Category Archives: values

Self-Acceptance in a World of Bullies

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My Rocky Parenting post this week is really an issue I reflect on constantly.  How can I teach my kids to love themselves in a world that definitely isn’t going to always love them?

As I get ready to send my 5-yr-old to kindergarten in the fall, I worry a lot about bullying.  While it’s the job of the adults around to help prevent or stop the acts of bullying once they’ve begun, I also know that it’s inevitable my sweet N will encounter at least teasing and hurt feelings.  Not every child is going to come from a home teaching them compassionate tolerance, and the messages society sends to little boys who like pink and purple are not exactly encouraging…read more at Rocky Parenting

 

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Acceptance in Lego Village

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My post today for Rocky Parenting – on acceptance, bears in jail, and one-armed policemen.

This is Ted and Fred:
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They are Lego package drivers, and they live here in their house in Bench Seat Lego Village.  Sometimes our Lego people have moms and dads, best friends and pets.   So when Ted and Fred moved in together… read more at Rocky Parenting

Blessings

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Blessings

Blessings at dinner are something I have struggled to redefine for my own family after I left my parents’ house.  I discuss our rituals of gratitude over at Rocky Parenting today!

All growing up, my family said a blessing at the dinner table each night.  ”God is great, God is good, and we thank him for our food…” it began.  I can recite it in my sleep, and have memories of thousands of dinners holding hands with my parents and sister, saying the words.  But after a while, saying the words became a rote task – one we did as habit, without thinking at all about what we were saying.  Now, when my boys and I eat dinner at my parents’ house, with my parents and my three teenaged sisters, my boys hold hands and stare blankly at the rest of us while we speed through the blessing… read more at Rocky Parenting!

The Confines of Colors and Masculine Roles

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This is the snake N picked out at the zoo last month, resting snugly in the jack-o-lantern bucket N picked out for Halloween:

snakePink is hands-down N’s favorite color.  His second favorite is purple, and then he’ll list some random colors that come to mind after that.  But always pink and purple.  As a baby, he preferred his pink binkies to his yellow or green ones, and the first stuffed animal he really begged for at a gift shop was a purple fuzzy giraffe whose pink twin sister he begged for a year later.  His best friend is a girl, and for a while we wondered if he was just mimicking her tastes, but now at age 5 it is very clear that he just loves pretty things.

N is an all-around sensitive kiddo who’s appreciative of beauty, of softness.  He’s always been the first to comment on a lovely sunset or some particularly bright flowers, and he compliments people at random with genuine excitement.  “That’s a nice new dress,” he’ll tell me when I put something new on.  He once told a stranger at Subway that she had a “fancy” purse, and last week he asked if he could cross a parking lot to compliment a man on his “nice-looking dog”.  He contentedly runs velvety ferns over his cheeks when he finds them on hikes.  He snuggles into chenille blankets and greets them like  old friends.  And he just loves pink.  Shamelessly, confidently.

When N was two, he had his eye on a pink bus that sang a little song, and I got it for him after a traumatic first haircut.  The Walmart cashier rang the bus up and asked if he was buying it for his sister.  When I responded that he picked it out, that pink was his favorite color, she looked at me reassuringly and said, “Don’t worry, he’ll grow out of it.”  I laughed and said, “I hope he doesn’t!”

This will always be my attitude.  While I couldn’t care less how his gender identification manifests or his sexual orientation, I certainly don’t think his love of pink and purple is any indication of either.  And I adore the confidence he has when he stands before a row of ridiculously gender-coded boys and girls monster trucks at the zoo and reaches immediately for the pink truck with the purple tiger painted on the door.  It is such an inborn part of him – it doesn’t occur to him that he shouldn’t like soft, fuzzy, pink giraffes or snakes with pink butterflies.  Why should he choose a camo-clothed ranger with a truck and a gun rack when he wants to play with a pretty-looking monster truck and a baby elephant toy?

I could go on and on about how we force our boys out of femininity and into a prescribed masculinity that damages them in the long run, but the only sensitive boy I can worry about right now is N.  I am terrified of sending him to kindergarten next year, and then beyond that, where he is certain to encounter peers who degrade or devalue his appreciation for small things, his adoration of “feminine” colors, and his soft way of looking at the world.  I worry about bullies, of course, but more even than that I worry about the harsh reality of gender stereotypes quashing these pieces that comprise so much of his personality.

So tell me, how do I send him off into the world beyond the early childhood peers I’ve carefully vetted – those whose families value the same core things we do, who offer accepting, judgement-free havens – with the confidence to face ridicule he might encounter not by shrinking away from the things he loves but by simply saying, “you don’t have to think it’s cool, but I do”?  How do I build and support and grow that confidence to prefer pink Legos and snuggle with giant, pink-butterfly-patterned snakes?  What do I say the first time he asks why someone said he had a girl’s trick-or-treat bucket or made fun of his Doc McStuffins band-aids?  All I want is to make it okay for him to just be, peacefully, kindly, in all the big light he exudes.

You is kind. You is smart. You is important.

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You is kind.  You is smart. You is important.

If you’ve read or seen The Help, the title of this post rings a bell for you.  The three things Aibileen helps little Mae Mobly remember when the world treats her like dirt.  They’re so simple, but so easy to forget.  How much better would we all feel if we just told ourselves this every day?  You is kind.  You is smart.  You is important.  And I would add, You try hard.  Amid people who treat us like crap, children who never appreciate a damn thing we do, technology that makes us feel  like idiots.  The list is endless.  And unfortunately, not many of us have someone like Aibileen around to help us remember the good about ourselves.  So we can really start to feel like we’re not important or smart or worthy.  

Both my kids are sensitive, but sometimes five-year-old N takes things so personally, so deeply to heart, that I worry he forgets all the good I do tell him.  In our house, we repeat the three things we value most in ourselves and others: kindness, trying hard, and keeping yourself and the people around you safe.  I reminded him tonight of these when he was talking about something he’s not the best at.  Even if you aren’t the best, you tried.  You tried really hard, and so no matter how it worked out in the end, you are good enough and didn’t fail.

Our mantra: Be kind.  Try hard at everything you do.  Be safe.  If nothing else, these three things will carry you far and help you change the world.  I don’t care if my children are not the best or the smartest or the cutest (I mean, they are, but they don’t need to know that), but I do care so much that they are kind to everyone, including themselves.   I care that they know they are kind.  And that they know they can ask for help but only after they’ve tried and then tried again.  And that they don’t hurt themselves or any other living thing – physically or emotionally.  There are no higher compliments in our house than “you are a good friend,” or “you tried so hard.”  We tell them they’re handsome, they’re smart, and they’re awesome, but I think in the hierarchy of important characteristics, it’s better for them to feel good about their kind hearts and their treatment of problems.  And I will keep it that way.  Because really, very little else matters in the bigger picture and very little else can move small mountains like kindness with a side of confident perseverance.  

So maybe just take a minute to tell yourself and your kids.  You are kind.  You try hard.  You are loved.  You are important.