Thursday, January 22, 2015

Stop Telling My Girls That They Are Pretty!

Diana: "Gilbert told Charlie Sloan that you were the smartest girl in school, right in front of Josie."
Anne: "He did?"
Diana: "He told Charlie being smart was better than being good looking."
Anne: "I should have known he meant to insult me.” 
                                                                                  - Anne of Green Gables: L.M. Montgomery

I am not sure if you have noticed - but I am the mother of three wonderful, smart, imaginative, strong, clever, brave, ambitious, proud, creative, loyal, empathetic, stubborn, kind, and beautiful girls.  

And I have a bone to pick with you - yes, all of you.  Well, most of you - and just to be fair, I'll include myself in the mix as well. 

You see - as mother to the three aforementioned girls (hmm...I had no idea "aforementioned" was all one word.  For no apparent reason, that entirely delights me!), it is my job to nurture every single one, of the qualities listed above. As well as the many more that pop up as they grow and become more and more the women they were created to be.  It is my job to make sure they are thankful, polite, kind and that they grow up with a good solid sense of self, and of what is truly important in life. It is my job to make sure they understand that it matters the most how people are on the inside, and not what is seen on the outside.  It is my job to teach them that they are responsible for their actions, their words, the thoughts they allow into their minds.  That they can choose, every single day what kind of attitude they will have - how they will face their day.  Whether or not they will let life's difficulties defeat them, or challenge them to try harder.  They get to choose what kind of person they will become, what their priorities in life will be. Who they are in relation to others - Whether it will be a kind, loving, empathetic, strong, brave and ambitious person, someone who advocates for the hurting, builds up those around them. Or not... 

This is my job as their mom, and I do not take it lightly.

I want their imaginations to run wild with the delight of growing up, of working hard, and making their dreams come true.  I want them to know they can work hard now to make their dreams come true, and they will! I never want them to feel that they must hold back for any reason.  Not because they are young, because of race, social status, sexual orientation and certainly not because they are female or because something is just plain hard. I want them to always have the confidence they need in order to try, fail and try again.  I also want them to care about the dreams of others - and never, ever be callous, derogatory, insulting, lazy, entitled, or cruel at the expense of others.

I want my girls never to accept 'no' for an answer when it comes to what they believe to be right and good. I want them always to know they can stand up for themselves and fight to make their opinions heard - even if it differs from my own. I want them to be wholly their own person, not little mini-me's - not a picture of what they feel they somehow should be.  

I want my girls to never, ever doubt that if they work hard, they can change the world.  Because they can. Oh they can!

My girls can achieve anything they set their minds to.  I know this, I hope they know this. I hope all little girls know this...but you see, I don't think that they all do.  

And this is partially our fault . Yes, us, the grown-ups. 

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You see - when it comes to empowering our girls, we are really good talkers.  We like to watch the commercials, read the blogs, rant and rave for or against your own brand of gender equality (Whatever bend you would like to give it) - but very little seems to be changing.  Why?  

I will admit - in many ways I have been puzzled, I still am to a point.  I can see very clearly that something is not adding up.  But I am having trouble finding something solid to grab onto in my quest to instill these things fully into my kids.  I can spout what I believe until I am blue in the face, but that wont change anything. I feel like the problem goes deeper, starts sooner.  I have been focusing lots of my attention on this for almost 9 years now, ever since I became mom to a girl. And now, as my kids are starting to make that transition from little-kids to "tweens" I am starting to notice some patterns.  You see - I truly believe that the problem starts with us, with the grown-ups.  We want our girls to feel like they can do anything - but we are shooting ourselves in the foot, we are building our own barriers. We are doing this wrong, making it far more difficult than it should be and we don't even realize it....and it is time to stop.

This picture has been floating around Pinterest, I am not entirely sure where it came from.  But I shudder every single time I see it: 

Ah - looks like you can buy the shirt here

Yeah, that is not going to happen.  Am I the only one that doesn't think this is cute?  This is where I feel much of our “issues” (no pun intended) begin.

I have one simple request, to start this change of thinking - It starts with the greeting that almost every single adult gives my children almost every single time they see them. Think for a moment - you meet a young girl and you are given the opportunity to have a conversation with her, just the two of you and expected to fill the next 2-3 minutes with small talk.  What do you start with? What do 90% of adults start with?

