Look what came in the mail today and is going to be happening to Risa this week. Hello, 70s flashbacks, and here's hoping for a "normal" conversation that doesn't bring horror ("the blood comes from inside you"), hysteria ("sometimes boys get an erection for no reason at all"), or a downright refusal to grow up ("by the time you are 13 or 14, your hormones are working overtime on your sebaceous glands"). But, uh, you get to pick a super pretty bra and not experience an erection in front of your whole classroom?
I Love Mondays Tip of the Week
Remember how I mentioned that Risa was having her friend T sleepover and was kind of amped about it (to put it mildly)? Well, I"m happy to report that the unthinkable happened - the sleepover went exactly as well as Risa hoped. No tears, no fights, no "I want to go home." Bizarro, right? I will say that the girls got MAYBE five hours sleep total and ended up watching TV at 4:45 AM but mama slept right through it so fine with this girl. Here was a moment of fun that I'm sharing as my tip of the week b/c all you need is one box of tin foil. I call is Fashionista Foil, and the only rule is "Make a rock star outfit using only tin foil and call me when you're done; I'll be reading my book in bed." (Sorry the photo is blurry: they were moving a lot and I was giggling; but you get the idea).
Happy Memorial Day, all! Let your inner rockstar shine!
Risa is having her friend "T" sleep over on Saturday. The requests (begging) for a sleepover started last year, and I kept postponing them with "next spring you can do it." This was arbitrary, mind you, but the idea planted in her head, and now spring is here, and the idea of a sleepover bloomed in full. T comes tomorrow afternoon and spends the night. I don't know how to describe the joy in Risa's brain. "Exploding fireworks" comes to mind.
"Can you and I come up with all the things that T and I can do Saturday night?" Risa asked me yesterday.
"Sure, you guys can have dinner, paint your toe nails crazy colors, and play XBox soccer," I offered.
"No, like can we come up with a plan of exactly what she and I can do from the moment she arrives until she leaves on Sunday? Like, EVERYTHING we can do. Like a real list."
Ummm, what? That's a bit excessive, I thought. It might even scare T off. It's scaring me off.
But then I remembered...
The excitement of your first sleepover, when you suddenly have hours and hours to play and talk and just hang out without looking at your watch and worrying about when adults will cut off the fun. Tack on the pride of knowing you're a little more grown-up now, ready for sleepovers and not just playdates. Suddenly you'll have social bragging rights about your sleepover at school on Monday. Plus, there's the fun of having someone else - a friend, no less - sleeping in the same room as you for the whole night, with silly secrets to be spilled. (And for an only child, there is the added thrill of having another kid in the house for that long - balancing out the adult-to-kid ratio for a full 24 hours.) Sleepovers - which I also remember sometimes come with tears and hurt feelings and exhaustion and adults gone wild with frustration- are all about the endless possibilities. For once, you've got time on your side.
It will be my job to tell the girls at least three times that "It's time for bed" and then add "I'm not kidding!" and then use my sternest voice while I threaten to separate them if they don't pipe down. (That's what I do, right, other than make french toast in the morning?) But yesterday, I allowed myself for my girl's benefit to get swept away in the enthusiasm and helped Risa make her crazy list. "Okay, T, will come at 5 PM. At 5:02 PM, she'll take her things upstairs and you can get the beds ready like you like them for later that night, At 5:09..." We've even got Mad Libs so now it's a sleepover. I just better not hear the words "Truth or Dare" coming out of anyone's mouth - or I swear I will separate those girls.
YES, this has happened to me several times already this week! I wish there was a polite hand signal we could use that means, "I appreciate you want to tell me about this new app you adore but I'd like you to stop and understand that I neither care nor have enough brain capacity to take in any of what you're saying." Apparently my look of utter confusion and dismay is simply not subtle enough.
I LOVE MONDAYS Tip of the Week
This morning, I walked into my office to check whether RCN is coming today or tomorrow to look at our phones. I can’t remember why. On the (very short) journey from the kitchen to my office, I wondered, Did I remember to sign Risa’s permission slip? Yes, last night. Phew. I took a few more steps and froze. Yikes, I forgot to sign up to volunteer for the spring fair this week. I strode into my office with purpose, sat down and looked at the options for the fair sign-up. Dunk tank? No. Wacky Castle Bouncer? God, no. Flip a Frog Game? Yeah, okay. I typed in my name for the 7 PM slot with a desperate hope that the game doesn’t call for real frogs. (It can't, right?) Thirty minutes later, I remembered that I hadn’t checked about RCN. The buzzer rang (it was RCN.) I remembered that I need to get back to my producer about something important...what was it?
This is a fairly typical Monday morning for me. There are ideas zinging around my brain like popcorn exploding wildly at the end of the microwave cycle. It's hard for me to sit still and focus on any one idea--which is why I get so irritated when I hear that women are natural multitaskers. I used to wonder if something was wrong with me. Was I missing some XX gene?
