Friday, September 21, 2012

Trying to live up to Pinterest

Last weekend, I threw my daughter’s third birthday party. I was riding the high of too much time on Pinterest plus heaps of denial about what I am actually capable of. I had big plans. She was going to have the most epic Wizard of Oz Party in the history of Parties, so help me. I was a mom on a mission, and nothing could stop me.

Pinterest is one of those time-sucks that I just can’t seem to pry myself away from. It’s a nice escape from the stacks of dirty dishes, toys scattering the floor, and piles upon piles of laundry waiting to be folded. It’s a beautiful world where people are dressed in sharp hand-sewn clothes, they pack lunches that look like artistic interpretations of cartoons, and they quote inspiring and encouraging phrases.

But, Pinterest has also warped my expectations and my perception of reality. I see something beautiful and artistic and amazing and my ego says “We can totally do that!” 

This is generally how it turns out:

I feel like there are two kinds of people on Pinterest: The show off and the self-loathing dreamer. I am generally the latter.

The Wizard of Oz party was great. The kids were impressed, but not in the way I envisioned. Rather than "oooohing" and "ahhhhhing" over the cake I painstakingly made, they stuck their fingers in the frosting and fought over who got the piece with the flowers on it. I'm pretty sure they would have been happy with anything covered in frosting.

They liked the obstacle course which my husband and I spent hours setting up, but it took all of five minutes for them to complete. Their favorite thing? Throwing water balloons at my neighbor who dressed up as the wicked witch. Time invested: about five minutes of filling water balloons. Totally worth it. 

More than anything, what I learned from Sunshine's Pinterest-inspired birthday party was just how silly it was of me to pay so much attention to minuscule details when it really didn't affect my daughter's happiness. It mostly just made me feel overwhelmed and tired. 

I'm not the only one. This article talks about how moms are a finite resource- we have to pick our battles. And, really, does having a photo-ready cake make up for the hours I spend in the kitchen while my kids watch too much television and I half-parent by yelling at them from the other room? Probably not. Is it worth the tantrum-filled trip to hobby lobby to get the "grass tip" Wilton frosting thingamabobber? That's a big fat "NO!"

I think my Pinterest ambitions stem from guilt. I am painfully aware of all the ways I could do better. 

But when I really think about it, doing better has nothing to do with all of those perfect things I see on Pinterest. I think the best moms probably know what to prioritize. My kids don't need a party Martha Stewart would approve of. They need a mom who isn't too overwhelmed to play with them, to let them snuggle on her lap, to read them books and build lego castles with them. They need a mom who got a solid seven hours of sleep because she wasn't frosting a cake till two a.m. They need me, in all my imperfect glory.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Cultivating a Healthy Body Image in Children

I hope this doesn't sound preachy or judgmental. It took me a few years of parenting to come up with these opinions, but I thought I'd share them because I think it is an important topic when it comes to parenting. I'd also like to open the door for other parents to chime on in on what rules or methods they use to help cultivate a positive body image in their children. 

Teach your children that they are in charge of their body.
My husband use to tickle my kids until they would squeal and say “No, no, no!” while giggling. He thought it was funny and I think they liked it, too, but it bothered me. 

I couldn’t put my finger on it until one day when I tried to explain it to him:
“I want our kids to feel like they are in charge of what happens to their body. If they are saying “no, no, no” and someone is still touching them, it takes away their power. I want them to know that when they say no, the other person should listen. I also want them to respect other peoples’ ownership of their bodies.”
My husband adjusted his tickle policy and all is well. 

I also don’t make my children hug or kiss anyone if they aren’t comfortable with it. These may seem like trivial small things, but children are very perceptive and can pick up on the subtlest of messages. Allowing them to have an opinion about their personal space helps empower them.  

Also, make sure you talk to your children about sexual abuse prevention. The "good touch, bad touch, secret touch" approach as discussed in Taylor's book review has made it easier for me to have that conversation with my kids. 

Watch your words.
What words do you use to compliment or uplift your child? When do you lavish them with attention?

This can be tough. My daughter is so stinkin’ cute, I have a hard time not constantly pointing out how cute and adorable I think she is. I have to consciously use words that focus on attributes that don’t correlate with physical appearance. I want her to know that while being cute or pretty might be fun, being smart or kind or loving is something even better to strive for.
Try not to talk about losing weight in front of your children or degrade your appearance where they can hear you. I know it is easy to start talking about your latest diet or body image hang ups when you are with your friends, but I don’t want my kids to have the words “Skinny” or “fat” in their vocabulary. I’d rather they use words like “healthy” and “Strong” when talking about their bodies. 

Avoid sexist remarks or gender stereotypes.
I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s worth pointing out. Don’t use phrases like “he runs like a girl” or “you’re such a girl” to describe someone who is uncoordinated or emotional. I want my daughter to know that being a girl is awesome! I want her to know she can be an Olympic runner if she wants, and being a girl won’t ever hold her back from that. 

Maybe someday "runs like a girl"
will be considered a compliment.

Also, if your son loves the color purple, then embrace the fact that he hasn’t bought into the propaganda that only specific colors belong to each gender. I love the fact that Apollo will gladly wear his pink striped tie to church without complaint (he looks so handsome in his salmon-colored dress shirt, too). I’ll be sad if he ever refuses to wear it because "it’s a girl color". Whenever someone says pink is for girls we say “colors are for everyone.” My hope is that my children will learn that, just because the media is telling them how to dress or what to like, they don’t have to follow.

