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It's been another one of those weeks online. You know, the ones where one woman posts an article about why HER choices as a mother are the BEST ONES and everyone else is just so, so selfish and then the internet erupts in yet another round of She Said and then She Said and then SHE Said. (In all seriousness, please do go read that last one.) I swear this shit happens on a cyclical basis, and by my casual observations, it's usually around every three months or so. 

I have a theory about this cycle and why it happens, and after much thought about whether or not I should add to the #shesaid noise of this particular cycle of ridiculous link-baiting, CRAP, I have decided to share it with you all.

My theory is this:

Motherhood comes with a Bonus Gift. Kind of like the ones you get at the cosmetic counter at the department store, but without the cute toiletry bag to carry it in. And what exactly is this lovely bonus gift you ask?

It is SHAME. Or to be fancy we can call it La Honte.

I know. It's not exactly the gift you want and not one that you can give back either, but EVERY MOTHER gets it. I am sure some Fathers get it too, but their gift is usually just the sample size and it gets buried deep down in the bottom of a briefcase somewhere. Moms? Well, we seem to get the full size jumbo bottle. Lucky us!

Some days we just dab on just a little bit of shame, cover up our perceived "flaws" with a good concealer and then get on with our days. Other days, we bathe in it and the shame overwhelms us and it takes all we have in us to not pass out from it's miasma. And then there are times when, even after the bonus gift has run out, we go back for more and keep putting it on and don't even realize how much of it has seeped into our skin and unbeknownst to us, this shame becomes a part of who we think we are.  

The problem with motherhood and this bonus gift of shame is that it is assumed that they go hand in hand. That you can't have one without the other. It's just another one of those things that comes with being a mother. Sleeplessness - check. Some form of bodily fluid on you at any given time - check. Disproportionate sense that somehow you totally suck at this, you are going to fuck it all up and you will indeed completely mess up your kid(s) - CHECK, CHECK, AND CHECK. 

This week, the internet has given us yet another rehashing of the "this is why I work/stay at home", dumb-ass, link-baiting, PLAYED-OUT, SHAME-FUELED, mommy-wars rhetoric.

JUST STOP IT ALREADY! 

No, I really mean it. STOP.

These posts are nothing more than cheap vessels to ship out even more shame to others and they are not needed or appreciated. Remember, we have all received our own free gift to deal with already! We DO NOT need anymore.

My initial response to this ongoing and seemingly on perpetual repeat discourse was one of anger and seething feminist rage. And judging by a thread in one of the feminist groups I belong to on Facebook, this is the knee-jerk reaction of many, many others. It has been two days now since I read that damn "Dear Daughter" post, and I have calmed down and realized two things. One, I am at a point in my life where my compassion for other women far outweighs my scorn for someone else's personal choices in their life. And two, I am SO OVER the scent of Eau de Motherhood Shame. 

As human beings, we seek connection and attachment in all things in our lives. This is a scientific fact and it is hard-wired in our brains. Motherhood is no exception. We seek to find out "tribe", our fellow mothers going through this life-altering process and who can provide that connection for us. And you thought all those play dates were for the babies and that attachment parenting was just about which kind of carrier you had! 

What I think happens a lot of the time in this quest, is that we often mistake sameness as connection. And when we start seeing motherhood as US vs THEM, this makes it very difficult for us to connect with others. We are focused not on what makes us human and what will connect us to others, but on what makes us feel better than others, or perceiving someone else's decisions to do thing differently as a criticism of our choices and not simply as a another path along the same journey. In other words, we try to displace our own shame and regift our bottle to someone else. Let me tell you something, this doesn't work. When we isolate ourselves in sameness, we lose our ability to feel empathy for those that we perceive are not like us. 

We don't have to be this way. We can find connection without sameness, in Motherhood and in all things. Once we rid ourselves of all the expectations that we put on ourselves and that we feel from the world around us, once we can truly see each other as we are, once empathy replaces judgement in our minds, only THEN we can find a way out of that awful cloud of shame stench that we sometimes get trapped in.  And when we strip is all down to the bare bones of what makes us human, it is just like the song says folks, 

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is to love and be loved in return...."

