulted in the Always #LikeAGirl campaign. You know the one? It’s been viewed on YouTube 70 million times!
In that study, 89% of females agreed that WORDS can be harmful, especially to girls.
It is my belief harmful words (“I already have a partner. Go ask someone else.”) are the driving force behind our girls’ drop in self-esteem — especially in Middle School. Is there any time more impactful than having someone say something hurtful to you than when you are in Middle School, on the brink of, or are going through puberty?
And it’s not just other people saying harmful things. It’s also you, saying them to yourself.
“I am fat.”
“I am ugly.”
“I am stupid.”
We’ve all said them. It’s you, telling yourself, “I am not good enough.” It’s you, telling yourself you need to change who you are to be accepted. To be liked. To be invited to the party.
So what can we do as Moms?
Well, if I could give my daughter heaps of self-confidence and empowerment I would. But, as Dr. Deak says, we simply cannot GIVE our daughters any of it. They have to EARN it themselves.
All is not lost, though. Because, what I can do is provide her with a safe and encouraging home where she knows her voice IS heard. And loved. That, I can do in spades. By providing her a secure home environment, Julia feels safe to express her authentic self. And Moms, that is so incredibly important. By being able to use her beautiful voice, Julia is learning what she has to say matters. She has self-worth. We do care. We do hear her.
We can also teach our kids that words matter. What Julia says about herself and others not only matter, but also actually create the world in which she lives. Oprah said it best when she said, “What you say becomes your reality. You speak life into being.”
There’s energy in words. By speaking what it is you want in YOUR life, you are drawing exactly that to you.
There’s more. As her Mom, I am Julia’s most influential role model.
By living my authentic life, by speaking my truth, I am showing my daughter every day how my words are creating the life I want.
The day after Julia told me about the gym class incident we were at the mall buying shoes for her Halloween costume and we ran into a classmate. Afterward, Julia turned to me and said, “Mom, that girl said I was ‘freakishly’ tall.”
I was getting ready to give her the “You-Can’t-Control-What-Other-People-Say-About-You” speech when she stopped me short, grabbed my arm, smiled, and said, “Mom. It’s okay. I don’t care what she said. I like being tall. I just wanted to tell you.”
And, you know what? I believe her. My little girl is becoming her true self. Her beautifully tall, authentic self. And I have a front row seat to watch it all unfold. Lucky me.
My twins turn ten this weekend. That means I have a decade of experience in parenting. If I was building my resume, I’d say that makes me an industry expert.
First night home together, weighing a combined 8 lbs. 13 oz.
But despite the fact I have spent the past 3,650 days mothering, there is still at least one moment in each day when I feel unsure. I feel inadequate. I feel scared.
I am constantly reminded of this quote: “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside of your body.”
But as I reflect, I can’t help but toast myself with a glass of chardonnay for my success. I have kept two human beings alive for ten entire years with only a few mishaps along the way.
I have totally earned the title “parenting expert.”
Even if one time my daughter’s infant carrier flipped out of the shopping cart…with her in it. But that happens to everyone, right? Or the time my husband and I caught the twins sled riding down the stairs in a laundry basket because we were cleaning out a closet. Or the time I let my two-year old speech-delayed daughter suck wine off my finger just so we could hear her say the word “more” just one more glorious time. Yep, I’ve got this mom thing nailed.
And even though my parenting score card is filled with errors, I figure there has to be a few things I’ve learned along the way…a few things that you moms who have only been parenting two or seven or maybe only nine years don’t know yet, such as:
10. Kids are incredibly resilient to new situations. I know, as my twins are already living in their fourth city in their short life. As parents, we worry so much about making sure our kids know someone at every activity or event they go to, but truth be told, most kids make friends easier than we believe. We need to stop spending so much time ensuring they are going to be in attendance with a friend, and start encouraging them to meet a new one.