Be attentive to what kind of Media your child consumes/ Toys they play with.
There are subtle messages in even the most innocent-seeming shows. I recently let my daughter watch “The Little Mermaid.” It was a staple of mine growing up. I loved the songs and always thought Ariel was so beautiful. But, watching it as an adult I found things that bothered me. I tried to point out to Sunshine how silly it was of Ariel to change her body and sell her greatest talent just so she could get a boy to notice her. I told her that she should never change herself for anyone. I don’t know if she got it, but I’m hoping it at least made her think. I still let her watch it, but I won’t hesitate to point out the parts that I think are dumb. I am really thankful for how the role of females in movies has shifted. 

Instead of passively waiting to be rescued...

...or not even being conscious....

...the female characters in more modern movies are empowered. They rescue themselves and others. They go on adventures and make hard choices. 

One of my favorite blogs is Pigtail Pals. It explores the world of toys, clothing, and media that is geared towards our children. It’s really challenged me to think about what subtle messages my kids may be picking up on. 

Help your child choose a sport or talent to cultivate.

Here are just a few statistics pulled from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) website about female participation in sports: 
  • Research shows that girls who participate in some kind of sport experience higher than average levels of self-esteem and lower levels of depression. Sports participation is associated with reduced rates of body dissatisfaction and eating disorders.
  • Female athletes have better grades and higher graduation rates than non-athlete females
  • Young women who participated in sports were more likely to be engaged in volunteering, be registered to vote, feel comfortable making a public statement, follow the news, and boycott than young women who had not participated in sports. 
Another story which struck me recently was the story from Ken Robinson’s TED talk about education and creativity.  He mentions the story of Gillian Lynne, the famous choreographer of many musicals including Cats and Phantom of the Opera.

As a child, Gillian was disruptive and unable to sit still in class. She was diagnosed with a learning disorder, and may have been put on medication and spent her life struggling in school if it wasn't for an insightful doctor.  Read it here.  

When we give our children multiple outlets through which they can express themselves, they flourish. They can appreciate their body for what it can do instead of how closely it fits society’s current trends for what is beautiful. 

 Call it when you see it.

Pointing out the absurdities can help kids learn to question the messages they are continually bombarded with. Explain to them what Photoshop is. Show them videos like the one below so they can understand that much of what they see in magazines and billboards does not reflect reality.

How do you empower your children? What has helped you cultivate a healthy body image? Please share your experience and insight. I definitely don't have all the answers and would love to hear from you. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Guest Post: Flying with Young Children

My friend has some BRILLIANT suggestions for entertaining toddlers on flights and I just had to share.  

Tomorrow the kids and I will get our 5th plane ride together as a three-some. The lists below are long and clunky but contain my tips and tricks of surviving. With many more flights ahead of us in the next years, I need to post my list, so I won't have to rethink it each time. Feel free to skip to the comments and put what you do. Happy flying!

Option 1: Pack a backpack full of tons of lightweight items focusing on the distraction/surprise factor. Including many but not all:

  • Envelopes sealed and addresses to each kid, filled with their old drawings or stickers
  • Post-it notes (to stick everywhere from the seats to our faces)
  • Painter's tape (to stick, wad up, peels, etc)
  • FOOD: Blueberries, grapes, cheese cubes, and crackers and lots of wipes and a special treat for me
  • Favorite stuffed friend and blankie
  • Extra clothes for YOU as well as the kids
  • Clorox wipes to disinfect chairs and tables and a special prayer for their health a week from now
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Tylenol 20-30 min before take-off, make sure it's in a container 3 oz or smaller to pass security
  • Wrapped $1 items from Target: measuring tape, little balls, stickers, books, etc (the wrapping paper takes up an extra 1.5 minutes per item. Invaluable.)
  • A little cloth napkin or neck scarf to play peek-a-boo, be a hat on head, etc
  • Lots of whispered songs and prayers
  • Toy airplanes
  • Glow sticks (especially for after the plane when driving home/destination in the dark)
  • And of course... DVD player ( but my kids won't watch full-length feature films nor shows with any level of tension so we're still at the baby and little Einsteins and Signing time level) and a DVD or CD of family pictures.


  • Be excited and enjoy it (it's contagious)
  • Kids dressed in cute clothes (not really a bag thing, but a tactic to win the good opinion of those around me)
  • Get kids laughing at gate and before take-off (again, people are better disposed to them when the scream later on)
  • Be my kids' advocate not apologist (something I'm still working on)
  • Give and pack kids their own backpack (They look adorable and melt your heart)
  • Use the airports “family bathrooms” where the potties don’t sound like dinosaurs and you can take your stroller in
  • Get a helper's pass: Most airlines will give a non-ticketed adult a "helper's pass" to helpnyou past security to the gate. With proper ID of course.

And of course, there is always the following options. . . .

Option 2: Keep them alive long enough for them to effectively entertain themselves.
Option 3: Get a smartphone and apps.

Update: Pride goeth before the fall. Serves me right for thinking I've mastered flying with kids; yesterday's flight was the worst of the five flights. Kids yelling, toys flying across the aisle, DVD player losing power after 40 min, and no napping, sharing, or laughing. I guess four out of five isn't a bad record, but oh man that fifth flight. I did use all the stuff below though so maybe it's worth something...