As you know from yesterday’s post, our family is traveling to Dallas to visit my family of origin for Thanksgiving. No, I am not from Texas, although my whole family lives there now. For better or for worse, I cannot claim Texas as home. I always feel the need to explain that.
Anyway, as I write this, we are taking up residence in row 13, seats D, E, and F – living our lives at 35,000 feet. You should see the amount of toys, snacks, reading materials, and media we have managed to fit into a few carry-on bags. On one hand, it seems ridiculous that we would need so much crap. Shouldn’t we be able to pass the time in simpler ways? On the other hand, to keep our daughter occupied, we pretty much engaged every single item we packed while sitting in traffic just to get to the airport. Short attention spans and squirrels go hand in hand.
Of all the crap stuffed into our bags, I am most excited about the personalized coloring book the Squirrel and I made together.
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.
7 Things to do this Summer to Care for Myself and Inspire my Daughter
I know, I know. The first day of summer isn’t for another week. But, let’s be honest, the official start of summer is when your kids get out of school and the whole energy of your house changes. The kids go to camp. You start to pack up for vacations. And, then, there is the Summer Bucket List. I’m sure you have one. It’s that list full of all of the things that you haven’t managed to get to the other 3 seasons of the year but (cross your fingers) swear you will get to in the summer. Summer has a magic to it. The air is different. Things slow down. Why not use this time to make all your dreams come true? You can do it. And I’m going to join you.
Around my house, the beginning of summer has a very specific energy. The magic also contains a special mix of stress, excitement, pride, overwhelm, lunacy, creativity, and sheer panic. Yes, it’s the start of Go Girls! Camp! This morning 90 girls showed up in Oakland and Berkeley expecting to have a good time. By the time the season ends in mid-August, over 450 girls will have made plays with us at our 5 Bay Area locations.
This isn’t just my first day of camp. Today also marks my first summer as a parent. As I navigate how to produce our biggest summer ever with a Squirrel in the house, I also have to figure out how to make some time for myself, have a little fun, and embrace the magic of the summer months. At the same time, I have an opportunity to model for my daughter the practices of summer self-care that may have a positive effect on her choices. I’m thinking, “why not do stuff this summer that will take care of me and inspire my daughter at the same time?” I mean, 450 Go Girls!?! I don’t have that much time. I might as well do a little multi-tasking with my self-care, right?
As a result, I have created a Summer Bucket List that I hope will inspire the Go Girl! in me, the Squirrel, and maybe even you. This summer, (cross my fingers), I will…
1. Make Something
The theme of our first session of camp, “Girls can…MAKE!,” conveniently and coincidentally aligns with the White House’s National Week of Making, a call to action to “lift up makers and builders and doers across the country” through Maker-related events and activities. I have a fear of and fascination with making anything at all. However, I believe that we all have it in us to make, to invent, to create something that has never existed before. My goal is to make something simple that challenges my fears this week, to have fun with all of the inevitable mistakes I will make, and to share this mini- adventure with the Squirrel.
2. Rock that Swimsuit…with no apologies
I hate the phrase “swimsuit-ready” when referring to women’s bodies. We all have bodies. If I want to swim or hang out by the pool or play in the sand or just dream of tropical destinations, then, by default, my body is ready for a swimsuit…no matter how many “extra pounds” (another phrase I hate) my body has. My body is always “swimsuit-read.” I will throw on my suit, no matter how many pieces it has, and enjoy it. I will celebrate my body in front of my daughter and make no excuses or lament about any other body I wish I had.
3. Read an out-of-your-world book
Melissa Harris-Perry (the mother of 2 daughters) is my spirit animal mainly because she seems so unafraid to share exactly what she feels/thinks with the whole world. And she does it in a kind and compassionate way. I wish all of us women could do that? Anyway, recently, when she noticed that the NYT’s summer reading recommendations had no authors of color on it, she had something to say about it. Have you seen this?
I am particularly drawn to the part where she recommends that we read a book by someone outside of our own culture. As Allison and I work to support the Squirrel with her reading this summer in preparation for first grade, I want to make sure that 1) She sees me reading for pleasure as much as possible – the goal being to reduce as much “do as I say, not as I do” kind of behavior – and 2) She sees me being curious about worlds outside of my own. The Squirrel has been fascinated by the Spanish language lately…a language I don’t speak at all. How cool would it be if she sees me reading a book by a Latina/o author that actually contains Spanish words and phrases? Maybe I can support her to continue her exploration as well.
4. Have a total veg-out/breakdown day and invite no one
The Squirrel is so busy all the time. “What are you doing, Momma?” and “What are we going to do next, Momma” are often-heard phrases around the Maxi Pad. It’s our continued challenge to teach her the importance of quiet, down time; how to enjoy spending time with herself and just herself. Despite the busy-ness of running camp, or perhaps because of it, I must remember to embrace the lazy-ness of the season. I must take at least a day or 2 where I do absolutely nothing of importance…all by myself. I’ll need, certainly, and she will need to see me doing it.
