I read a lot of mommy blogs and parenting article sites. My Facebook feed is probably 60% parenting articles, 30% memes and 10% people I actually know. It's ridiculous. Those of us in the supposed Xennial/Milennial generation (you know how I feel about generations based on this previous post) were raised on Googling. What did parents do before the internet? Cry all the time? I can't imagine.
But it's a double-edged sword right? There is a wealth of information at your fingertips but a lot of it is biased, factually incorrect or just plain dangerous. You really have to turn on your bullshit detector. And aside from official aggregate websites for this type of parenting information, you also have the almighty Facebook Mom Groups. These are safe spaces where you can post a photo of your child's actual diarrhea and you will get 50 women chiming in to tell you what to do about it. Before I was a mom I balked at this. Now I'm like - AWESOME!
That being said, I have one particular bone to pick. It's those articles based on a parent's ONE experience with getting a child to do something. The ONE time they got them to fall asleep at a specific age, on a specific day. This magic trick worked on their ONE child, and now they are writing an advice article. Me, the reader, desperate to get my child to simply go the fuck to sleep, will read this and think - YES! I have found the solution! I will breathe deeply while holding my child and she will magically match my deep breathing and magically fall asleep.
HOW ABOUT NO? Let me tell you something. My child has never been a good sleeper, but what I do know is just when I'm about to crack from the sheer torture of 2 solid weeks without sleeping through the night, she suddenly sleeps like a goddamn champion. She passes out in 5 minutes and doesn't wake up til 7:00 AM. Guess what I did to facilitate this miraculous sleep turnaround? NADA. Zip. Zero. Zilch.
Kids change - constantly! Once you get used to a certain way of things being, and you think you have it figured out, they change. They couldn't live without the blue cup, and now it's all about the green cup. That talking Elmo was their favorite, now it's scary and it must be hidden in a closet where it is now haunting your own dreams. Things are good for a week or two, and then you better hold on to your butt, because things are going to get cray-cray again. It's like kids have a built-in detector for when you're about to have a nervous breakdown and become all cute and sweet and "Mommy you're my best friend - I'm going to float on a puffy little cloud through my bedtime routine, kiss you on the forehead and sleep for a minimum of 8 hours."
There is no magic trick. There is only the inevitable ebb and flow of good and bad, light and dark, happiness, and near insanity. This is parenting. The less you try magic tricks and just accept that while sometimes things are going to suck, everything will eventually turn around. It's a rollercoaster with no brakes and everything is on fire, but it's totally worth it when once again, you're on that puffy little cloud with your tiny best friend.
Please don't run away! Trust me - you want to hear this.
There is nothing wrong with the word vagina. There is nothing wrong with your actual vagina. It is a word that describes a part of a human body, much like "elbow" or "femur." It's okay to say "vagina." Presumably, not at a work meeting, or in the grocery store, but you know, in private conversations with friends and family or medical professionals. For the purposes of this blog post, however, I mean specifically when talking to your children.
You do not have to say any of following, (unless it makes you super happy, but this is not just about you):
Maybe I saw the "Vagina Monologues" one too many times in college. But if being a mom has taught me anything, it's that kids are REAL. They are so real because they haven't learned how to fit themselves into a tiny box yet. They haven't learned social decorum, shame, guilt, etc. that keeps us wanting to take up as little space as possible with our bodies and our thoughts. When I talk to my daughter, I use the right words.
I learned in an adolescent sexual development class that there is no specific age to start being real about our bodies or sexuality with children - just normalize and be matter of fact from day one. If you are embarrassed, they will be too. I say "vagina" and once my daughter is older and has a larger vocabulary I will help her differentiate from "vulva" and "vagina." I remember hearing it called different things as a kid and I was so confused. I will make sure she knows the correct words so she can tell me if she is in pain or if someone (including other kids) touch her inappropriately (or if she happens to be exploring herself in public places, where apparently such things are frowned upon).
I never want her to associate her body or sexuality with secrets and shame. I want her to feel comfortable setting boundaries. I want her to be proud of herself and have high self esteem. I want her to know what is normal and what is not so I can advocate for her, until she can advocate herself, whether it's in the doctor's office or in her personal relationships. The shroud of secrecy over our bodies and sex is what leads to bad relationships, lack of sexual agency, abuse, sexual assault, etc. It's time to end the madness!
This goes for boys too - they should understand what's appropriate, what consent is, and how to appropriately handle any strong sexual feelings or surprise boners without thinking there is something wrong with them. They should know that a girl's short skirt or spaghetti strap is not an invitation or a "yes."
I'd like to see rape culture, body shaming and slut shaming end in my lifetime... a girl can dream. In the mean time, let's just start with calling our body parts by the right names, 'kay?