"That is a very pretty dress," "I love your curly hair!" "Those sparkly shoes are very cute," "I love your boots!" Or as simple as "You are such a pretty girl!" or "You look just like a princess!" Little girls hear it over and over and over again, all day, every day. I've done it, we all have. Some adults even take it a step further - like the doctor that recently saw my youngest when we weren't sure if she needed stitches - and I quote:  "Now the big question is, what princess are you going to be for Halloween?"  Complete assumption. Little girl = pretty, pretty princess. His question was met with complete confusion on the part of my daughter (was she supposed to be a princess? Was she doing it wrong because she wanted to be a tiger?) and a quick "we are not hugely into princesses in our house, note the rocket-ship PJ's," from me. and an embarrassed change of subject from the pediatrician who apparently had never before met a 3 year old girl that was not obsessed with princesses – this is not ok people! Am I the only one that thinks this way? Am I somehow off? Have I missed something here?

My husband's company has had a huge conference this week, bringing in all the employees from around the world to meet together. He was telling me last night about all the fascinating people he has met. Off hand he mentioned that all the software developers in the company are male. Not unusual, but oh it made my heart ache when I heard it. All I could think of was my brilliant, mechanically-minded 8-year-old-girl, who would have to fight tooth and nail to make it in an industry like that, if she chose to go that route. And how there was a far bigger chance that someone would comment on how pretty her red hair is today, than tell her that her quick math skills could open worlds to her if she keeps working hard.

So this, my beloved readers, is a call to arms.  I challenge you to change how you interact with young girls. I'm not saying that it will fix everything, but it feels like a start. Something tangible we can do to help stop this trend.  Is your brain spinning a bit? We need to wake up a little, you see - us parents can rant and rave all we like. Blog posts can be written, articles read.  But until we truly take steps in real life, nothing is going to change.  I can't do this alone.  I need your help.

Now - I understand that this is how we have been trained. I am not faulting anyone for trying to compliment my daughters - I am also not anti-princess.  My girls enjoy them alright, they also enjoy super-heroes, spies, hot wheels, dinosaurs, pirates, tea parties, mine craft, wizards, star wars, reading, dress-up, and arts and crafts (so much paper and tape!)  Their play is in no way princess centered, nor have they ever told me that they are, or ever want to be a princess (though my littlest did tell me recently that she wanted to be king...) We also don't call them "princess". I am not saying it's wrong to call your daughter a princess, to each their own. But we have made the choice not to in this family.  

I know that calling little girls "cute or pretty" all the time is a social norm that adults simply fall back on when they don't know what else to say - but do you realize how learning to expect a compliment every time they meet someone new, associating the high we as human naturally get when we are admired always with what we are wearing? How we look? Think how often girls hear this. REALLY think.  It is all the time.  And then in the same breath that we just used to compliment those mini UGG boots, we say "it doesn't matter how you look on the outside."  Is it any wonder that the messages are getting skewed? It goes entirely against what I am trying to instill in my daughters.  We love to preach about gender equality, about empowerment, about "being the real you no matter what anyone says."  But by flippantly giving out compliments as if they are candy, we are training our girls from such a young age to value things that simply don't matter.  

The other day, my oldest daughter (8) asked me a question.  She said "Mom - why is it that it's a good thing when kids get bigger and gain weight - but all adult girls seem to want to lose weight? It is very confusing!" 

I was floored, speechless (for a moment anyway). I took a deep breath, said a quick prayer - and told her that it is all about being healthy, and that as a kid, it is a healthy thing to grow and get bigger.  But when you are an adult, sometimes it can be a challenge to get good exercise since we don't have things like recess, so adults talk sometimes about needing to be healthier and often, losing weight is a part of being healthy.  I hope I did ok, she seemed satisfied. 

These kids hear us. They are smarter than we give them credit for, they know, they see. We say things about ourselves that would be considered verbal abuse if we were to say it to someone else...and yet we spout penny compliments to our girls without even looking up from our cell-phones. How are they supposed to understand this? 