SO STOP TRYING TO REGIFT YOUR BOTTLE OF SHAME ALL OVER THE DAMN INTERNET ALREADY!! 

Namaste my friends, namaste.

n~

Why Lego is not really our "friend" right now.

I have this kid. She is a 6 year old version of me, except saying that is not exactly fair is it? She is her own person, she has her own thoughts, her own likes and dislikes and her own feelings about herself and her place in this world. Genetically we may have MANY, many things in common, but sometimes I have to remind myself that there is a limit to all the "mini-me" comparisons, and I have to let her be the person that SHE is meant to be.  

The thing is that lately, the unfortunate and yes, similar trait that she is exhibiting is one of worry and anxiety about what people are thinking about her. She has become concerned about how she looks, about people laughing at her, and about looking or being thought of as 'stupid'. She has inherited a bit of a perfectionist streak from both her father and myself and while we both try to quell our own tendencies towards "perfection" in ourselves and we never ask of it from our children, it seems that our actions and our behaviours are speaking louder than we thought.

And so, here we are.

With a six-year old who has been asked by another six-year old in her dance class, "Why do you have such a fat belly?". Who told me the other day, after we watched a trio of Russian gymnasts perform an amazing floor routine that, "I can't do that mommy. You have to be skinny to do gymnastics." And who asked me if we could "work out" together this weekend because she thinks that her legs are too jiggly. 

Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.

How is this happening already? What have I done wrong? Why are some kids such little assholes? 

What the hell do I do now? Because we all know this won't go away. The images and messages of beauty and perfection and SKINNY that she will be exposed to will just grow and grow and grow and they will continue to infect her beautiful, creative, wonderful little mind. And I will have to be ever vigilant about the language I use when talking about myself and about others, because damn it, these kids hear and notice EVERYTHING these days! 

My daughter asks me why girls aren't allowed to go to school in some parts of the world. She asks me why I wear make-up. She asks me about my "jiggly" arms and why I have them. She notices all the "sexy" ladies in TV commercials and giant billboards in the mall and ask why they are walking like that and only wearing their underwear. She asks me why I won't let her have any Monster High dolls, even though all her friends have them. She wears her heart on her sleeve this one - another trait she got from me - and I am so afraid of it getting crushed by the constant messages of BEAUTY > Everything Else That Makes Up A Person that we are bombarded with every day. 

So yesterday, when I read about LEGO "beauty-trolling" 5-12 year olds,  I felt defeated. I felt like any strides that we are making as women, any steps towards a better world for our girls (and our boys) is pointless when we have to start FIGHTING THIS KIND OF MESSAGE being purposely aimed at our very young daughters. 

In her article for the New York Times, Sharon Holbrook, can't help but also wonder why her own 7-year old daughter is in need of these "helpful" beauty tips from her "friends":

Children far too young to be told by the oval-faced (of course) Lego “Friend” Emma that little girls with square faces need a haircut to “soften the edges of your face” while the unfortunate long-faced girls — remember, ages 5 to 12 — can get a haircut to “help your face appear slightly shorter.”

Now, we don't subscribe to the Lego Friends publication in this house, but my daughter does have a shelf full of the pink and purple and teal blocks and buildings. My kid wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up and the Lego Friends line has that particular career path tied up very nicely with one of those ridiculously small purple bows. We have every little animal and animal house Lego created for this line and she loves them all. She puts the damn teeny, tiny purple bows on all the little animals and creates stories about them and these stories are elaborate and complex and funny and heartbreaking (especially the one about the lost baby penguin!) and you know what? No one in the story is ever worried about the shape of their face or the right hair cut for said face. 

AND I WANT TO KEEP IT THAT WAY, THANK YOU VERY MUCH!


Seriously, though, LEGO, cut it out! Yes, yes, I know. You've got a market for the Friends line now and we get it. It's a half-way decent 'gateway' toy to get girls into building things, but I think you've gone far enough. You need to STOP perpetuating the notion that girls only want to go to pool parties and shopping and hair salons and jet-skiing with dolphins (although, I do admit, I kind of want to do that last one.) That's what we have Barbie for. And I mean, for god's sake, even Barbie is at least trying to BE more these days. 

