Saturday, September 14, 2013

Thoughts on Parenthood...

***Disclaimer! This is one of the most scatter-brained posts I've ever written, so I apologize that is barely cohesive! Ha! Read at your own risk :) ***

I've been reading a lot of blogs, posts, news articles, etc. regarding motherhood/parenthood/etc. and it seems like they are all carrying the same theme: "don't compare yourself to other are doing a fine job."

While these are all uplifting and mostly motivational, it made me think about WHY these posts are necessary? Are parents really that insecure? Are there really so many moms and dads that feel completely inadequate? Apparently so. So I've come to the most obvious conclusion that our society is overly competitive and comparative. Now we could analyze both the men and women side of this, but right now I just want to talk about the woman side of this.

Why is it that we feel so competitive? Where does it start? How do we stop it?

Now, I happen to be the mother of an extremely bright, observant, and sassy almost six year old daughter. She is two weeks into kindergarten and already they have bombarded her with fundraiser things to sell: cookie dough, magazine subscriptions, kitchen supplies, wrapping paper, etc. She came home and the first thing she said was, "Mom! I want to sell the most because I want to win!" She didn't understand the concept of fundraising and was very upset that I didn't make cookie dough and drop it off at school (which she thought was part of the fundraising, not understanding that they provide the cookie dough you sell).

Part of me was proud of her competitive nature, and the other part of me was wanting to cry because they are already teaching her that she needs to win. She is in kindergarten. Leave her alone. I want Ella to be more concerned with what color table she is going to sit at that day, than if the other kids around her are getting prizes because their parents are buying ten and twelve tubs of $13 cookie dough. Ella didn't get any prizes. **Not yet anyway, because I AM competitive by nature so I, of course, canvased my co-workers and am now canvasing my family to buy $13 tubs of cookie dough so Ella can get a prize. What is wrong with this picture??**

I feel like girls can't escape it! Look prettier. Be nicer. Be funnier. Have shinier hair. Be more likeable. Be smarter. Don't be so smart. And it doesn't stop when you finally are an adult. I think it gets worse: Be a better parent. Provide for your children. Look at how much better Pinterest is at being a parent than you are. Look at all the moms who are managing to do it better than you.

I read today a blog post about school lunches, too. Well, I can tell you that Ella is going to get the same school lunch that I did: peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a piece of fruit, some slices of carrots, a packet of fruit snacks, and a capri sun. She will probably get that every day for the next ten years until she can pack her own lunch. Just like I did. And it was fine. (Of course, there was one day in high school that my older brother packed my brown paper bagged lunch, which consisted of: a raw potato, a bag of uncooked rice, and an onion...but that's a story for another day).

The writer was saying that they couldn't keep up with the "Pottery Barn" lifestyle, which includes $45 personalized lunch boxes, and pre-written motivational lunch notes. (You realize you can do both of those with a $.99 sharpie, right?) As I was reading the article, I became sad for the writer. It made me sad that they are so disappointed with themselves and are trying to convince themselves they are okay with NOT being "Pottery Barn"esque.

I can tell you now that I am NEVER buying "pre-written" lunch notes. And I certainly am not paying $45 for a personalized lunch box. I don't care if I am a multi millionaire...there are some things that are just ridiculous. Why are we constantly in competition with what magazines, Hollywood, and pinterest are telling us?? Leave it alone people! So what if you DO spend 50 hours making beautiful homemade Valentines for your first grader? Good for you! And for those of you that buy the big bag of Nerds at the dollar store and simply make your kid write their name on them - Good for you, too! Chances are you're kids won't know the difference. All they will know is that they had Valentines to pass out.

I remember one year I went to a girl scout camp for a week with my next door neighbor, Sarah. Before I left, my mom packed me a bag of toiletries that had a single note attached to each item with a funny phrase. I can't remember them all, but the one I do was tagged onto a travel size bottle of shampoo that said, "Poo in your hair and not in your pants!" I was about eight years old and I STILL vividly remember that. Not because my mom used the word "poo", which we were not allowed to use, and not because I knew they cost a lot of money (or didn't), but it was because of the time she put into it and because she knew it was something I would think was special. Small daily reminders that she was thinking about me.

Now is my daughter going to think about me every time she opens her $45 lunch box and reads her pre-written "Have a great day!" note on fancy paper? Probably not. And if she does, she will probably start equating a dollar amount to how much I love her. But I guarantee if I leave little hand written notes every now and then that say things like, "Hey baby girl! Don't be too sassy in class today! And Don't beat up the boys!" She will know I'm thinking about HER and that I know HER...not the generic her that is available from "Pottery Barn".

Anyway, this is getting long and the whole point of this was supposed to be: Parents. Just stop. Take a good look at your son or daughter and figure out what THEY need...not what society is telling you they need. Stop comparing yourself to pinterest or Pottery Barn or whatever. If you are Mrs. Pinterest - GREAT! Just don't let it take away from getting to know your kid for real. If you happen to worship everything Pottery Barn and your home is the spitting image of one of their catalogs - fabulous! You just better be willing to spend a little dough on what your kid really wants, not what you want them to want.

Now I'm not claiming to be the perfect parent: far from it. But who cares? I know my kids and I'll tell you some things my kids need. My daughter needs conversation. She craves talking. She needs verbal stimulation to make her feel important. My son needs physical attention. He loves to cuddle and needs that cuddle time in the evening before he goes to bed. My daughter needs choices. She needs to be able to choose between two shirts and pick her favorite for school. My son needs boundaries. When boundaries are set, he is a happier child by far. And none of these are available on Pinterest.

What does your kid need??  Every kid is different so you better figure it out and stop looking to magazines and pinterest to tell you.

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