So my call to change is this.  Let us be honest with our girls, because let's face it - they can tell the difference anyway.  Compliment the ambition, instead of the boots, tell them they look like an adventurer instead of a princess, ask what their favorite knock, knock joke is (trust me, they have one) and tell them yours. (if you don't have one, get one. Everyone should have a favorite knock, knock joke!) Be genuinely amazed when they show you a project they are currently working on, or what books they have read, or what they have recently accomplished that was challenging - because trust me, these kids are amazing! Ask them what they want to be when they grow up, ask them why? Tell them when you were a kid, you wanted to be a dragon and listen to them laugh...or laugh when they give you an "do you expect me to believe that?" look and tell them they are pretty quick and can't be fooled.  

Do you still feel the need to tell my girls they are pretty?  Tell them they are pretty when you catch them being kind to someone.  Tell them they look beautiful when they are running, jumping, playing. Tell them you love their smile, that it makes you want to smile too. . Tell them stories about other kids you have read/heard/seen that were activists for change around the world and ask them what kinds of things they like to do to help others. Or, give them a genuine compliment. 
Compliments are important, we all need them. But they need to be REAL, not automatic, don't let it be filler. Don't let it be what you say to my girls just because you can't think of anything else to say.  Be more creative than that!  
Because I am not sure if you have noticed - but I am the mother of three wonderful, smart, imaginative, strong, clever, brave, ambitious, proud, creative, loyal, empathetic, stubborn and kind girls that are all beautiful both inside and out.  They are continually learning to be the women they were created to be, and I feel so blessed I get to watch it all happen!  

I can't wait to see what each and every one of them does with her life, I cannot wait to see them change the world.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I resolve to resolute!

Errr- somehow that title sounded better in my head.  Not sure that it makes sense that way...but you all know what I mean, right?


So I have a new keyboard (got a new laptop for Christmas, yay!) and it feels different to my fingers, so I have been scared to write since this new feel causes tons of silly mistakes.  For example, now the / is where the . used to be on my old laptop.  So I am ending most of my sentences with / and having to go fix them.  Very time consuming - but worth it to jump back onto the writing wagon after falling off of it so dreadfully over the holidays.  It was a crazy holiday season and to be perfectly honest, I'm not entirely sure why. Funny how that works, you are stressed and exhausted, but as you look back, there doesn't seem to be anything in particular that stands out as "this event took energy."  I think it may have just been all of the people.  I love people, but they are exhausting!

Anyhow -  I was planning on this being a short post, and true to form, I can rarely make that happen.  But I wanted to take some time to re-evaluate my life and make myself some promises for the year ahead.  I know, I know - so out of my character to make a "new years resolution like everyone else." And you are right, you will not see me making resolutions like "losing weight" or "becoming more organized" or any of those bettering yourself types of resolutions.  Not that I'm against them, but you see - I simply cannot make resolutions like everyone else.  So think of this more like my bucket list for 2015.

Now, typically I take my New Years Resolutions very seriously - firstly because I am very serious person (note the serious look, well - if I had eyebrows you could note it. So...umm...just imagine very serious eyebrows and that should do the trick!) And therefore, I am very serous about keeping my resolutions, and because I refuse to be one of those that gives up half way through the year, that means I have to make new years resolutions that I actually want to keep (I have learned this simple step makes a huge difference!)

So to begin, for about the last 10 years or so I have had the resolution of eating chocolate whenever I REALLY want it. This has taken some planning on my part, for instance, I have to make sure that chocolate is always available in my house in one way shape or form.  Luckily, a very small amount typically does the trick, so thus far my chocolate habit has not become something that has interfered with my health. See, balance is key - I didn't say this was easy!

My second (and first new) resolution for 2015 is to purchase a nice pair of high healed shoes and learn to walk in them!

My husband does not think this will happen.  He thinks I will fall and says he will laugh when I do.  I think he has no faith and should be shunned thus-ly.  Feel free to join me in the shunning...especially since shunning most likely involved eyebrows, something I have previously mentioned I am sorely without.  I am determined to prove him wrong, shaming him to his very core should do that nicely!

Just watch, it will happen. I will be dainty damn-it!