LEGO, what happened to you? You used to be all about instilling the gift of BUILDING and PRIDE in our children - at least that is what you did for my brothers and sister and I. This ad from your early 1980's campaign could have been my little brother and sister. And you know what, it CAN be my daughter and my son NOW too, if you'd just stop telling kids how and what they are supposed to build and dividing them according to a colour chart and the shape of their mini-figurines. 

So LEGO, as a gift to you, and since I assume you are not about to give up on the whole Lego Friends line, I'd like to give you a few suggestions for future sets:

1 - Make the damn Supreme Court Justice - Women Supremes Set.

2 - Can we get a female Olympic Hockey Team set please? USA vs. Canada. In appropriately coloured team jerseys. (That means no pink vs purple, OKAY??!)

3. How about a nice Women of History set, with the likes of say; Boudicca, Joan of Arc, Marie Curie, Emily Murphy, Queen Elizabeth I, Rosa Parks, and Anne Frank. With future expansion sets to come!

4. Enough with the Harry Potter and The Hobbit and Star Wars. Let's get some Hunger Games/Katniss Everdeen sets going, and maybe a Divergent/Tris-centered set too. And while you're at it, do you mind making me one with Hit Girl from the movie Kick-Ass please! 

5. Give WyldStyle her own full line. She is a Master Builder after all. And maybe a whole movie too!

6. And my friend Lizz and many others too, would like you to make ALL the mini-figurines the same size and shape for seamless play between the sets. 


As for me and my little mini-me, we'll be over here plugging along on the road of being female in this world. We will NOT be reading beauty tips in LEGO magazines, or any other ones for that matter. We will NOT be purchasing anymore Lego Friends sets unless we start seeing some more substance to them. And we WILL be having all kinds of conversations about what it means to be a strong, intelligent, confident girl, how we can help others feel that way about themselves and what it means to love ourselves first and foremost. 

And I'll be re-reading these powerful lines from this viral Huffington Post article from a few years ago, over and over and over again:

Maybe you and your daughter both have thick thighs or wide ribcages. It’s easy to hate these non-size zero body parts. Don’t. Tell your daughter that with her legs she can run a marathon if she wants to, and her ribcage is nothing but a carrying case for strong lungs. She can scream and she can sing and she can lift up the world, if she wants.

n~

 

 

 

 

the middle child syndrome of parent blogging

I was filling out my nomination form for the Mom 2.0 Summit Iris Awards this week. In the second line under Honour and Achievement Awards, the form asks to nominate your favourite parenting blog of the year...

And I was stumped. 

If I was filling this out five years ago, I would have said Tanis Miller at Attack of the Redneck Mommy, or Annie Urban at Phd in Parenting, or Alice Bradley at Finslippy, or Julie Cole at The Yummy Mummy Club. Because I used to read these blogs religiously. Eating it all up like the sleep-starved mother of two tiny beings that I was. These bloggers fed me my late night, 2 AM feedings worth of words and laughs and advice. Words and stories that sustained me throughout those long nights and well into my days. These women spoke to me, they made me feel OK with what I was doing, assured me that it was all going to be okay in the end. They were ahead of me on the motherhood train and were showing me which tracks to follow. 

And follow those tracks I did, all the way to blogging myself. I started to write my stories, share my advice and my parental nuggets of wisdom along the way. I actually became friends with all of the bloggers I mentioned above and they are all just as funny and amazing in real life as they are on the screen and I continue to look up to them in all things blogging and living. 

And yet, I am still stumped as to who/what my favourite parenting blog is THIS year. 