5. Make a new friend
In the fall, my daughter will start a new school. She has been going to a school far from our house and we decided to transfer her to the public school nearby so that she could make friends with the kids who live in our neighborhood. The Squirrel actually has no trace of social anxiety. She is that kid who will come up to your kid on the playground with absolutely no filter and the classic kid query, “Do you want to play?” Meeting new people is not her problem. Actually making and keepingfriends is where she struggles. I’m actually very good at this but haven’t ventured out into the new friend territory in quite awhile. I have a whole other bucket list of “folks I want to be friends with” – those people whom I really like/admire but only know casually. This summer is the perfect opportunity to dust off that list and get to work sharing with the Squirrel the steps of making a good friend.
6. Woman the Grill
Despite the fact that I throw an exceptional party, I tend to overcook meat – a fact I am a bit embarrassed by. And my tendency towards dry meat makes me fear the grill. But, here’s the thing, my mother-in-law bought us a brand new shiny gas grill this spring and I am obliged to bust it out this summer. My daughter has already seen me engage more than one man in helping me figure out how the grill works…I literally couldn’t turn the grill on without the help of my friend Steve…I can’t continue to let my grill-timidation (yes, it’s a word) get in the way of improving my meat-abilities (again…). And I especially can’t reinforce the stereotype that grilling is only the domain of men, especially not in a home full of women and a brand new shiny gas grill. I have a hankering for some pork chops this summer and nothing is gonna get in my way!
Isn’t the summertime made for dancing?
I used to dance all the time. I studied dance in my youth and danced my butt off socially when I was a younger adult. I rarely dance these days. And now I have a daughter who loves dancing. She dances while walking down the street. She had her first ballet class this spring and returning to class is all she can talk about. Summertime is made for dancing. This summer, I will grab the Squirrel, my new friends (and old ones) and create as many opportunities as possible dance the day and night away.
My last goal for the summer is to drink lots of lemonade. This has nothing to do with modeling exemplary Go Girls!-like behavior for my daughter. I just love lemonade. The Squirrel loves lemonade. And I wholeheartedly believe that summer is only summer with lots of lemonade.
Our good friends, Doug & Johnny, who gave us last week’s date night, have given us many gifts over the last 6 months. One of which was this amazing set of squirrels in honor of our own little Squirrel. Like a squirrel hoarding her nuts, I have kept these little cuties locked up tight. Mine! I didn’t want her to have them.
This morning, she found them. I told her, “Doug and Johnny saw them and were reminded of me. You know…how I like to call you “Squirrel” sometimes. She smiled. She loved that.
She played with them for sooooooo long. In fact, I left her with them to take my shower and, as I am coming out of the shower, I hear Allison’s voice say:
“No hitting. Hitting hurts. Please stop.”
“You two have to work on your relationship problems.”
“Even though you are hitting, you are still a good squirrel and I love you.”
She had entered into an imaginative play scenario where the two squirrels were fighting. Allison grabbed my stuffed elephant, Mai Tai, and made her the teacher, helping them work through the conflict. Not only did the Squirrel immediately take to these new toys, she was able to access that magical inner wisdom that kids get and use the squirrels to get to work playing through her own hitting issues at school.
Oh. My. God.
Well, I guess I may have to give up my squirrels to the Squirrel. They are clearly her power animal. At least I still have Mai Tai.
From our last romantic date night at À Côté in Oakland.
You may remember Allison’s post about self-care where she described the amazing spreadsheet of gifts we have received from our friends and family in loving support of our becoming new moms. We’re coming to the end of these gifts now (boo hoo) and tonight, we get to take cash in one of the biggys.
One night away in a fancy San Francisco hotel. No Squirrel. No dogs. Just us. A lot of romance.
I’m not even sure why I have chosen to write about this in a blog post. Maybe I need to share how friggin excited I am. We have been counting down to this day for weeks like it’s Christmas and we just know that Santa is going to bring us everything on our list. Maybe I want to publicly share how grateful I am for our besties, Doug and Johnny, for giving us this incredible gift. Maybe I just want to show off a little. Rub it in the face of all the rest of you who will be at home with your kids on a regular old Friday night eating boxed mac and cheese and waiting for them to go to bed so that you can catch last night’s episode of Scandal (which I haven’t seen yet…#nospoilers).
I think the real reason I want to mark this occasion with a blog post is because I want to highlight how important this big fancy date night is in the fuller context of our parenting journey. I love when people ask me “How are you and Allison doing?” when they curiously inquire how my life is these days. I love this question because I never want to forget how and why I first fell in love with Allison in the first place. I never want to forget the 13 years we had before the Squirrel came along when we could take off on romantic dates whenever we wanted. I never want to forget the strength of our couplehood – how we have successfully navigated being best friends and lovers and business partners – and how this strength is what is helping turn us into good (enough) parents.
