Too Sexy, Too Young

I despise the fact that I sometimes have to tell my daughters to go change because her shorts are too short or her leggings too tight or her shirt rides up too high. I do not for a single moment want to be the source for why she is uncomfortable in her body. But I also need her to be aware that — whether I like it or not — what she wears matters.

So despite all the other noise from social media and video games and friends, I will make sure she knows she is enough, exactly as she is. And then I’ll ask her to put on a new pair of pants…

I am now a regular contributor to a lovely parenting site named Her View from Home. I’m up today discussing the wardrobe war, which is killing me, battle by battle.

Too Sexy, Too Young

I watch my daughter walk into the room with her long, straight chestnut hair swaying side to side. I love watching her enter our kitchen each morning.

At ten, her sense of self is strong. She knows how to put together an outfit and creates just the right hairstyle to go with it. I am always impressed with her ability to match her older sister’s fur vest with a pair of leopard leggings or a jean jacket with a plaid skirt meant for the holidays. She does not get this trait from her style-challenged mother, who has worn her hair the same way for nearly two decades.

Her greatest accessory, however, is the confidence that exudes out of her tiny frame. She walks with her head held high as her voice booms against the walls of our home. She is a force.

I see her from behind as she bends over to pull out a waffle from the bottom of our freezer. When she stands up, I notice her shorts don’t move much. They lay perfectly still, roughly one inch under her buttocks. I think to myself that J-Lo would be envious of that perfect bum.

But then I remember that she is in fourth grade and not on a tour with backup dancers.

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I Want Her to Be Better than Me

I have three daughters, and of course I love them all equally.

That being said, there is one that I butt heads with more, one that seems to cause my temper to flare faster and bigger.

She happens to be the one just like me.

I had an epiphany moment with her awhile back. I realized she became a trigger for what I didn’t like in myself, and when I am having my own moments of weakness, I was taking it out on her.

I am up on a lovely parenting website today named Her View from Home with my post about trying to get my daughter to become a better version of myself, and how in turn, I became a better version of me.

You can read the full post here.

I Want Her to Be a Better Version of Me

“Why do you not put your school things in your backpack immediately after you finish?” I snapped at my daughter after dinner one night. “You have to be more organized!”

I watched the tears well up like puddles in her dark brown eyes that were exact replicas of mine, yet my anger did not subside. It was the same argument every night.

She hurriedly stuffed a torn yellow folder with papers sticking out in every direction in her purple backpack, and then slowly turned to see if I was watching her.

“What?” I exclaimed in my most exasperated mom voice.

“Why do you not put your school things in your backpack immediately after you finish?” I snapped at my daughter after dinner one night. “You have to be more organized!”

I watched the tears well up like puddles in her dark brown eyes that were exact replicas of mine, yet my anger did not subside. It was the same argument every night.

She hurriedly stuffed a torn yellow folder with papers sticking out in every direction in her purple backpack, and then slowly turned to see if I was watching her.

“What?” I exclaimed in my most exasperated mom voice. (To continue reading click here.)

 

On Turning Tween

My youngest turned ten recently. She lovingly reminds me that she is officially a tween now, along with her eleven-year-old twin sisters.

Having three tween daughters would scare most people, and it should. Navigating puberty times three is not for the faint of heart.

While my girls seem to be handling it well, it is much harder for me.

You see, I have always been confident, even steadfast, in my parenting decisions, doing what I felt is right for my little family.  Facebook was not around when my girls were infants, so I didn’t feel the pressures so many young moms now face due to social media, and I am lucky to have a strong network of supportive women in my life.

I didn’t always do everything by the book, and if you wanted to label me  it would probably be “Crunchy, detachment, needs her sleep, part-time working mom.” I nursed all three of my kids. And also bottle fed. We eat mainly organic fruit and vegetables, unless we are at a friend’s house that busts out a packet of Oreos, then we are all in. I let all three of my kids cry it out at one point or another and I rarely let them sleep in our bed, but I am all for early morning snuggles or late-night reading in my bed together.