My third resolution:  Get a twitter account, learn how to use my insta-gram and perhaps even end my rebellion on hash-tags. You see - I truly believe that social networks are a great gift to stay at home moms.  They allow me to be involved in the world, stay up to date and converse with friends.  Share silly stories/pictures with people through-out the day - and all in all, helps me not to feel so alone. When you are home with small children all day, every day and you are new to a city and still have very few connections (it is a challenge making friends as an adult!) social networks can help to fill that void and keep me alive when I go days or even weeks barely saying 10 words to another adult (outside of my husband, who is wonderful, but doesn't think I can wear heals without falling. So he is being shunned at the moment).  I do occasionally have to check myself, to make sure that I am not over-doing it. But all in all, I am so thankful for the connections I have made online!

4: Finally brew a successful batch of Kombucha tea!  I have learned about something new living in a town that is only a handful of miles away from a GIANT body of water - not to mention living in an older house.


Mold is my enemy!

And mold has made it into my kombucha not once, but twice despite me taking every pro-cation I can think of.  But I will prevail!  I WILL beat this, because I love Kombucha so much, and it is so good for me, I feel so good when I drink it and it tastes fantastic and I cannot spend $4 a bottle every time I want some!  This is worse than my starbucks habit - which has dropped drastically since I stopped having date night every week. Of course with Pete's 2 miles away and a CoffeeBeanAndTeaLeaf on every corner (Earl Grey Latte, half the vanilla, whole milk and 180 degrees please!) Who would choose Starbucks?  I also want to do more fermenting in general - of foods, not myself.  No  self fermenting please! And no, I am not making wine or beer...though I hear it is a fascinating process!

 Of course this may mean I need a bigger kitchen since my Kombucha and my Sourdough starter already don't get a long...or may need to spread my fermenting around the house...  I want to make my own yogurt, I want to try water kefir and make my own dill pickles. He-Who-Is-Being-Shunned thinks I am a crazy hippie...and you know, I can live with that. So maybe I will lift the shunning...just for a little while.

5th, I want to give away more essential oils.  I do so love my essential oils!  And I feel so very blessed that I am making enough money at it now that I can roll all of my income back into purchasing and it doesn't affect our family budget (let me know if you are interested in learning more about essential oils, I LOVE helping people get started!).  Because I feel so very blessed, I love blessing others as well.  So I try to keep lots of sample bottles on hand, and if you ever want to try out anything (all I ask is you just pay shipping if you live far away) I am more than happy to send samples your way.  I truly feel called to helping others feel empowered to take control of their health (both physically and emotionally) and these oils can be so helpful as a part of that journey.  I also love researching for people, so never feel afraid to ask about specific challenges and whether or not there are oils can that benefit.  I love learning all I can!

Six - I want to learn how to make really nice, homemade soap.  I have started the process already (meaning I have the books and the materials, I just have to buy the tools and take the time to give my first batch a try when the children are far away!) I love how soap goes so wonderfully with my essential oils, and I would love to be able to blend the two to make some truly therapeutic soaps.  Stay tuned, I will need guinea-pigs who are brave enough to try some of my early attempts and give me feedback!

And my seventh and final resolution - and perhaps this one is under the "bettering myself" category.  I MUST write at least once a week.  Even if it is something short or silly.  I must find a way to do this, because when I do not write consistently, I tend to spiral into a depressive state that can be very hard to work my way out of.  So please, feel free to keep me accountable to this!

I think I need to write more rhyming things.  I know rhymes are very hard to publish, but they are so good for my brain and they are easy to drop and come back to later - not to mention very satisfying!  Perhaps I shall create a book of poetry and self publish at the end of the year.  That sounds like a fun goal for the year.  So give me some ideas! Perhaps some random words and I will try to write some silly rhymes around the words.  Or I love it when people give me fun titles of stories/poems and that don't actually exist - a fun way to get inspiration!  I think I need to make some connections with other writers.  That would truly be fantastic, and so inspiring!

Yes.  Yes those seven will do nicely.  2014 was a hard year, lots of changes.  Good changes, but still challenging.  I am excited for 2015.  My kids are older, so life is changing a bit since there are no longer tiny ones in my house.  We can do more, I can commit a bit better (I was terribly flaky there for a while, slowly getting better!)

Happy 2015 everyone - and remember: