No More Cleaning Excuses for my Tweens

Dear Mermaids: Body Image is Not a Trend

At the beach this summer, I saw two young teens snapping photos at the edge of the water.

The pair giggled at first, trying to get just the right shot with the ocean in the background, catching the sun dancing off the waves. Both wore their hair up in top buns, and possessed strong athletic bodies. Skin tan and glistening, I admired their youth and beauty.

I put my nose back into my book when I heard, “Wait, we can’t use this one because my face looks too round.”

Then, “Ugh. You didn’t hold the camera high enough, so my stomach is sticking out. Let’s take another.”

And then, “OK, just one more, and we’ll edit it before posting.”

By the end of the photo shoot, I was exhausted for them.

Instagram is a powerful place for young people. Posting a photograph can elicit a vast array of emotions for the viewer and subject.

It can empower a young girl by bravely demonstrating she has body confidence or continue to tear down one who feels left out.  It is a place where you can highlight your best assets or get ridiculed for exposing your vulnerabilities.

Recently, I read an article in Self magazine entitled, “Mermaid Thighs Are the Newest Body-Positive Trend Taking Over Instagram.”  On one hand, it makes me smile that so many women and young girls are working to counteract the dangers of the “thigh-gap” craze, where young women whose thighs did not touch highlighted what is unachievable for most.

According to Self: “The mermaid thigh movement is a direct response to the thigh gap trend that’s taken over Instagram in recent years. Basically, having a gap between your thighs was considered beautiful, which shamed a ton of women whose thighs naturally touch. The mermaid thigh movement recognizes that other group of women—those who don’t have a natural thigh gap—effectively giving every woman a body-positive trend to identify with. If your thighs touch, great. If your thighs don’t touch, great. Every set of thighs is beautiful, whether you have a thigh gap or not.”

I looked at the carefully posed photos of the gorgeous women who appeared in all colors, shapes and sizes, highlighting their beautiful bodies with captions of #mermaidthighs scripted underneath. It made me wonder: “Do my girls need to identify with a thigh trend to feel body confident? Can bodies even be a trend?”

Body confidence is not about identifying with a current shape du jour. It’s knowing you are more than your appearance and feeling comfortable in your skin. It comes from within.

Every time we — the media, retailers, consumers and Instagrammers — focus on a new body type as a “trend,” we tell millions of women that their body is “wrong.” It doesn’t matter if is portrayed as “positive” (such as a large bottom) or as  “attainable” (i.e., an eight-pack set of abs), If you constantly are immersed in photos believing your body should look a way that it never will,  you have a hard time loving the way you look right now. You have a hard time loving yourself at all.

And while I want sources of inspiration for my daughters — and even for myself — we need to stop using the shape of our bodies as trends — as something to aspire to — whether we think we are doing it for encouragement or shame.

Because the truth is, body confidence never goes out of style, even though body types do.

We need less posed photos geared towards perfection and more candid pictures of satisfaction; less hashtags about #bodygoals and more about #beautifulhearts; and less ostracizing of the norm, and more celebrating of the unique.

Because every time we highlight our body as a trend, we are stealing away a piece of someone else’s heart.

Keep up the great work mermaids. Just choose your hashtags carefully.

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.

Click here to read more.

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.

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