This year, when my kids are six and eight years old, and we are done with breastfeeding and babywearing and potty training and making organic baby food and worrying about them only playing with handmade, wooden, non-toxic-paint-covered toys. This year, that I have looked forward to for so long, when they are both in the same school for full days and I FINALLY have all this time for myself again and then I mope around because I miss the little buggers. This year, when getting my son to talk to me about anything is like we are in some kind of cold war interrogation room and he is not gonna crack! This year, when my daughter is getting asked about her weight (SHE'S SIX) and is constantly worried about people thinking she is stupid - FYI, some kids are really mean. This year, when questions and conversations about God, divorce, sex, death and whether the police are good or bad, are topics that just pop up, in the car, at the dinner table, on the way to dance class and rock climbing, and you have to roll with it, find that line between telling them enough and not too much for their young, curious minds to grasp and hope you get at least part of it right. 

I feel as if there is a hole in the parent blogging world. Maybe it is because, "OMG! We are all so damn busy!!". Maybe it is because I am not looking in the right places. Maybe it is because we get so distracted by all the other big events and news going on in our world. Who knows? What I do know is that if you thought the baby and toddler years were the busy ones, the ones where you had all the questions, you were wrong. Now is the busy time: make the lunches, get them to school, go to work/gym/grocery shopping/etc..., make dinner, pick up from school, take to activity A, B or C, do homework with them, get ready for bed, read, sleep, rinse and repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat.

Now is the time when not only are the kids asking you questions, you're wondering about a whole lot of new slew of parenting issues too. And there just doesn't seem to be a lot of time for reflection and writing about all the trials and tribulations of the regular 6-10 year old kid phase. That phase doesn't even really have a name. I mean, we have whole websites dedicated to The Baby Year(s), The Toddler Years, and then it all kind of skips ahead to the Tweens and then the Teens. What the heck do we call this time anyway? School-age? Childhood years? Somehow it just doesn't have the same ring to it and this time in our kid's (and our) lives also doesn't seem to get the same kind of press.

I need the post telling me that the weird forced laugh and the 10 decibels louder in public that my 8-year old son now speaks at is completely normal. I need the post reassuring me that quitting an activity that all three of us dread on a weekly basis is not going to be the downfall of my kids personal development and deprive them of some essential life skill. I need the post letting me know that my own inner worries about my 6-year old daughter's weight are normal and tips on how to deal with both my body issues, while also helping her develop a healthy sense of her own body and self-worth. I need the post letting me know that I am not the only one who HATES making lunches, and if I see another Pinterest board full of ever changing, rainbow-filled bento-box bounty, I am going to fucking SCREEEEEAAAAM!  

I also need the post talking about school reforms and new research into standardized testing and the pros and cons of alternative programs and community-based educational initiatives. And the one about the best way to initiate an allowance schedule for kids at this age. I need that post that somehow finds the happy medium between the care-free "come home when it gets dark" era that we grew up in, with the helicoptering "I must plan all of your time and activities and play dates for you and be there to supervise it all" exhausting (and anxiety producing) thing we are doing now. And that one talking about why the word FART is somehow the most hilarious one in the English language and is the topic of conversation at least 48.7 times a day! 

I get it though. I mean, I am not writing these posts either. My kids can both read and use Google now and that combo is a scary one for someone like me who opens up her life and her family's life to the internet. And there is the whole digital footprint thing to consider as well. If I write about them or post their pictures online, am I telling stories that aren't mine to share? Where is the line that says, this story is OK to share and this one is not. And why did all of this not seem like such a big deal when they were babies and toddlers? 

All of these words to tell you that I really don't have a favourite parenting blog this year. I don't have a go-to resource or someone who is telling the stories that I can relate to right now. Which is also a bit depressing, because if I am feeling this way, there must be others feeling it too? And then I wonder who is relating to me and my journey as a parent and as a blogger? Am I speaking to you? Are you getting what you need from this blog?

Please, I want to know.

And if nothing else, I guess if I can't find the kid-zone (that's what I am calling it) parenting posts I am looking for elsewhere, I suppose I have just given myself a nice little editorial calendar of topics to write about for the next few months.

n~

P.S. In an odd kind of ironic twist of fate, I just found out late last night that I have been nominated and short-listed for a local Social Media award in the category of Best in Family and Parenting.