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Do We Project Identities Onto Our Children?

March 5, 2015

So then… my friends start passing their homemade dishes to the dozen of guests assembled around their dinner table. When I turn to the two-and-a-half-year-old seated on my right and offer him the turkey platter, his mom, another guest, abruptly pushes the tray away and announces authoritatively, “Oh, no, no – he’s vegetarian.”

So we all look at this little kid who can barely string a coherent sentence together — and someone asks sincerely, “How does he know?”

The kid’s mom bristles a bit and says dismissively, “Oh, he knows. He’s always been a vegetarian.”

The kid’s dad says a little pompously, “Yeah, he won’t eat any meat. At all.”

Now everyone at the table is pretty damn sure that the parents have made this decision FOR the kid, which is perfectly fine, of course — but we all find it odd that they’re using tones of voice and shades of phrasing that seem to imply that the kid came to this conclusion on his own. As a toddler.

I mean, it’s not like this tyke can drive himself to the grocery store and slap his credit card on the deli meat counter on his own, right? So it’s probably safe to say he’s following his parents’ lead… but they’re acting kinda funny about it. They don’t say “we’re vegetarian” or “we’re raising him vegetarian” – they seem intent on letting us know he’s chosen to be vegetarian.

Someone says, “Soooo… was he like at a birthday party or something and just repelled by the hot dogs and pepperoni pizza? Like the look or smell of meat just disgusts him?”

Another guest asks, “Or is it more like his philosophical statement against animal cruelty?”

(The kid is dunking his corn cob in his juice. He doesn’t look like he’s ever had a “philosophical” anything.)

The parents launch into a passionate dissertation on the vagaries of meat-eating – and while I respect their opinion, of course – it was a little disconcerting to hear all the gory details while the rest of us are chomping down on turkey legs and honey-baked ham.

(It’s totally fine to be a vegetarian, of course – I myself was a vegetarian for a few years until my ob/gyn told me I was anemic while pregnant and encouraged me to start.eating.massive.protein.now. So I promptly went out and ate a cow.)

I’ve not met this couple before, but from the look of their little lad, I find it likely that he had as much participation in the vegetarian decision as he did in today’s wardrobe choice of a bright orange cable-knit sweater and matching corduroy pants. He looks adorable, but clearly his parents are calling the shots and simply attributing the decisions to him.

I tune out their carnivore-bashing and I IMAGINE them having conversations like this with future party hosts:

Party Host: Would your toddler like a hamburger?
Mom: No, he’s vegetarian.
Party Host: Really?
Dad: Oh, yeah, totally.
Mom: He’s also a Republican.

(Party Host leans over to peer at 2-and-a-half-year-old kid, looking for signs of conservatism.)

Party Host: Really?
Dad: Oh yes, he believes strongly in the Republican ideals. (smiles proudly)
Mom: (pats kid’s head and chuckles) That’s right! Don’t get this little guy started on the liberal media!

(Little guy chews on Hot Wheels car and blows a snot bubble.)

Dad: He’s Presbyterian, of course.
Mom: (smiling) Of course!
Party Host: Oh, OK.
Dad: And he’s a Capricorn.
Mom: He was born a Scorpio — but he’s so not a Scorpio! (turns to husband and laughs conspiratorially)
Dad: Omigod – so not a Scorpio! (laughs)
Mom: Yeah (shaking her head indulgently), so he’s a Capricorn now.
Party Host: Um, OK. (glancing around, looking for exit strategy)
Dad: He’s also a Marxist.
Party Host: He is?

Mom: Oh definitely. You wouldn’t think so, because of the Republican thing, but he’s able to reconcile both philosophies. Our little Marxist.

(They gaze at son admiringly. Son drags saliva-covered Hot Wheels car through the dirt, then combs hair with it.)

Party Host: He seems uh…delightful. I should probably be go—
Mom: He’s also African-American.
Party Host: Huh? (squints at white toddler with blond hair)
Dad: Oh, yes. He was born Caucasian but he really identifies with the souls of African tribal leaders.
Mom: (nodding) Very much so.
Party Host: OK, so your son – your toddler son – is a Vegetarian Republican Presbyterian Capricorn Marxist African Tribal Leader?