9. There will never be a stronger advocate for your child than you. I don’t hide the fact that one of my daughters had a tough start to life facing physical, developmental and emotional challenges. Since she was very young, my husband and I have fought to get her every service, therapy, surgery and support mechanism available to her. My most important word of advice: never accept limits on your child imposed by someone else. Believe in your son or daughter and they will always exceed your expectations. This is also easier said than done.
8. Crying becomes a pastime. Your kid’s first step, you tear up. First day of school for your first-born, you have to swallow the lump in your throat and have a mimosa at the busstop just to get through. Your daughter and 11 other kids you barely know sing America, the Beautiful and your eyes are swollen before the last verse. Don’t even get me started on those Procter & Gamble commercials they play during the Olympics which are just a ploy for you to use more Kleenex. Yes, becoming a mom has forever cemented the fact that I cry at everything. And even if you have that ability to keep your eyes dry during such emotional events, I know you are crying on the inside.
7. Kids are born with several sixth senses. Like when they know the exact moment you shut the door to go to the bathroom. Or having to poop when you are running late. Or needing something only when you are on a phone call. Or getting the stomach flu at Christmas. Seriously, they are gifted.
6. No matter how hard you try, there will be times you sound exactly like your mother. Don’t try to fight the force. And sometimes you just need to say things like: “I brought you into this world, and I’ll take you out.” It increases the dramatic effect.
5. Baking with young children is overrated. I could not wait to start family traditions of baking with my children. And then I actually did it and realized that keeping my children alive and me out of the sanitarium is more important. And going to the bakery to buy stuff can be a great tradition.
4. Your kids will embarrass the heck out of you. They will pass gas in the middle of church services. They will spit up on your suit. They will pee their pants — sometimes twice — at a bounce house party. They will say expletives when they drop a box of crayons in two-year old preschool. Embrace it. But they might also lie to their teacher, or send a mean text to a friend, or steal candy. All embarrassing, all important life lessons. Handle every embarrassing moment with thought, love and care because they’re probably embarrassed too.
3. Avoid the Mommy Olympics. So many of us use our kids as a benchmark to our own self-worth. As the mother of a child with some special needs, I discovered early on that we would not always be on the same timeline as other kids….and it was somewhat of a relief not to have to compete. It’s unfair to our kids when we gauge their success against their peers, and we should never feel shame because our kid is not measuring up to an imaginary bar set by their play group. Keep the focus on your child and celebrate their victories, whenever they may occur.
2. Judgment on your parenting is inevitable. It’s up to you if you want to accept it. There is not a single thing you will do as a parent that someone does not have an opinion on — and probably will share without being asked. And you certainly can’t read a blog (not mine of course), Pin or Facebook post that does not reek with self-righteous viewpoints on the many philosophies of child rearing. You can let it feed your insecurities or you can let it fly right out of your head. Choosing the latter means you’ll probably enjoy being a parent much more.
1. You will never know what you are doing — not even after ten years of parenting. Every time I feel momfident, one of my kids comes along and knocks me right off my parenting pedestal. All we can do is dust ourselves off, have a glass of wine, get a good night’s sleep and tackle it again in the morning.
Because there’s no getting your heart back once you are a parent.
Happy Birthday to my beautiful girls! I am a better person because of you.
Photo Credit: Nora Best Photography
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A few years back I was sharing a glass of wine with some moms from my daughters’ school. We were chatting about how busy it was with school starting and the fall schedules ramping up when I overheard a woman say: “I just want to hang out with the people I know already like. I mean, I have my family and my close friends…is it wrong that I don’t want to spend what little free time I have with people I don’t even know if I’ll like?”
As I watched a few heads bob up and down I was stunned — mainly because we just spent 30 minutes before that talking about mean girls.
Can you say ironic much?
Unfortunately this is not the first time I have seen this sort of isolationist attitude. As the new girl in town, I’ve spent a lot of time this year on the outside of the Mom circle…at my kids’ schools, team practices, at the pool. People may give you a nod and a smile, but they don’t always invite you in if they’re in their circle. I’m not sure if it’s because they are clueless, feel awkward, or just don’t want to be bothered, but it does seem to be common. Don’t get me wrong, I have met some fabulous people in my latest hometown, but there are also times when I feel like the last kid picked for dodgeball.
