Tag Archives: children

Her Birthday is My Birth Day

Queen for a day, princess for a lifetime

Today is L’s birthday and the anniversary of the happiest day of my life. Realizing that we are now 6 years away from that glorious day makes me wistful and a bit sad. Buffering the dread of the continued demise of her innocence (2nd Miley Cyrus song purchased today) is the joy and pride of her birth.

I worked HARD to bring her into the world in as close to my terms as I could. No pain medication, a midwife instead of a doctor but still at a hospital, my mom there even though she struggled to watch me go through it (I think she asked for my epidural). My best friend video taped it. J was next to me, keeping me positive. After many, many hours and a few quick naps, my beautiful baby came into the world. My efforts drew Rock Star status in the O.B. wing. I glowed with love and pride.

True to kid form, L is celebrating her birthday as loudly as she can. A crown, a pretty dress, the class singing Happy Birthday. It is her day.

In my heart, in my mind, quietly, I celebrate her birthday as my day, too.

An Affair to Avoid

I work out at a gym and see lots of very fit people.   One woman, I don’t know her name, is a sight to behold.  She obviously works out every day and eats nothing with fat.  Always dressed in skimpy, stomach-bearing work out clothing, she seems to shine while she exercises.  Hell, I would shine, too, if I knew that every person who walked by looked at me and said “Wow” under their breath.

J and I recently rehired our trainer, Steve, and on our first day of forced strenuous exercise, we walked by this woman.   Once we all whispered “Wow” to ourselves, Steve said, “That woman worked out with a trainer for 9 months.  She was 190 lbs. after her second child and now look at her.  She is in here twice a day.”

My first thought was, “Who is taking care of her children while she works out?”  (I know she has kids, I’ve seen them.)  Then I had another opinion: all that focus on her body is going to be exaggerated in her children.  Kids don’t understand moderation.  They simply mimic and mostly they mimic their parents.  Any child who sees her mother fret over calories will begin to fret over calories without the understand of what that means.  I expressed something like this to Steve but he thought I was nuts.  “But she’s so healthy!”  He doesn’t have children, so he doesn’t get how children think.  I simply shook my head.

At home, J made a comment about how flirty the woman acted.  “Maybe she comes to the gym so much because she’s having an affair,” J threw out there.  I didn’t think it was fair to assume that flirt equals affair.  And an affair is a heavy accusation to make.

In our next meeting with Steve, I brought up this woman again to make my point about her parenting skills (because I just can’t let go) and Steve interrupts me. “Oh!  Didn’t I tell you?  Her husband called the next day and canceled her membership when he found out she was having an affair.  She’s done at the end of the month.”  That put our conversation to rest.  But I didn’t stop thinking about her.

As J and I walked out of the gym, I became very, very sad for the children.  For the first time, the impact of an affair on the kids hit me in visceral way.  A child’s world is made up of the adults who care for him/her.  In this case, Mommy and Daddy.  To process the affair (“Mommy loves some other man?”), their world view will have to be destroyed.  And the destruction of that world made me sad for those kids.  And if they don’t know about the affair, they will have to make up reasons why Daddy is so mad at Mommy that even if she apologizes, it won’t “make it better.”  That is a scary world to live in.

I explained this to J and his response was enlightening. “Well, insecurity is costly.  Obviously, this woman was insecure about herself, and when working on her body wasn’t enough, she had an affair to feel better about herself.”  Whether or not this is true, we don’t know.  But I thought about my own insecurities and how they effect our family.  When I am feeling insecure, I get angry and lash out.  That makes me unpredictable, another fear children have.  They need security, and for them that comes in the form of predictability.  That hit me hard.  I thought about L’s sweet little face and how much she needs me to be Mommy so she can develop her own confidence.  I can’t be perfect, but I can be honest when I am feeling lousy about myself and not take it out on my family, something I tell Lillian not to do.

