Posts Tagged: kids

2013: An Unremarkable Year in Review

For me, 2013 has been an incredibly unremarkable year.  This was not a year for getting married, bringing a life into the world, earning graduate degrees, or starting a new career.  I didn’t run a marathon, scale mountains, publish research, patent an invention, write a novel, learn to meditate, travel to distant lands, or even venture out of the country on vacation.  In fact, my biggest accomplishments were lived vicariously, such as cheering my husband on as he earned a promotion and rejoicing in every milestone or wondrous (in our eyes) thing our 3-year-old did.  A year ago (ok, even as recent as last week), I would have bemoaned my lack of accomplishment, especially since I’m nearing my 4th decade of life (you know, midlife-buy-myself-a-Maserati-crisis).

Like most moms, my year has consisted of putting hundreds of meals on the table; doing too many loads of laundry to count; sweeping and mopping the floors; tending to runny noses and scraped knees; wiping bottoms; staying up at night with a feverish child; managing tantrums (our child’s, my husband’s and my own); drying tears; singing the alphabet a bagillion times; coloring; wiping finger paint off of little hands (and the floor, and the table, and the cabinets, and clothing…); driving to swim class, ballet class, and preschool; reading the same books and singing the same songs over and over and over again until my adult thoughts are crowded out by lyrics to “The Wheels on the Bus…”; arranging play dates; trips to the park; nature walks; planting and (almost) killing an herb garden; multiple trips to the pediatrician; helping with homework; drinking over 600 cups of coffee; grocery shopping; clothing shopping; recitals; school activities; scraping food off of the floor; bath and bedtime routines; naps, naps, and more naps; managing finances; pumping gas; cleaning up toys; stepping on Legos; teaching- lots of teaching!- of morals, manners, anger management, self-soothing, academics, and life-skills; and numerous other activities that would be too tedious to list.

There is nothing considerably special about any one of these activities.  These are the everyday expectations of mothers, be it stay-at-home, work-at-home, or work-outside-of the home.  Not only are these activities not lauded, they are often taken for granted and underappreciated.  And yet, their completion is most remarkable for many reasons.  The accomplishment (and continued completion) of these activities is not motivated by accolades or a paycheck.  They are exhausting to perform and societal expectations are great with regards to how, when, and how often these tasks must be done. Mothers are scrutinized by experts, spouses, in-laws, grandparents, teachers, doctors, politicians, religious authority, the media, bloggers, society, and other mothers.  Mothers aren’t just expected to keep their offspring alive and provide for basic needs; indeed, we are expected to raise productive, kind, moral, responsible, mentally healthy, educated, happy individuals, often without the help of a village.  More difficult still, many are expected to do these things well while dealing with additional pressures caused by factors such as a strained marriage, divorce, work, chronic illness, lack of resources (financial, emotional, etc.), inadequate childcare, and so forth.  AND, while we are managing these feats, we are (ridiculously) asked to have a flat, firm stomach, look pretty, keep a smile on our face at all times, and do things like run marathons, travel the world, patent inventions…

In fact, when examined in this new light, my year was quite remarkable. This doesn’t mean that I’ve given up on my own dreams and goals; rather, my goals and dreams have merely shifted for the moment.  What I have done, what I have accomplished this year- these things are enough.  I won’t feel guilty for what I haven’t done.  I will celebrate what I have managed to do despite all the roadblocks that I, like all mothers, have faced.  I ask that you, wonderful mother who is reading this, celebrate in all the things that you have accomplished this past year too.  Let’s celebrate each other.  Society may still underappreciate what we do, but we can cheer one another on, offering encouragement, support, a sympathetic ear- and an occasional Cheesecake Factory binge.

There is still time for all the other fabulous goals we have yet to achieve in the years to come.  Hang onto those non-Mommy related goals, as those are important too.  But if you haven’t checked them off of your to-do list yet, know that you have still contributed your share to the world.  In fact, you have had a most remarkable year indeed.

Wishing you a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2014!!!

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Dear mother who sent an FYI to high school girls chastising them about their seductive selfies…

I read your blog and know that you had good intentions when you wrote that post.  I have no doubt that you are raising your sons well and that you just want to help teenage girls become more cognizant of their actions in hopes that they will act in a manner that garners respect from hormone crazed boys. I can appreciate that. There are plenty of blogs, Youtube videos, and sermons that share a similar message.  But why do so many of us feel the need to express our opinions about how other parents’ girls dress and/or blame girls for the actions of our sons?  Maybe because we are scared that teen pregnancy and/or STD’s will come knocking at our kid’s door and we hope that shaming girls into wearing more clothes or not acting like Miley Cyrus will somehow keep our sons and daughters chaste throughout high school and beyond.  Guess what. It won’t.  I worked for several years at a group home for pregnant and parenting teens.  If just getting them to put on more clothes and not post suggestive selfies was all it took, I would have taken away their cell phones, gotten them nuns’ habits, and called it a day.  The issue is multifactorial, with some factors, like age at onset of puberty, being out of our control. In the 1950’s, girls reached puberty later and got married earlier, with the median age for first marriage being around 20.  There were fewer hormonally drenched years that a teen had to endure before they were free to have sex sanctioned within the confines of marriage.  And while most people aren’t suggesting our kiddos will remain virgins until marriage, I know that many of us are trying to find ways to keep our babies from making impulsive decisions that will cause them grow up way too fast.  So let’s examine some of the factors that actually seem to influence their sexual behavior, and how my parents leveraged these factors to keep their eldest daughter convent ready, despite her penchant for halter tops, midriff baring shirts, and clubbing.