Earlier this summer I was attending an event with one of my daughters. As she took off with her new friends, the mom who organized it warmly welcomed me, handed me a slip of paper then turned around and joined a group of seven women — in a circle — leaving me standing there by myself. For ten agonizing minutes I stood there feeling like the village idiot while I listened to their conversations about Boy Scouts, vacations and pilates. Not one person came up to me or even looked my way.
Of course I did the obvious. I subtly smelled my pits to make sure I used deodorant that day. I checked the zipper on my shorts because my good friends can attest I’ve left the barn door open on more than one occasion. I even coughed in my hand and did the breath test. As far as I could tell I had no serious bodily offenses going on. What was even worse was I left my iPhone in the car, so I had to stand there practically naked.
I know what you’re thinking. Yes, I could have gone over to the group myself, but when someone comes to you, then turns and joins a group….it’s a little awkward. I made up for it the next day when I purposefully went up and introduced myself to each and every parent with sunshine and unicorns sprouting out of my butt, and each woman was kind and talkative and is now my friend in return. I don’t hold grudges — in fact I’m pretty sure they were not even aware of what happened — but I won’t forget how I felt either. And I could imagine how it must feel for someone who is more shy and introverted than myself.
Now I’m not the new girl as much, and I get to hang out with the parents I’ve met over the past year. Recently I was chatting with two sweet moms and asked one if she could tell me who a woman was that was standing by herself underneath a tree. I said: “I see her all over town whenever I’m out so I feel like I have to go introduce myself.”
Her response: “That’s so and so’s mom. I don’t know her very well.”
And that’s when it dawned on me. I circled myself and didn’t even realize it. We could not be more un-inviting. One mom had her head in her phone, another was looking at her watch and I was just standing there yapping.
As I watched that mom walk away with her son, I knew what I had to do. I needed to start circle-breaking. I mean, I have super human powers: I will talk to anyone who will listen, I like to think I know a little about everything, and I’ve broken into mom circles in four states. I even have little circle-breaking children.
I attempted my powers with my daughter’s new soccer team. I could have stood off to the side while the other moms and dads who have known each other for years talked about bar-b-ques, jobs and their summer breaks, but I took a deep breath and broke right in. I even brought another new mom with me. And guess what? That circle just disintegrated.
And I found out that you can bust circles even easier from the inside, just by being the one to let someone in. In fact, most of these circles are toilet-paper quality and rip pretty easily. I particularly like to show these powers off in front of my children. It seems to make their force even stronger.
Now I’m not saying every time you’re chatting with your friends you have to invite someone in; BUT be aware. When you see someone hanging off to the side nervously checking their phone, think about breaking it open. Give them the opportunity to join your circle for a few minutes.
I hope more moms start becoming circle breakers and using their powers for good and not evil. Be an example for your child on how to build relationships, build a community, build a positive life. And don’t make someone feel like a loser because they’re on the outside looking in.
For those moms who build their circles out of steel, well I don’t have your kryptonite….yet; but I do believe in karma. Sometimes life happens and you become unhinged from your circle. I just hope someone lets you in.
And for that mom I see hanging out underneath the tree. I’m coming for you.
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It’s hard when your baby birds start leaving the nest. We want them to be independent, but also want to protect them at the same time.
But we (usually) let them spread their wings. We let them go to a friend’s house, ride their bikes around the neighborhood, and attend camps and other places where we can’t oversee their care. And although some of us would like to insert an OnStar device in them or make them carry around a Nanny Cam, deep down we know they’ll be okay.
That being said, we live in a dangerous world, and even the most protected kids should know the basics of safety — and more importantly, what they should do when they encounter a bad situation.
