Month: June 2014

Own Your Story

my story

So often in life we base our decisions on what other people will think. We stop ourselves from doing what we really feel called to do in our heart in fear of being laughed at or ridiculed or ostracized. As a young girl, I went along with the crowd, ate what my friends ate, dressed like all the “cool” kids, talked the talk, and was a shy follower, happy to have someone else tell me where to be or what to do.

Now as a grown woman and mother, I see the great error in my ways. I was so busy following everyone else’s voice I somehow lost track of my own. I found bits and pieces of myself through writing poetry and keeping journals, bursting with long sweeping tales of teenage heartbreak and melodrama. I wish I had felt stronger walking in my own shoes, more confident in my own convictions, better able to stand out from the noise of the crowd, but at the time, like many kids today, I just wanted to fit in and fly below the radar, go unnoticed enough to quell my anxieties about being good enough.

Today as I write this, I could name numerous events in my life where I’ve strayed away from the pack, gone against so-called societal norms, shocked people and was questioned over and over again, “Why would you do that?!” My poor husband has often been the victim of my many whims, but he has supported me through thick and thin, trusted my judgement, allowed me to follow my heart. In the end, we are always glad we went against the grain and did things our own way.

Here are a few examples:

I had 3 natural births. No medicine of any kind and it was amazing. Unbelieveably painful, but equally incredible. My OB/GYN tried to talk me out of it at every appointment, threatening me, describing the horror of the pain and how I would regret it. She was wrong. I didn’t. I also found supportive midwives for my subsequent births, which leads me to this next one.

I had two unassisted home births. My husband was the first person my daughter and son laid eyes on when they were born. I can’t think of a better way to come into the world. Having a midwife made people uncomfortable. Giving birth at home made people really uncomfortable. I’d done the hospital birth and had a bad experience. I knew the next time I would do it my way and I did. And I don’t regret a thing.

We practice attachment parenting, which includes cosleeping, extended breastfeeding and babywearing. I was told I should never sleep with the baby in my bed, but I did. Nursing at night is so much easier! When my children reached 18 months old and were still breastfeeding, no one was shy about asking when I’d be done “with all that.” “We’ll be done when we’re done,” was my simple reply.

I got used to the questions, the stares, the mocking tones. It made me even more determined to do things my way, what was best for my husband, my children and myself. I’m not advocating for any of these things. It was what felt right to us and it worked. What works for you and your family might be the complete opposite and that’s great.

Write your own story. You be the editor and the author, don’t let society rewrite what should be in your book. That’s what is so great about being a writer. You have complete control. And you can always delete, edit, rewrite. On your terms.

Airbrush Nation

 

If you liked this post, you will appreciate this one as well.  I encourage you to share this with your children if they are mature enough. 

As a young girl I spent my lazy days flipping through the pages of Teen magazine longing for perfect white teeth and stick straight blonde hair. I wasted many hours wishing, praying and agonizing over the (fake) girls in the magazine.  I wanted to be like them so badly, I was angry I looked like me.  It wasn’t fair.  I had a gap toothed smile, a little pot belly and hair that never seemed to lay right.  I wore glasses and was shy. I wish someone had shown me this video to remind me beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Under all the makeup and lights and digital enhancements, we are the same. 

I don’t want my daughters to go through the same experience, so I will show them this video and ingrain in their minds how perfect and beautiful they are, just the way they are. It’s an uphill battle in today’s society, but if I’m not talking to them about unrealistic beauty standards, who is?

Are You Really Seeing This?

I  was watching the Today show this morning, which I never do because usually I have little ones circling my ankles, but today all three kids are at Grandma’s house.  (Thank you Mom!)  I finally had a few moments to catch up on what the rest of the world is doing.  (And I love Hoda and Kathy Lee.)  There was a girl band performing and as the camera panned the front row and the looming crowd, I noticed a disturbing trend.  Almost everyone was watching the show through their smart phone screen.  Like a rock concert where everyone holds up their lighter in the dark, this time it was broad daylight and every hand held up a phone.  It was a little creepy.  Maybe creepy is not the right word, but depressing, yes.

It made me wonder how many of my own special moments and memories have been captured through the lens of my camera or the small screen of my phone.  How many T-ball games did I really watch or was I more interested in capturing the perfect photo to preserve the memory?  I felt proud seeing my daughter sing at her preschool celebration, but I spent too much time cursing out the camera battery that died halfway through her performance.  I missed out because I was focusing on something less important.  Lately I haven’t been taking pictures; I just don’t feel like lugging the camera around, or my phone is out of memory and I don’t want to deal with that headache.

I’ve felt the twinge of guilt, not getting the perfect shot of my Dad opening his Father’s Day gift, or capturing my toddler’s cheesy smile when he scaled the climbing wall in our backyard all by himself.  But I was there.  Really there.  Not messing with the camera settings or forcing fake smiles out of everyone.  I was present in every way.  I’ve begun taking pictures with my mind.  I tell myself to remember this moment, really remember, and it seems to be working.  I know I won’t remember everything.  The images in my mind will fade and meld together into clumps and pieces of memories and emotions, but my children will remember.  Mommy paid attention to me when I earned my yellow band at the swimming pool.  Mommy was smiling and clapping when I hit that pitch at T-ball.

I don’t want their memories of me to be one of a mom with a phone in her hand trying to get perfect shot after perfect shot.  I want to watch the concert!  That’s why I’m there.  I want to watch it all and take it all in and hold it near my heart, where special memories belong, not in some dusty old photo book or storage on my computer.  Put your phone and camera away for a day and see just how freeing it can be.

Does the Beauty Industry Really Want Us To Be Beautiful?

 

Flipping through the pages of a magazine the other day, my oldest daughter commented on an ad for Paul Mitchell shampoo.  A woman dressed in a ball gown was in the forest, leaning against a fallen tree, not a hair out of place and a full face of makeup.  My daughter commented on her shoes; she was wearing big, ugly brown boots that went up to her knee.  “Why is she wearing those boots with that dress?” she asked.  I grabbed the opportunity to remind her advertisements are made by companies trying to sell you things you often don’t even need.  They use computers to make her look perfect. She’s not really walking around in the forest like that, it’s just a pretend photo. “Where is the shampoo?” she wanted to know.  “I have no idea, my dear.  Maybe a bear ate it.”

Raising children these days is hard enough, but once they are old enough to digest messages about slanted societal norms, it gets even more difficult.  Take this lovely video, made by a beauty company, to remind us how insane the standards of perfection are.  A bit hypocritical, yes, but I like the message.  Keep in mind this was made over six years ago and not a lot has changed since then.  I think it might be worse now than ever before, but if this hits home for you, please share and get people talking.  I know I don’t want my daughters OR son growing up thinking this is how real people should look or behave.  Self worth should NOT be tied to how small your waist is or how perfect your nose is.

Remind your kids at every opportunity to be real and to recognize when they are being faked out.  They are listening.  Just keep talking.

Proud To Be Different

Today I was the only mother at the playground NOT wearing workout clothes. I guess I’m one of the few people who wear workout clothes only to work out.  Yoga pants and tank tops are the playground uniform of choice, whether you have the body for it or not, but I’m a bit of a rebel.  I wore cuffed jeans and a T-shirt. (gasp!)  I really looked out of place.  I felt the stares of the other mommies, jiggling in their Lululemon pants and sports bras.  I laugh at the ridiculousness of it all.

Next time I’ll wear my T-shirt that says “Proud to be different.”  With my jeans, of course.