What factors are actually involved in influencing (and possibly delaying) your teen’s sexual activity?  I’ll be referencing a report issued by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.  Don’t worry, this post is far from an academic endeavor but I do want to present some suggestions based upon research.   http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/ea2007/protective_factors_SUM.pdf

[I’ll be using some poetic license here in my interpretation of the report, so you may want to check out the report for yourself. The factors listed in boldface are from the report.  The related examples from my own life are meant to be humorous.    The following commentary is for entertainment purposes only.]

1.  Later sexual maturity  Sorry folks, not much you can do to delay early onset puberty except for starvation, which for the record, is not recommended.  But if you luck out like my parents did, your daughter will grow up to be a flat chested, late bloomer with Frida Kahlo-esque hair growth patterns.

2.  Greater Parental Involvement and Monitoring  My parents were pros. Listening in on my calls from another phone extension?  Check.  Reading my diary?  Check?  Knocking on my bedroom door every 10 minutes to see what I was doing?  Check.  Driving by my friend’s house to see if I was really there?  Check.  Wire-tapping the phone?  Check.   Because waking up to the sound of a phone recording (echoing from your parents’ room down the hallway) of you telling dirty jokes with two of your guy friends is a highly effective strategy to stop raunchy conversations dead in their tracks.  Mind you, this was pre cell phones and GPS.  I’m pretty sure my parents would have employed some bad ass spying techniques given today’s new technology.

3.  Parental disapproval of premarital sex  “If you have sex, people will think you’re a whore,” warned my mother. Yup, loud and clear.

4.  Keep your kids busy If I wasn’t at school, I was at an extracurricular activity, working or watching General Hospital.  Given my 8 pm school night curfew and job at my dad’s restaurant on the weekends (evenings no less!), there wasn’t time to get into trouble.  High academic achievement and, for girls, participation in sports, seem to be especially helpful in reducing risky sexual behavior.  If your kid isn’t into school and/or sports, you may want to find them a nice religious order to join.

5.  Having a religious affiliation There’s nothing like threats of hell and eternal damnation to get you to think twice before taking off your clothes. My mom went that extra step, filling the house with statues and icons of the Virgin Mary, Jesus, and various saints, some with eyes that bore into your soul.  “God sees everything that you do!” she’d remind us as she prayed on her rosary beads, “Everything!”  Cue creepy church music.

6.  Sex Education  Well, it’s a good thing I had Sex Ed in school because my parents sorta missed the boat on this one.  Me (age 9): What are those cats doing over there?  Mom:  They’re playing leap frog.  Now get me the hose.

That sounds vaguely familiar, like I inadvertently stole that line from Tina Fey.

But in all seriousness, here are some other points to consider.  Dads, set a good example for your sons and daughters.  Be involved in your children’s lives, show respect for all women (fully or scantily dressed), and treat the mother of your children well, whether you are married or co-parenting.  Moms and dads, talk openly with your children, in an age-appropriate manner, about your views on sex, contraception, and appropriate dress and behavior.  If you start from a young age, you won’t be playing catch-up when Trevor, the buff H.S. quarterback, shows up at your door to pick up your 14-year-old daughter.  Be a good role model for your children. Lose the double standard.  Your kids will smell the hypocrisy if your son’s sexually promiscuous behavior is met with a wink and a nod while your daughter’s exploration of her sexuality is condemned.

I also want to put this out there since so many of us feel justified in criticizing young women for what they wear.  We need to teach all boys and men that lewd and disrespectful behavior towards a woman is never acceptable or justified, no matter what she wears, hormones be damned.  While I would never want my daughter wearing some of the skimpy outfits I see sold to teen girls nowadays and would encourage her to dress in such a way that both flatters her body and shows respect for herself, it doesn’t mean I’m going to condemn girls that choose otherwise. The teen years and early 20’s are a time of exploration and experimentation.  It’s up to parents to guide their sons and daughters to choose wisely, not with shame and guilt, but by educating them with the facts they need to make good decisions.  And even then, our kids will still make mistakes, because we all do and that’s how we learn.  To quote Maya Angelou, “When you know better, you do better.”

Now put some shirts on your boys. They look cold.

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