Dad: Yep. (nods proudly)
Mom: (sighs happily) He’s completed an incredible journey of self-discovery.
Party Host: At two?
Dad: (modestly) Well, two and a half. (chiding) I mean, come on, what kid really knows himself at only two?

(Mom and Dad exchange a look like “Jeez, what a character this person is!”)

Party Host backs away slowly. Toddler follows — hopping, while slamming Hot Wheels car on his forehead, making high-pitched “vroom vroom” noises.

Parents beam.

Of course, I only IMAGINE this scenario, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this particular couple mapped out their kid’s whole identity for him.

Imagine if that actually worked! That would be awesome! I’d tell my kids: “You are Carnivorous Catholic Pulitzer-Prize-Winning Gifted Musician Millionaires with a passion for Elder Care of Immediate Family Members.”

What do you think? Do parents project qualities and identies onto their children? Is there a problem with this?

On her laugh-out-loud humor blog, SoThenStories.com, Darcy Perdu shares her hilarious humiliations and merry misadventures featuring her embarrassing children, exasperating coworkers, and the ever-perplexing public. Her funny true tales have earned Humor Voices of the Year Awards from BlogHer for 2013 and 2014. Join her for a perfect blend of awkward and snark! You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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What Our Daughters Need to Know About Body Image: Inspiration from Lupita Nyong'o

March 4, 2015

As a woman who has recently lost a significant amount of weight, and the mom of a three year old little girl who will someday be a young woman, I give a lot of thought to the idea of body image and beauty.

I want my daughter to grow up confident and loving the skin she’s in. However, our society sends girls and young women mixed messages.

  • Be smart… but not too smart.
  • Be confident… but don’t be bossy.
  • Love your body… but only if it looks a certain way.

It’s a lot to digest as a grown up, but as a young person coming into their own, it can be overwhelming. What our society promotes as beauty often borderlines as pornography and is most likely unrealistically photoshopped. Teaching my daughter to embrace her unique femininity and express her self-confidence will require all of my wisdom and the wisdom I gained from my mother and grandmother.

The recent phenomena of Lupita Nyong’o and her story of coming into her own made me think further about what I want to tell my own daughter about beauty and self-image. In her recent, moving speech at the Essence Black Women in Hollywood luncheon, Nyong’o took the opportunity to share her thoughts on beauty.

“I want to take this opportunity to talk about beauty. Black beauty. Dark beauty. I received a letter from a girl and I’d like to share just a small part of it with you: “Dear Lupita,” it reads, “I think you’re really lucky to be this Black but yet this successful in Hollywood overnight. I was just about to buy Dencia’s Whitenicious cream to lighten my skin when you appeared on the world map and saved me.

My heart bled a little when I read those words. I could never have guessed that my first job out of school would be so powerful in and of itself and that it would propel me to be such an image of hope in the same way that the women of “The Color Purple” were to me.

I remember a time when I too felt unbeautiful. I put on the TV and only saw pale skin. I got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin. And my one prayer to God, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter-skinned. The morning would come and I would be so excited about seeing my new skin that I would refuse to look down at myself until I was in front of a mirror because I wanted to see my fair face first. And every day I experienced the same disappointment of being just as dark as I had been the day before. I tried to negotiate with God: I told him I would stop stealing sugar cubes at night if he gave me what I wanted; I would listen to my mother’s every word and never lose my school sweater again if he just made me a little lighter. But I guess God was unimpressed with my bargaining chips because He never listened.”

You can watch most of the speech here:

After watching and reading this speech, these are things I want my daughter, and all little girls to know about body image and beauty?

You Are Unique: In all of the world there is no one else like you. God placed you on this earth to be uniquely you. You have gifts, talents and abilities that go beyond your physical appearance. You have been designed to contribute your special gifts to this world. Don’t let the opinions of others dictate your behavior. When everyone else wants to do the wrong thing, don’t be afraid to walk in your uniqueness and say NO!