Then, while doing research for my book, I came across the following quote from Senior Editor Christine Rosen of The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology and Society in an article called “The Myth of Multitasking”: “Multitasking is now shorthand for the human attempt to do simultaneously as many things as possible, as quickly as possible, preferably marshalling the power of as many technologies as possible.”
That’s not healthy, I thought immediately; that’s crazy-making. What could be less natural? And what I’m learning from talking to moms around the country is that most women don’t feel competent when it comes to multitasking. Sure we do it all the time, but we don’t feel successful at it. (Okay, some women somewhere do; some men too.)
The way to complete any task--getting successfully from point A to point B—relies on focus. Throw in ringing cell phones, bleeping email alerts, a mountain of to-do’s, and kids asking us to sign their permissions slips which, by the way, got wet when the water bottle spilled and…well, who CAN get to point B? We should throw a parade for ourselves any time we accomplish any task!
So here’s what I say: we need to come up with systems and lists that work for staying organized to the best of our abilities, find ways to clear our busy brain throughout the day, and do the best we can. Let’s also realize that there is no truth to women being natural multitaskers and dispute it aloud when we hear it.
I was recently at a workshop for girls on body image sponsored by Dove at the Mom 2.0 Summit. It was part of Dove's "Unstoppable Girls" campaign, which is an effort to deal with the fact that 6 out 10 girls stop doing something they love (swimming, dancing, etc.) because they feel self-conscious about their body. In this workshop, led by Jess Weiner, the global ambassador for Dove, 20 or so tween girls talked about what messages they receive around body beauty from the women in their lives--moms, aunts, older sisters, etc. They were asked to write down what these family members say and then share with the rest of us. Almost all of them focused on their moms, not surprisingly, reporting:
"My mom always complains that she's fat. I ask her if she wants me to jog with her but she doesn't ever want to do it."
"My mom says she hates her hips."
"My mom complains that she can't fit into her clothes."
And maybe the most heartbreaking of all: "My mom says she misses her old body." The young girl who said this got quiet as she explained, "Basically, I'm the reason she doesn't like her body." (It was all I could do to not burst into tears.)
When the girls were asked how they respond to these statements from mom, they admitted over and over "it makes me sad" and that they try to come up with solutions:
"I tell my mom she is beautiful all the time."
"I try to give her ways she can get healthier."
"I give her suggestions about exercises she can do."
These girls should not be trying to fix their mothers' sadness and body shame. That's the job of mom. The girls in that room saw their mothers as beautiful--inside and out--and hated that their mothers couldn't see or feel that. How can we expect a girl to feel good about her own body if her biggest influence is going around talking about fat thighs, big hips, skinny calves, and so on?
I tell you this so you can do a check-in of what messages you're sending to your own daughter(s). I don't just mean the overt ones either ("I hate my hips," "These jeans make me look so big," "Take care of your body so you don't end up with one like mine") but the non-verbal ones. What expression do you wear when you catch your reflection in the mirror? When you receive a compliment about how you look, do you say "thank you" or deny it by saying, "Oh, I look awful" or "That's sweet of you to say, but I need to lose 10 pounds."
You better believe your girl is picking up every obvious and subtle message you send, and that her ideas about her appearance are being shaped right now by you. So for your sake--and for your daughter's sake--please start to focus on what's beautiful about yourself and let her know that you see it. I am trying to do the same. I told my daughter this week that I love my strong legs, and she smiled and told me she loves her strong arms. I know she worries other body parts; I intend to keep this up.
When you share with your daughter that you love your curvy belly, thick eyebrows, or hips that helped bring her into this world, she may smile or she may roll her eyes. Either way, I promise you she's going to soak it in and love hearing you say it.
I have no driving need for Risa to get straight As, win sports tournaments or land a starring dramatic role. I don’t dream of my only becoming valedictorian or getting admitted to Harvard. However, if I am being totally honest, I’d love her to join an acapella group someday. I know it’s dorky, but I’ve always had a little thing for quality acapella (oxymoron, you’re thinking, I can hear you). I would have joined a group myself if I had the gift. Alas, I can just about manage to stay in tune if I focus. Risa, on the other hand, won the golden pipes handed down from my jazz-singer grandmother. So my girl could live out my lame-o fantasy if she put her mind to it. Does she want to? I don’t know but I’m planting the seed by listening with her to WERS’s All Acapella program on Sundays. I even took her to an acapella concert (which, at age 8, she kindly deemed "not my favorite"). Doh!
Anyway, my point is that I am as susceptible as anyone to wanting my child to live out my pipe(s) dream, so I paid careful attention to a Psychology Today blog post called “Curbing Too-High Hopes for Children’s Success” by social psychologist/author Susan Newman, Ph.D., and I’m reprinting a few of her key points here.