Most safety information available is geared towards kids ages five and up, but experts agree you should start discussing safety issues as early as pre-school. Yes, pre-school. Even if you are the only care taker, even if you are constantly with your child, even if you don’t think it can happen to you. Unless you plan to live in a bubble, you should at least address the basics.
Just make sure you talk about it calmly and in a developmentally-appropraite way, which means no hysterical screaming, crying or Mary Kate and Ashley videos.
It’s important to have “house” rules and then some basic safety guidelines for when you’re outside of your home environment. Here are five important conversations you should address with your child before they enter kindergarten.
1. Gun Safety. According to Pew Research, more than a third of Americans report that either they or someone in their home owns a gun. In a perfect world, these are all stowed and locked away appropriately, but we all know that’s not the case. Teach your kids that if they ever see another child handling a gun they should leave the room immediately, and encourage them to get an adult. Also, tell your child that no adult would ever give permission for a child to handle a weapon, so don’t believe a friend that says he or she is “allowed” to play with it. It’s also important to explain to your child that real guns are different from the ones shown on TV or video games, and can seriously injure a person.
2. Stranger Danger. I hate this one. It is so difficult to teach your kids to be kind and cautious all at the same time. Although child abductions are much rarer than the media portrays, it is still an important conversation to have. According to the site www.mychildsafety.net, you should begin talking to your child about Stranger Danger when they are old enough to play on playground equipment by themselves — even if you are right there. An easy way to explain to your kids about strangers is two-fold: first, explain that adults know they should not approach little kids without their parents. If an adult you do not know is asking a child for help or offering something, they probably aren’t safe. More importantly, kids need to understand that they should never go anywhere without asking their parents permission — which is something even pre-schoolers can comprehend.
3. What to do if they are lost. Although most kids under six are rarely walking around by themselves, it is a very real issue that kids and parents can get separated in a crowded shopping mall, amusement park or grocery store. First, encourage your child to stay put. Explain to them that you will always return to where you were, but you can’t guess where they may go next. Second, make sure your young children know your first and last name and will call out for you. Practice this at home. If you don’t return immediately, tell your child to find another mom with kids and let them know that he or she is lost. Mothers are often the most emotionally invested in ensuring a child is taken care of, and most men are fearful of helping due to the risk of being labeled a predator.
As your child gets older, practice your cell phone number with them. If your child has a problem memorizing the digits, write it down inside their shoe or pocket and let them know they can give it to another mom if you become separated.
4. Inappropriate Touching. I was shocked at my daughters’ four year old check up when my pediatrician told them that even a doctor shouldn’t touch them unless their mom was in the room, but it ended up being a great teaching moment. We went home later that night and talked about “private parts” and how no one should be touching them without Mommy or Daddy knowing. We also discussed that no adult should ever tell them that they shouldn’t tell their parents something.
5. If all your friends jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge. Okay, I learned this one from my dad, but it comes in handy. Peer pressure starts early. One kid says they are allowed to do something and the next thing you know you have a bunch of four year old’s throwing sand at each other on a swanky golf course (may or may not have actually happened.) It’s important to talk to your kids about following your rules, not what another child says. It’s one of those things you shouldn’t have to discuss, but you can’t always count on kids to understand unless it’s implicit.
Safety doesn’t have to be scary if you approach it calmly and rationally, but the important thing is to start discussing these things early and often.
What discussions have you had with your young child?
Guest posting on Mommy Hot Spot today. Discussing a few of my favorite topics: social media (and how people react to it), parenting, and booger eating (yes, I said it!)
Read the post here or see below.
Lately I have seen a very unfortunate trend with my Mom friends. I’ve heard it at parties, seen it on Facebook, and even discussed it at book club. Moms are mad, frustrated and upset. And who is this rage directed at?
Mom Bloggers. Or Moggers as my friend likes to call them. People like me.
Apparently women are ticked at the perfect way Mommy bloggers are portraying their lives, and it’s too much pressure to live up to on a daily basis.