Being Beautiful Does Not Mean You Can’t Be Smart: While beauty is subjective, intelligence is not. While your beauty can change and fade, your intelligence can continue to grow. While I find Lupita to be striking, the thing I find more enchanting is the fact that she is a graduate of Yale University. She is pursuing her dream but she has also developed her mind.

Beauty is Only Skin Deep but Ugly Goes to the Bone: This is a saying my mother used to always say. I have found it is true. No matter how beautiful your outside is, if your insides don’t match, you look ugly. There is value and merit to being kind and humble. There is value in being “nice” in a world that says you need to be a “B—-h” to get ahead. I think the popularity of reality shows which show women being mean and degrading themselves and each other contribute to females thinking they can’t love and support each other and encourage each other to be a beautiful person inside and out.

It is certain that there will always be those in this world who say women have to look a certain way and weigh a certain amount to be beautiful. As my daughter grows, I will teach her to love God, love family and love herself so the world will hopefully value her for her gifts, talents and abilities and also appreciate her beauty.

What advice would you give your younger self about body image and beauty?

Team Fit Mommy is your virtual coach for faith, family, fitness, food and fun. We are a family fitness website that shares information and inspiration for the whole family. Founder and editor, Stephanie is a wife, mother and educator and an overall creative person, who is enjoying life as a stay at home/work at home mom to two preschoolers. Follow Team Fit Mommy on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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The Impact of One Post by One Man: Oren Miller

March 3, 2015

Oren Miller was a writer, a husband, a father – a stay-at-home dad, in fact. He wasn’t a ‘famous’ person or writer, but he wrote one post several months ago which changed tens of thousands of people before he died last Saturday.

The post he wrote was oringially inspired by a moment of angst when he wasn’t feeling like he was enough. He was on vacation with his family in 2010 at Bethany Beach:

“…everyone was having a great time. Our family and some friends were building sand castles, going in and out of the water, and just relaxing in general–everyone except anxious old me. I had hundreds of unread emails and dozens of ideas for blog posts I didn’t have time to write, and I was surrounded by too much sand and not enough coffee…”

When he realized he wasn’t living his life in that one, beautiful moment – but instead, inside of his head – he changed. In 2014, four years later, he was given a fatal diagnosis, stage 4 lung cancer. From then, he inspired thousands to understand what’s really important in this life – their lives – until his own life ended.

Another writer, Lauren Cormier, sat in her car on Sunday and re-read his words. And in reading Oren’s words, she absorbed Oren’s gift to the world. She opened her own eyes to the beautiful life around her, just as Oren so passionately inspired us all to do.

All we ever want is to be seen. All we ever want to know is if we are enough. Oren’s gift to us was a reminder, that even faced with your own imminent mortality, you can still have and be enough. And all you have to do is pay attention – grand attention to the life that is already before you. If you do, you will have awe-inspiring gratitude and appreciation for the love and beauty which surrounds you each day, every day.

Instead, we fixate on the messy parts. We live in our heads checking off our to-do lists and planning for the next day while not even living the one we’re in because, oh no, today is such a mess… again. We convince ourselves by some faulty wiring that if only we work hard enough, plan diligiently enough, tomorrow will be better.

Do not hate the mess. Do not admoninish and hide your failings from today while living only inside your plans for tomorrow. Oren, although not here to say it, would say: Live Right Now. Where you are. In this moment. In YOUR life, With the similarly messed up cast of characters who you call family, friends and neighbors. Lift your head up, and out of your phone, as Lauren did, and love the ones you’re with right now.

Each of us are enough, and each of us have gifts to offer this world, just like Oren did in his final days to me, to Lauren, and to thousands of you. And those gifts have the power to transform not only yourself, but the world.

You don’t have to be famous. In fact, like Oren, you could learn you’re going to die within a year. But you can still live your life today as though, as Oren put it, you’re “the luckiest sonofabitch who ever walked the earth.”