Full disclosure - this may get political. But don't unfriend me just yet!
So we are in a tough election season. Our two less than ideal choices are giving me flashbacks to the Kerry/Bush election in which I donned a pin that read "Kerry Sucks Less." We hoped for the best and we got Dubya. Many years later we're now faced with a historic win for either a first woman president with a questionable vagenda or a first rich idiot president (first?). I can't say I have studied their platforms in detail as the mere act of reading the 24 hour news cycle is enough to give me a panic attack. I will say that I can't help but notice that it stirs up some strong feelings in many of my friends and family, especially given our climate of police brutality and protesting footballers.
Often the frustrated exclamation of both liberals and conservatives alike is "if you don't agree with me, then just UNFRIEND ME!" We are either #BlueLivesMatter or #BlackLivesMatter, as if the two were mutually exclusive. As if the solution to all of our problems is to isolate ourselves into distinct tribes in which we only speak with those whom we agree. I can't really blame people for being exhausted and feeling as though talking to their brick wall opposites has simply become unproductive. Everyone is just fed up.
But if all of our social media feeds are simply two opposite viewpoints howling into the void, garnering attention from only like minds, and pushing us further and further into opposing camps... how are we supposed to function as a society? Is our sole purpose in life only to be surrounded by those who think and feel exactly as we do? Or perhaps is it better to be challenged by a fresh perspective, forced to justify your own thoughts and feelings with facts and research, and perhaps consider changing your mind upon learning something new?
If I only surrounded myself with people who agreed with me, I would have no family and I would not be married to my husband. I often questioned my choice to date and then marry a conservative when my heart so clearly bled for the liberal feminist cause. For many years it's been "agree to disagree" on some issues and to find common ground in our shared values - the things that really matter and are non-negotiable. But when it gets to be this tough - a moment in history when we are all on the edge of breaking - agreeing to disagree is no longer good enough. To avoid discussing these big ideas would be detrimental to our relationship in the long term. And as we raise a child together, we seek to model compassion and respectful communication. So why stop there?
We must seek to understand each other, even if we can't agree. Instead of being defensive, we must be curious. Surely there are people on either side of the aisle who are out of their minds and make the rest of us moderate, level-headed folks feel wary and hold grudges against the group at large. The media loves to feed us sensational headlines that make both sides look like idiots and make us further want to defend our position (because we sorta agree with those idiots... but we're not idiots... are we?).
This is not to say that anyone should continue to endure any type of abuse or outright hatred directed at them. I would never begrudge someone to zealously unfriend a bigot, racist, sexist, xenophobe or other hateful person. I also understand how exhausting it can be to explain the same things over and over again to those who refuse to listen, learn, or budge even one bit towards returning your generosity of spirit and openness. By all means - maintain your sanity and wellbeing by disposing of toxic relationships. For those that you do love and trust, and ultimately feel you can both teach and learn from, be sure to give them a chance.
I can go on and tell you why I'm voting for Hilary even though she's not perfect and I can try to convince you that Trump is a terrible, terrible person. But I probably won't. Because like you - I'm scared of how hard it will be to disagree with you - someone I care about. But I won't tell you to unfriend me. Because maybe, just maybe - we should talk about it and come together instead of turning our backs on each other. Because maybe now, more than ever, we need each other.
I'm an active member of my town's mom group on Facebook. I was pleased to see that one of our board of education's elected officials knows that this is a great place to get feedback. If you want to know something, ask the moms, am I right ladies?
She was curious why no one is attending their monthly meetings, which are held roughly at dinner time, and wanted to know how to better engage parents. It doesn't take an expert to tell you that no parent wants to go to a public meeting and watch bureaucrats talk at 7:00 at night. Parents commute, they have to worry about homework, baths, dinner, and hopefully getting to The Walking Dead before passing out at 10:00 PM.
We are hyper connected and over scheduled. We have a million obligations and often both parents work or one parent is holding it together on their own. Kids are involved in a plethora of scheduled activities and the days of running around the neighborhood unsupervised until the street lights come on are a thing of the past.
We also live in a "maybe" culture. Being able to RSVP via Facebook and other online means has made us less accountable. How many times have you respond "maybe" with no intention of actually going to an event?
As an online engagement professional who's worked in both corporate and education settings, I can tell you. It doesn't matter if you're an 18 year old student or a 50 year old doctor - no one wants to come to your meeting. Unless there is free food or they are getting paid -- and sometimes not even then.
It can be frustrating but there are solutions! Here are my tips for when no one wants to come to your meeting:
Nice to meet you!
I am a tech pro, blogger, DIY'er, reader, TV binger, music lover, nerd and semi-crunchy mom. I write about professional development, being crafty, motherhood and politics. Thanks for joining me and letting me share my thoughts with you!