It worked for us.

But now we are at a different point in our parenting journey. Sometimes it involves eye rolls, sighs the size of a hurricane and huffing and puffing — and that’s not only by my three daughters.

Parenting tweens is hard. They want their independence. They want to be heard.  They want to grow up.

I just want them to pick up their stuff.

But more than that, I want to raise kind, compassionate, productive members of society, which is hard to do when you constantly feel like you are screwing them up.

The past few weeks have been particularly difficult. For some reason, the four females in our house are on edge. We cried a river of tears and are often an ocean apart on our viewpoints.

We argue about hair and taking showers and homework and eating habits. And after every bad interaction, I feel like a failure, like I screwed them up.

Raising tweens is hard. Talk too much about the food they consume, and it can lead to an eating disorder. Discuss their appearance too much will cause poor self-esteem. Pressuring academic success can lead to depression. And although I never negotiate on good hygiene, I do wonder at what age I will have to stop saying the words, “We take showers so we don’t smell.”

Raising tweens shakes my confidence as a parent. As hard as I try, I feel like the wheels fly off a conversation faster than I can put them back on the bus.

Finding balance in our new relationship is difficult. I want them to be independent and think for themselves, yet we still have rules and expectations. I want them to understand the basics of health and appearance, yet I do not want them to feel judged.  I want them to excel in all they do, yet I do not want them to feel pressured.

We are in the eye of the tornado, and I am unsure where we will land.

Last night was a good night in our home, filled with love and laughter and joy and kindness. I pulled one of my daughters aside, one who I had a particularly trying time with, and said, “I’m glad we had some fun together after all that went on this week.”

Her big blue eyes looked deep into mine, and she replied, “What do you mean?”

I was surprised by her response. “I mean, you and I had a rough week, and I know we didn’t see eye-to-eye on everything. I’m glad we could end it on a good note.”

And then she laughed. “Oh, Mom, it’s not a big deal. I know you are just trying to help.”

As I watched her turn and put her backpack away, I sat in shock. Here I thought I was crushing her self-esteem and body image, and she showed me compassion.

Parenting a tween is hard, but it doesn’t need to shake your confidence. I may need to work on my delivery, but my girls are getting the message loud and clear. We will have bad moments, but I will continue to remain steadfast in teaching them all the things I want them to know, and then adapt accordingly, as I have done since the beginning. And the good moments will far outshine the bad.

Parenting a tween is hard, and it should be. We want our kids to push, explore and question. Sometimes these actions lead to positive outcomes (defending a friend or deciding to walk away from illicit behavior) and sometimes it ends up with mistakes and the opportunity to be held accountable. It is all a part of growing up.

Parenting a tween is hard. And I am so lucky I get to do it.

The Tightrope of Self Esteem

I am making my debut on one of my favorite sites today, Mamalode, discussing managing my daughters’ self esteem.

I find it hard to find the right balance of encouragement and honesty with my girls. It becomes particularly difficult during a fashion stand off. On one hand, I want them to feel empowered and loved, and on the other hand, I want to be honest and helpful.

And sometimes you just have to tell a girl she looks ridiculous. You know, the girlfriend rule.

Thanks for reading.

THE TIGHTROPE OF SELF ESTEEM

The small-framed tween girl slides to a stop in her sock-clad feet directly in front of me.

“Ta-da,” she sings, using jazz hands as her chocolate eyes dance with excitement.

“You can’t wear that to school,” I respond too quickly.

“Why not? I think I look awesome.”

“It doesn’t look right,” I declare. The words spew out of my mouth like bullets, and I instantly want to siphon them back in as I watch my daughter flinch. “I mean, you are not supposed to wear it that way.”

To read more, click here.

Embarrassment versus Shame in Parenting

The other day “Ice Ice Baby” came blasting through my iPhone while doing dishes. I instantly squealed, “Oh my God! I used to love this song!” (Don’t judge me. You know you loved it too.)