Shannon Lell is the editor of Mamapedia. You can read more on her blog at shannonlell.com or follow her on Facebook and Twitter @shannonlell.

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Teaching My Son the 'F' Word

March 2, 2015

It may surprise the friends who know me just how often the “F” word crosses my mind. I am, after all, a small town Alabama girl. Practically raised in the church. I even went to etiquette school to learn the rules of high tea. Pinky up, ladies! (Thanks, mom).

Well, nobody’s perfect. And that nasty little word rears its head in my mind on a regular basis.

I thought about it yesterday when I saw a five-year-old boy fall in the Target toy aisle. He burst into tears, his lip puffy and bleeding. Daddy grabbed him by the shoulders, gently shook him and barked, “Quit that crying, boy. You gotta toughen up.”

It crossed my mind as a daycare worker, when a co-teacher redirected a two-year-old girl who was giddily playing with a dump truck.

“Trucks are for boys,” she said. And yep, I thought the F word.

If you haven’t guessed it already, I’m talking about…aboutACK!

I’m talking about feminism.

I admit, when saying it out loud I kinda sound like a cat on a hair ball. I can’t help it. For many years, this word has harkened to mind the image of an angry woman with hairy armpits and a bad haircut. But recently, I’ve been realizing just how antiquated that notion is. And really, just how ridiculous. The ‘f’ word is alive and well, and I’m ready to add it to my family’s vocabulary.

Dog-gy. Dad-dy. Ba-Ba. Fem-i-nism?

Okay, maybe the word itself is a bit advanced. But the concept is simple; in fact, it’s the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Add “no exceptions” and you, my friend, have the definition of feminism. Doesn’t sound so bad, does it? So why are fighting such an uphill battle?

Because: Parents.

This battle is fought in our backyards when we comfort crying little girls and tell their male counterparts to toughen up.

It is fought at the preschool, when we take the Tonka truck away from Sarah—only to give it to Jackson.

We fight it on middle school football teams when coaches chastise an emotional boy after a tough loss.

And, as Emma Watson frequently experienced, it happens when assertive little girls are called “bossy”.

All of this comes to fruition in an adult society where women get paid 88 cents per dollar performing the same job as a man. A society in which oftentimes the role of a father has been diminished to that of a breathing paycheck.

So, yes, my son will learn about feminism. And his education is starting now, as he rounds the bend of his first birthday. I will teach him that it’s okay to feel. That there is strength in tears. He will learn to treat women with respect—not because they are weak – but because they are worthy. And he will learn that just because mom is the boss, doesn’t mean she’s bossy.

My child is young, but the ‘f’ word will be alive and well in this home. Because this world should be a fair place for everyone – and it’s not. But as parents, we can make it so.

Mary Katherine and her son Nugget reside at MomBabble.com. There you can find the dreams, recipes, and musings of a Southern mom. Not a perfect mom. Not a crafty mom. Just a normal, messy, slightly opinionated mama who is obsessed with coffee and front porch swings. Y’all should be friends on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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What If We Just Said "NO" to all Events Planned During our Family Time?

March 1, 2015

Last March, Hubby informed me that he was going to be participating in a car racing event during a weekend in May. Ordinarily, I’d have just said, “Okay, have fun!” but something in his eyes made me stop and do a double-take. Something in the way he mentioned it to me signaled that he was being sheepish, nervous, even. When I questioned him further, I found out why he was being evasive: the event was being held on Mother’s Day weekend.

He was going to be away for the one day a year that I can simultaneously do absolutely nothing while reminding the Fruit Loops of all the agony my body went through for them to join our cereal bowl. The day where my toes get painted, my body gets massaged and someone else deals with dinner. And the dishwasher. The ONE DAY I can declare as mine.

Oh, I see.

As you can well imagine, that conversation did NOT go well. Not well at all, I daresay.