First of all, Newman suggests there’s an easy way to know whether you’re pressuring your child too much:
Over-emphasis on excellence is relatively easy to spot in the school-age child. You can tell you are too demanding when your child turns to your spouse on a regular basis for entertainment, consolation or affection. A young child will walk away from the parent who insists that a dive be executed precisely or book be read without errors. She will march to the parent who accepts her skills at her level. A drop in the quality of schoolwork, extreme sensitivity to mild or constructive criticism and a lowering of his own standards are also indicative of an over-stressed child who is trying to live up to a parent’s desires. If he feels—or says—he’s lazy or dumb, if he appears to have stopped trying, you may be driving him too hard, or expecting too much.
Here's what to do if you are:
If you can see you’re guilty of putting on the pressure, pull back. Join forces with your spouse or significant other to start fresh and ease up. Block out time so that the three of you can be together doing something enjoyable or sharing a task. You might start a garden, clean a closet, paint a room or piece of furniture to remove the focus from whether or not your child is doing well. Parents impose unrealistic expectations on their children for various reasons. Parents face their own childhoods while watching their children grow, and in doing so some want their children to have the successes that once eluded them.
Read the rest of Newman's post.
For me, what's tricky is that singing is actually one of Risa’s strengths, and if she wanted to put in the girl-hours, she could use her ability for acapella good (sigh). On the other hand, it’s quite possible other kids would throw icy slushies in her face a la Glee if she even made it into an acapella group. Even I know that. So I guess for now, I’ll just enjoy her sweet tunes when they come and also allow myself to belt out Pink’s “Raise Your Glass” in the car – enthusiastically and with the windows rolled up.
Mother's Day countdown: 3 days to go. My wish: your wishlist.
Here's the plan: You email me with your Mother's Day wishlist (include anything from "glass of Merlot" to "one day where my siblings don't try to poke each other's eyes out"), and I'll pick my two favorite responses this Sunday. Winners will receive one signed copy of I Love Mondays: And other confessions from devoted working moms (Seal Press, 2012)--made out to whomever you wish--plus my advice (via email or a phone call, your choice) on any issue you're struggling with in the tug of war between working and motherhood. Or you can give the book and opportunity for advice to a working mom in your life who's having a hard time.
Easy breezy, right? Happy Mother's Day!
ABOUT THE BOOK:
In I Love Mondays: And Other Confessions from Devoted Working Moms (Seal Press, November 2012), Michelle Cove—bestselling author, journalist, director, and producer of the award-winning documentary Seeking Happily Ever After--shares the most common confessions she hears from working moms. From “I’m tired of apologizing when I try so hard to please everyone” to “I stress about falling behind at work when my kid needs extra attention,” Cove explores the difficulties faced by working moms—and provides real-life anecdotes, helpful new perspectives, and mom-tested strategies for dealing with each and every problem. The book has been featured in numerous media outlets including Katie Couric's talk show Katie, Parenting.com, Working Mother magazine, Psychology Today and The New York Times.
I remember my own tweeny desperation to get into my mother's makeup kit and have at her red lipsticks, creamy rouge, and black liquid liners. I would beg my mother to let me wear makeup, something more than the small tube of Bonne Bell lipsmackers with their sugary smell and invisible appearance. I wanted color! Glamour! Sophistication!
At some point in my early teens, my mom told me that I was ready for makeup, and she sat me down for a proper lesson in how to apply cosmetics to maximize my features. She put a touch of mascara on my outer lashes to make my eyes "pop" and a little Vaseline on my lips to make them look soft and pretty. When I turned to look at the mirror, my heart sank. I looked the same, which was not the look I was going for.
Did it teach me to be subtle with makeup? NOPE. It taught me to go over to my friend Tanya's who owned a pillowcase full of beauty products and the subtle touch of a kabuki makeup artist. I'd sit excitedly on her bathroom counter while she'd give me the makeover I was yearning for - loads of liner, mascara, blush, and lipstick with actual color. When she was done, she'd smile proudly and say VOILA, while turning me toward the mirror. And when I'd look at my hyper made-up face--which would take take a bottle of remover to take off--I'd think, "Now we're talking!" I'd spend hours at Tanya's house feeling dazzling (a rare feeling, believe me), and then scrub it off sadly before returning home.
So when Risa told me that she wanted to play makeup last night, I said "Sure, why not? Should we totally overdo it and pile it on?"
"YEAH!!!" she responded.
This was the result. As you can see, I was working the avant-garde eyes, subtle lashes be damned. I can't say that Risa was feeling particularly glamorous afterwards but we sure had a lot of fun. Moderation is great - except when it isn't. Sometimes it's about going overboard.
I am a journalist, filmmaker, author, wife, and mom to an 8-year-old daughter. My most recent project is I Love Mondays: And other confessions from devoted working moms. Other projects explore raising only children, happily ever after, raising strong girls, and hot topics for Jewish women.
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