The experience of seeing myself in another person with different circumstances isn’t new to me.  But I was surprised how much the cost of her (assumed) insecurity hit home and how it changed me.  I guess I have her to thank for helping me be a better mom.  I hope that she has a similar insight about herself someday.  And for the sake of her kids, soon.

Sing Praise, but Softly

Note: This post might seem like just another parenting question, and in some ways I guess it is.  That said, input is not exclusive to parents.  If you are someone without children, I invite you to read and comment.  While you might not be a parent right now, you are a child to somebody, and so you have experience being parented.  That alone is qualification enough to have a worthwhile opinion about what I should do.

I’ve been thinking a lot about praise.  You see, my child (I call her L) is really pretty.  She is also our only child, and while I would like to think that my adoration of her is because she is All That, apparently I am devoted because she is my only focus.  (So happy to know I truly, truly am only as good as Pavlov’s dog.)  Given that she is exceptionally beautiful and our only child, my compliments are basically free-flowing, without restraint.

cakeI have heard a bit about a more constrained approach to praise, a movement started because, apparently, kids nowadays were so overpraised that they have unrealistic expectations about themselves and the world.  They expect, for example, just by showing up they need to be acknowledged.  What is considered baseline participation is elevated to effort.  Worse yet, they resent their parents for setting them up so poorly (alas, parents never get a break do they?).  I read this, which is an article about why overpraising is bad and how to praise in a way that works.  Most important is to hold back, don’t do it all of the time. for everything.

I want to say I think the article is a bunch of silly psycho babble but some of it made sense.  Given how hard we work to get L to persevere through frustration and to make positive choices rather than throw a tantrum, I can see how this doctor would say praising the effort over the result works.  I don’t have an issue with that.

I feel resistance, though, when I consider holding my tongue to compliments of her looks.  It might seem silly or petty, but when I look at my child, in certain moments, I am overcome with love.  I might say, “I love you,” and I might say, “You are so lovely.”  Sometimes I greet her with, “Hi, pretty.”  I will even hold her like a baby in my lap and softly say, “Look at that sweet face,” before giving her nose a little kiss.  We are an affectionate family and we don’t hold back on affection, ever.

Now I am having second thoughts about that.  I mean, who would have thought that doing the above meant I was practicing bad parenting?  I talk to my child like my mom and dad talked to me.  Yes, I can relate to the doctor’s report that children discount their parent’s compliments:

“I can’t tell you how many children and teenagers have noted to me that they are skeptical of their parents’ praise because, ‘It’s just my Mom saying I’m pretty. She has to say that because she’s my mother.'” – Ruth A. Peters, Don’t Turn Your Child Into A Praise Junkie.

This is how I felt when my mom complimented me, too.  Do I know that it is because she praised me too much or is it simply something kids go through with their parents?  I had an interesting situation with my mom that L won’t have with me: my mom was a model (locally, doing runway work and some photography) when I was young and into my teens.  Before puberty we had the same body but then I got boobs and hips.  I looked at my mom and thought that if she was a model then how she looked was the standard.  Once I deviated from the standard, I was no longer pretty.  I kept this secret, even from myself, until I was mature enough to deal with my insecurity.  This had nothing to do with my mother saying I was beautiful when I was little.  This was something she could never have controlled.

So, the question is: can I compliment L too much?  My husband and I talk about the context of being pretty, like we tell L that being pretty is not a way to introduce herself.  I also use Cinderella as an example of how being pretty on the outside isn’t enough – being a good person is what wins over the animals who eventually come to her aid.  However, I worry that she will focus on the beauty, or what if we don’t keep the compliments up for some reason and she thinks, “Am I no longer pretty?”  She wouldn’t ask us – it would be a conclusion she would draw on her own, like I did with my mother.  At the same time, I can’t see cutting back and not expressing myself.  I don’t want to remove one of the great pleasures of parenting – reveling in the beauty (in and out) of my child.

So tell me from your experience, whatever that experience is, can I compliment my child too much?  Or is expressing myself fully the right to path to take?