“No one’s cupcakes come out that way,” screamed my friend the day she lived out a Pinterest-fail of tie-dyed cupcakes for her daughter’s 7th birthday party. I actually thought they came out pretty good, but clearly not as perfect as the picture she showed me on her iPad.
Another friend vehemently exclaimed the other day: “It’s not like parenting three kids isn’t hard enough, but now all these ‘perfect’ Mom bloggers are out there talking about organic food, no screen time until they turn eighteen, keeping your kids in car seats backwards until they’re nine…enough is enough!”
I get it. I really do. I am one of those moms that is creatively challenged. My youngest out-paced me in the craft world at four years old when she took the glue gun out of my hands to put the feathers on the turkey we were creating for Thanksgiving. I would rather stick pins in my eyes than spend a day scrapbooking, crafting or baking cakes that involve words like fondant. If I judged what kind of mother I was based on this, I would get a big fat F.
And sometimes when I read about the food a blogger creates from scratch every day to feed her nine children or the organic garden a New York City mom cultivated on the roof of her apartment, I feel pangs of guilt for the cheez-its I sent in for group snack (although they did have letters imprinted on them, you know, to make the kids smarter).
But a few years ago, I had a life-changing experience. I met a mom through my daughters’ My Gym classes. She also had twins, but that was where our similarities stopped. She had lost all of her baby weight, had no muffin top, and was constantly pulled together. She had her own successful business she started while breastfeeding her twins for 14 months and teaching them sign language. Because their father was from Montreal, they were already speaking two languages and had travelled extensively by the tender age of three. No joke.
Despite the fact that this mom made me feel like an utter failure, she was very friendly, so we decided to hit the local Chick-fil-A for lunch after class one day. As we chatted while the kids were eating, I looked over at her son who continuously picked his nose, and yes, ate it. Her daughter had a meltdown of epic proportions because she had white milk instead of chocolate. They had to leave early because her son threw his shoe at the back of a stranger’s head. It was not pretty, and she was mortified.
Apparently perfect hair does not make you immune to booger-eating. Because I had lived this scenario myself (several times), I was relieved to see this mom also succumbed to the same issues that I had with my kids. Although the image she projected publicly was much different, at the end of the day, she was as frazzled as I was.
It is no different in the blogging world. As bloggers, we project the image we want our readers to see. We carefully choose our words, images and topics that we think our readers will embrace. And although there are the mommy bloggers that believe honesty in parenting is what they want to portray, most of these women are building a brand, and that brand is their carefully-crafted persona.
While it may be hard to believe, most of the moms writing blogs are not doing it to make other moms feel bad; but let’s be honest: how many of you would attempt to try a recipe if the cake looked lopsided? I always equate blogging (and in some cases social media) to publishing your own magazine — an opportunity to share what you are passionate about whether it is clean eating, fitness, crafts, make-up, decorating, or just your kids. They are trying to put their best foot forward to their audience, just as they would showcase their best products in their storefront.
I believe the rage against the mommy bloggers, Pinterest-ers, and perfect Facebook posters is symbolic of what has always been going since the dawn of mommy-hood. So many of us strive for perfection and use other parents as a benchmark for our own self-worth. When we look at others though the lens of resentment, there is no way we can support each other or encourage our kids to treat each other compassionately.
There is no way to parent perfectly, and having a child absolutely guarantees you will be imperfect. It doesn’t matter how many perfect cakes you bake, marathons you run, or crafts you create, your kid still may eat his own booger in front of somebody else.
What can you do to sublimate your rage? Instead of feeling guilt and resentment when going on social media, digest the information and decide what you want to do with it. You may want to embrace having your own chickens for free range eggs or you may go back to buying your egg McMuffin.
Because while some bloggers do try to shame us into thinking that their way is the only way — using fear and judgement — we often forget that we, as readers, have the power in these situations. Bloggers are only as successful as their followers make them. Trust me, I know.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” I think we all need to remind ourselves of this as parents in today’s digital age.
Or you can just start your own blog…