Aside from the obvious, “Hubby had nerve even attempting to go” arguments, I was really angry at the organizers. Did none of them have mothers? Did NOT ONE of the event planners say in a meeting, “Hey, dudes, my mom is going to be pissed if I don’t stop by with a hanging flower basket for her?” Were none of them married to women who deserved to be worshipped after nine hundred hours of labor? What were they thinking?!?!

Clearly, they weren’t. And by they, I mean the motherless, childless, dateless men who planned the event on MY day.

Ahem.

Hubby and I moved passed that event and I thought I had gotten over it until I checked my inbox this morning. I got a very polite, very kind email from Fruit Loop #2’s Brownie Troop leader informing me that the girls were going camping for a weekend. In May. On, you guessed it, MOTHER’S DAY WEEKEND.

Seriously?

As I fumed about having yet another family holiday ruined by some moron who can’t read a calendar, I got to thinking that we have a real problem here, people…

*A real, fundamental problem with the way we value family and family life in this day and age._

And I’ve had it.

When did we suddenly decide to let “doing things” get in the way of what’s really important? When did we collectively agree that Sunday mornings are perfect times for cheerleading competitions? When did we all agree that dance recitals can be held for all of Father’s Day weekend? At what point did we all throw family dinner out the window in favor of a minivan tray table on the way to soccer, dance practice and scouts?

I’ll tell you when: it happened when we stopped saying NO to the people planning events. It happened when we all kept showing up for things, with no complaint, comment or suggestion of an alternative. Slowly and insidiously, we’ve allowed ourselves to get dragged into the art of being busy. With one added baseball practice at a time, we’ve all decided to give the finger to spending quality, simple time with our families.

In the name of Erma Bombeck, what in the holy hell is wrong with us, America?

Believe me, I’m guilty of being one of the planners: I’m the PTA president of our elementary school for God’s sakes. I can plan the hell out of the 29 committees we currently operate. Even that sentence makes me guilty: 29 committees. For one school in a sea of schools just like it, all of us, running like hamsters to make things fun for our kids. To make things BUSY.

Enough. I’ve had enough.

As I stared at the camping email today, one word just kept flowing through my brain, it’s sound growing louder, stronger, tribal almost, in my head. I could hear the word coming from deep within my soul, from the far recesses to which it’s sound had been squelched: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

I’m saying NO to camping. I’m saying YES to having a Mother’s Day with my family.

And, I’m going be saying NO a whole lot more in the coming weeks. Months. Years. Because SOMEONE has to start. SOMEONE has to be the one who questions life “just as it is these days”. Someone has to be the one to screech the needle across the record and yell, “Enough!” Someone has to reclaim Mother’s Day in the name of varicose veins, stretch marks and sagging boobs.

I realize that my little voice saying no may just get lost in the sea of voices that keep saying yes, but I don’t care. And, yes, I know that many of the activities our children and families participate in are worthy, valuable experiences, and often, promote family bonding, I really do. But we, as parents, need to have a REAL dialogue about what’s important, what we will really cherish after our children have left our homes. And, as the planners of the events our children participate in, we need to be mindful that some families still want to eat dinner together at a table in their kitchen, still want to sit in church on Sundays, still want to have holidays spent together cherishing the ones we love.

Fruit Loop #2 will not be camping, at least not that particular weekend. In fact, we might just pitch a tent and have a good old fashioned Mother’s Day campout in our backyard. Because NO is the smell of a campfire and the joy of family time. NO is the sound of tickle-giggles and the flash of flashlights. NO is my Fruit Loops tucked in sleeping bags next to me. And I have to tell you, I like the way NO sounds, even if I hate camping.

I am the Keeper of The Fruit Loops, Driver of The People Mover and Manager of the Fecal Roster. In other words, I’m a mom. I am an Erma Bombeck/ Martha Stewart with a Roseanne Barr twist, and I have the mouth and organized cabinets to prove it. I live in Pennsylvania with my ever budget-conscious husband, two blog inspiring Fruit Loops and my extensive collection of thrift shop finds. When I’m not writing, I’m busy running marathons, governing the PTA like nobody’s business and pinning on Pinterest like it’s my job. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

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