What does it mean to be
Raising a black girl
Lemonade? Continue Reading
What does it mean to be
Raising a black girl
Lemonade? Continue Reading
The other day while shopping, the Squirrel picked out these fruit snacks to put in her lunches to take to camp…
I actually considered it for a second. I figured, how much harm could it do? I am learning that anything that gets her excited to jump out of bed and into the day is usually worth it.
Then, I looked at the nutritional content and realized that these fruit snacks had just as much potential to rot her body as they do to tear down any shred of positive self-concept she has developed. So I said “No. Not these ones, Honey.” And I picked out these instead…
“Are the other ones too expensive, Mommy?” Because that must be the reason, right?
“No. The other ones are basically junk food. These are just better for you.” And, of course, double the price of the princess ones.
Before she could argue for her selection, I jumped in. “If you want princesses, I can give you princesses. How about we buy these ones that I picked out and I’ll put some princesses on them?”
“How can you do THAT?!”
So, we got home and I went to my computer. I searched “disney princesses” in Google images and found this image. I printed it out, cut out the princesses and, with the magic of Scotch tape, we had ourselves some princess fruit snacks…
She has loved them so far. Here is the one from yesterday that she insisted on keeping (and hanging on her wall) even after she threw out the fruit snack wrapper…
I have to acknowledge and honor the things she likes even if they are not my fave. But, I can do it my way. I can at least try to take advantage of her love of the princesses as an opportunity to bolster her love for herself.
You know, if I was really a badass, I would make my own fruit snacks. How cool would that be? Anyone have a recipe?
The other morning at breakfast, the Squirrel noticed that she and I both had the same amount of orange juice left in our glasses. “Let’s race to see who can finish first!,” she screamed. “Ugh,” I responded. I just wanted to enjoy my orange juice.
This ordinary breakfast moment made me wonder/panic, “What will be my daughter’s relationship to competition?” And this morning, in the wake of my town’s fervor over the victory of the Golden State Warriors, I feel the need to explore the concept of competition a bit further.
My competition-panic comes from the fact that I have always been a bit competition-phobic. My grandfather, who was an Olympic-class runner in his youth, used to tell a story about me that I absolutely love. One summer while I was visiting my grandmother and him in their home in Evanston, IL, he entered me in a little kids’ race in connection with a 4th of July festival. I was around 5 and was running the race with other 5 year olds. How cute is that?
According to my grandfather, I was fast. I took off with an early lead and kept that lead for a long time. Until, I noticed that I was in the lead. I noticed I was no longer with all of the other kids. So, I stopped. I was waiting for them to catch up.
I love this story because I feel like it so beautifully depicts my values of community, connection, and equity. I have committed my adult life to examining and promoting how to bring people together; how those left behind can catch up.
At the same time, as a girl advocate, the story troubles me. Why couldn’t I take my place out ahead? Why was I uncomfortable leading the group?
One thing I noticed while witnessing the aftermath of last night’s championship game was the massive amount of community and connection that was created by the Warriors’ win. Right at the final buzzer, I ran outside my door just because I was curious what folks would do to celebrate. I heard yelps and hollers and car horns and gun shots and firecrackers and general jubilation. There was even someone on my street playing a horn of some kind. Not well, but with the sheer joy of someone welcoming home an old friend they hadn’t seen in 40 years.
I was inspired and pumped up by how this simple competitive sport was connecting me to my neighbors. I thought about how connected the players felt to each other – not just the victorious Warriors but also the defeated Cavaliers – how taking on a task as mighty as an NBA championship can bond you to each other, win or lose. I meditated on the connections that can even be built between competitors in that moment when LeBron James congratulated Stephen Curry at the end of the game. It made me realize that, when people are courageous enough to take their place out ahead of the group, they put themselves in the position of not just winning a game, but winning the respect and admiration of others who recognize their efforts and celebrate their hard work.
This is what I want for my daughter. It’s what I want for myself. It’s want I want for all women and girls. As I wonder/panic about how my daughter yields her own power in the world, I want us all to be able to access real competition in healthy and dynamic ways. My wish is that we can work hard, take our rightful place out ahead when appropriate, and celebrate the wins of others when defeated. I want my daughter to be known as both a fierce competitor and a compassionate community leader; always looking for ways to use her power to help others who have been left behind.
And I also want her to let me enjoy my orange juice.
Yesterday was my first experience of Disney on Ice. Whoa. Have you been? “The Squirrel” and I went with some good friends of ours, another 6 year old Go Girl!, her dad and baby sister. Cuteness all around. My favorite part of the whole show was when TinkerBell came out at the end and my daughter nearly worked herself into a fit. She jumped to her feet and spread her arms out wide and screamed “TINKERBELL!!! Over HERE!” at the top of her lungs as if that just might be the key to make her fly over and take us all with her on one of her incredible fairy adventures.