I put down the dirty dish I held and started busting out my signature move, The Running Man. Of course, I have my own version, but I killed it.

That’s when I received a crushing blow to the gut. My nearly eleven-year-old daughter shouted from across the room, “Mom, seriously. You are so embarrassing.”

I stopped dead in my tracks. As I turned to face her and three of her friends eating pizza at my kitchen counter, I caught the last rotation of an eye roll as she turned her back on me.

Ouch.

So I did what any mom would do. I threw down my dish towel and did a little M.C. Hammer “U Can’t Touch This” shuffle across my hard wood floors and ended with “The Sprinkler,” which may have involved some PG-13 gyrating.

Her friends cheered me on but I could see the pink rising on my daughter’s cheeks. She was smiling, but I could tell the mortification was real. She was ashamed of me.

Later, I thought about how I drew a line in the sand with my daughter by continuing the dance-off. My fellow moms of tweens and I often discus how are lives are changing. Trips to Starbucks and the mall now replace princess tea parties and pretend fashion shows. iEverything’s seem to be glued to their palms and sleepovers replace playdates. And inevitably, there are a few more door slams and sighs then cuddles and kisses.

Some of my friends want to keep their relationships with their tweens/teens in tact and choose to relate to them on their terms. Some respect boundaries and allow their children more independence. Some even insist that they will be the parenting white unicorn — the cool mom.

I could have tried to be more hip to bond with the group, demonstrating that I once was like them. I could have stopped dancing and changed the station to something a little more current. I could have altered who I was at that moment.

But what fun would that be? When did we get so scared of our kids and what they think of us?

There is a lot of discussion about the role shaming has in parenting, so much so that as a culture we bend over backward to ensure we never say or do anything bad that may impact the self-esteem of a child. We worry that our every move will have an impact on their physical, intellectual, and even social well-being.

And this is important stuff. We should not publicly shame our children or make them feel ashamed about their behavior, appearance or choices. They should never feel degraded or diminished.

But that does not mean we should not teach our children the difference between shame, the mis-placed kind because of something someone else does, and good, old-fashioned parental embarrassment.

I think growing up with parents that embarrass the heck out of you truly makes you a stronger person. My dad was a lunatic. Growing up, he would blast show tunes while I was hanging out with my friends in the pool. 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. It was annoying. It made me want to curl up in the fetal position and not come out until adulthood.

And he was not the only one. My mom could be worse. She would stay up each night until I walked through the door. She called the parents of my friends —whether she knew them or not — to ensure I was where I said I would be. She would say no to my requests even when every other parent said yes.  I am not sure how I survived.

If parenting is about being brave and steadfast in your decisions, then my parents had cojones the size of Texas. And even with these “flaws,” my house was where my friends wanted to be, where we could all laugh and be ourselves.

I may not purposely do things to embarrass my kids. I won’t show up to their school wearing my pajama bottoms (if you don’t count the drop off line) or chaperone a school dance wearing my old prom dress (unless I can fit in it), but I’m not going to change who I am — or what I believe in — just to ensure they are not embarrassed. And if their friends don’t like me, well, that’s on them.

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 or not having the right shoes; mothers who don’t wear make up or don yoga pants every day; or dads who scare boyfriends or dress in ridiculous ties. And yes, even a mom who does the Running Man — even when she nails it.

I know that my kids also will get embarrassed by what I don’t let them do, like wear makeup just because the other girls are or go to a party where I know there is no supervision.

It is a delicate balance when raising older children. I’m sure shortly that just the mere fact I exist will embarrass them.  But I’ve already lived through those painful teenage years of trying to fit in, and I am not doing it again.

My job is showing my kids how to enjoy life and be a responsible, productive member of society. If we can get through that and still be friends, then so be it.

And if they learn a few super-cool dance moves along the way, then that is a bonus.

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