But that’s not the part I want to talk about. I want to talk about the Princess sequence. Now, for some reason, I was able to tolerate the incredibly aggressive marketing tactics, the dearth of performers of color, and the $12 beers, but, as a Go Girl!, I was jumping out of my skin during the Princess sequence.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t identify as a Disney princess hater. Little Mermaid is one of my favorite soundtracks…ever. However, the ice show takes it to a whole other level when they create this scenario – Minnie Mouse wants nothing more than to be a beautiful princess with a prince on her arm. The Fairy Godmother from Cinderella comes to her and introduces her to all of the famous princesses who skate with their princes as examples of what to strive for in life. At one point, Fairy Godmother actually even says to Minnie “What’s a princess without a prince?” Yikes.
At that point, I knew I had to do something. I had to say something to these young Go Girls! to counteract that message. But we were having fun. I didn’t want to make it too preachy and awkward. So, here’s what I said…
Me: Hey girls! Wasn’t it amazing how strong those princesses were?!? They were doing amazing things on that ice!
Go Girl! #1: Ya! The boys were strong too! They lifted the girls up so high.
Me: You’re right. Those boys were really strong. But, those girls had to do all those spins and flips and so much amazing stuff with their bodies. They had to use a lot of muscles to do all of that.
Go Girl! #2: Wow! How did that do that?
Me: Well, they practiced a lot and worked really hard.
Then, the popcorn vendor came by and that was the end of that.
What do you think? What would you have said in my situation? What has worked for you in the past to counteract the power of princesses?
We all worry about Edith, don’t we? Her place as the middle sister/”ugly duckling”/sad sack of the Crawley family makes us Downton Abbey fans mutter “oh, Edith” week after week. I never cared much for Edith before this season, I have to admit. My allegiances have instead leaned towards with the charismatic and snippy Mary (upstairs) and the spunky and strong-willed Daisy (downstairs). I found myself giving up too many “oh, Edith”s that I was downright sick of her.
Then, they gave her Marigold.
This season, Edith is working her butt off trying to figure out how to raise her own daughter, Marigold, despite the societal stigma unmarried motherhood working against her. Whereas I used to think that Edith was just wasted screen time, I now see in her the potential to be a model mother of a little girl – one that we can all learn from. I believe that, if Edith can somehow pull her head out of the Eeyore-style cloud of despair that she carries around with her all the time, she can become the kick-ass modern mom of a daughter that all of us are trying to be.
Here’s what she can teach us:
Don’t let your more accomplished sister (or whoever) get you down
God bless her, Edith sure does her best to hold her own under the weight of Mary’s relentless cruelty, doesn’t she? And with Marigold now living in the nursery alongside Mary’s son, she is standing up for herself even more. What if she can take this even farther? What if she can really dares to take up space and refuse to take any of Mary’s crap? What an incredible example that will be for Marigold who will inevitably face a bunch of mean words in her life as an “orphan” child to a single mom.
Teach yourself to drive
Sure, this may not be a big deal for us today in 2015 but let’s not underestimate how bold and brave it was for Edith to learn to drive in a time and place when women just didn’t really do that. She was like “whatever, I don’t care about you. I got places to go!” So, maybe for us it’s learning how to code our own website or hang drywall instead of drive a car, but we all have that thing that we really want to do that seems impossible. When we dare to do it anyway, we are teaching our daughters to access their own unlimited potential.
Run that publishing company…with no apologies
Don’t get me wrong. Big sister, Mary doesn’t sit around doing nothing all day. She has rolled up her sleeves and made herself into quite the business woman as she has partnered with her dad and Tom in running their affairs. But Mary still works for her dad. Edith, on the other hand, doesn’t need to work for anybody. She just got her own publishing company! She is gonna be THE. BOSS. Plus, she is an accomplished writer herself. Which means that she will be in charge of bringing her own ideas and stories as well as the stories and ideas of others to life in the world. All women – mothers or not – should have the chance to do this. Marigold will grow up knowing and expecting girls and women to share what they think and feel with the world.
Don’t give up on your child no matter what
Edith’s incessant visits to the Drewes’ farm to see Marigold where she would annoyingly show up unannounced looking like a drowned rat got kinda old as a viewer. However, it showed us that part of Edith that clearly has no intention of giving up on her daughter. Based on what I have been learning about attachment theory raising ‘The Squirrel”, I predict that Marigold’s early childhood being bounced around among different homes in different countries with different caregivers will most likely result in a few issues as she grows up. These issues can manifest themselves cognitively, emotionally, physically or all of the above. This means that Edith will be parenting a child with special needs. So, her utter tenacity in being there for her child is going to serve her well in the future. Edith is showing us that she has what it takes to love and support her daughter through whatever challenges come up along the way.
There may be hope for Lady Edith yet. Perhaps all of the bad luck she has faced in these 5 seasons so far will culminate in her becoming the mama of our dreams. We’ll see. But she really has to do something about the fact the she does always look like a drowned rat.