The answer to “How are you and Allison doing?” is “Great!” because we are making time for nights like tonight. And when we can’t go to big fancy hotels overnight, we make dates whenever we can. Over the last few months, we have discovered:
The “Friday Night Happy Hour” where we have a babysitter come from 5-8, we grab an early dinner, and are home in time to put her to bed ourselves. This results in less drama and headache for everyone involved.
The “Porch Date” where the Squirrel is just inside on the living room couch watching TV and we slip out on the porch with our cocktails and connect for as long as takes for My Little Pony to wrap up their weird little adventures.
The “Walk Date” takes advantage of the fact that we have to walk these dogs anyway so, we may as well make it count for something.
And, my favorite, The “Working Date.” This is one that is unique to our situation since we work for ourselves, together, from home. This is one where we say, “we need to have a meeting about such and such” and, instead of simply sitting down at our dining room table, we serve mimosas and make it into a big thing. This one doesn’t happen very often because it is not the most productive way to get things done but, you know, life doesn’t always have to be about productivity.
As the Squirrel ages and we get more and more enmeshed in this parenting thing, I want to make sure that the answer to “How are you and Allison doing?” is always “Great!” Prioritizing our partnership is the only way to make it through this crazy life we have chosen. So, I’m going to pack my bags, pick out a super sexy outfit and get ready for tonight’s mega date.
I find myself correcting “The Squirrel” a lot. Removing “at”s from places they shouldn’t be. Helping her know that today is Tuesday which means that tomorrow will be Wednesday. Encouraging her to understand that not every cut of meat is “chicken.”
However, there are some “wrong” things that she says that Allison and I love so much that we just don’t have it in us to correct her. You know what I mean, right? Those kid-isms that are just so adorable that you kinda hope that your kids never stop saying them?
Here are 7 of our favorite “Squirrel-isms”…so far…
1. Chapster Books
Definition (If “The Squirrel” had to define it): Those long books that big kids read
2. Old McDonald’s
Definition (If “The Squirrel” had to define it): Does this one have a playground?
Definition (If “The Squirrel” had to define it): The stuff Mama buys when I have a cold
4. Soil Milk
Definition (If “The Squirrel” had to define it): Mama Lynn puts it in her cereal cuz she’s allergic to dairy milk
5. Oat Milk
Definition (If “The Squirrel” had to define it): Brown sugar and cinnamon…please…
6. See Saw
Definition (If “The Squirrel” had to define it): Wait, can I help you? I got a tool box. I’ll go grab it.
Definition (If “The Squirrel” had to define it):Sebastian!*
*NOTE: “Crabster” is used for both crab and lobster so, really, it’s anybody’s guess.
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?
Remember a few years back when Lego unleashed “girl legos” on the market – the “Friends” line that Lego released a few years ago to market their product specifically for girls? Do you remember how mad feminists like me were? It seemed like the company figured that all they had to do was change the colors of Legos bricks from brown and blue to pink and purple, package them in pink and purple boxes and BOOM – they had Legos…for girls.
I was never a Lego kid myself. I have always thought they are super cool, in theory, but I have never been able to put them into practice. And still, I was totally infuriated along with the rest of them.
This all changed when, a few months ago, I started playing Legos with my daughter.
“The Squirrel” had inherited a whole bunch of classic, aka “boy”, Legos from a friend of ours and was immediately drawn to them. Because I was never down with Legos myself, when she first asked me to play, I panicked.
“B-b-but, I c-c-can’t do Legos.”
Being the Go Girl! I am, I didn’t actually say this out loud, thank god. Instead, I faked it. I jumped in, and tried it anyway. I tried to build a boat or house or whatever. I just couldn’t figure out how to put the bricks together in such a way that made them look like the thing I was trying to build in my mind. I got bored and frustrated she and I didn’t play Legos for awhile.
Then, my daughter was gifted with one of those Legos kits where they give you the step-by-step instructions for how to build the thing that’s on the front of the box. But, those were even worse…for me…anyway. The pieces are so small that my daughter can’t manipulate them and I can’t see them to help her because I am in my 40’s and my eyes don’t work like that anymore. Plus, neither of us are any good at following directions. She can’t read and “doesn’t want to do anything anyone tells [me] to do.” Direct quote.
I can read but I am totally directionally challenged. Not because I am rebellious like “The Squirrel,” per se. It’s just that my brain doesn’t work like that. A.D.D., perhaps? I don’t know. All I know is that written, step-by-step instructions allude me. I can’t follow a recipe. I can’t put Ikea furniture together. If there is not someone in front of me – either live or on video – showing me how to do something, I just won’t get it. We know that there are multiple intelligences and I discovered years ago that I favor an interpersonal learning style. I learn best by hanging out with other people.
I don’t know my daughter well enough yet to know her exact learning style but I do know one thing from observing her play with Legos. Whatever she is building, it always has everything to do with people and those people’s relationships. She never builds boats or houses or whatever just for the sake of building them. She builds them so that her imaginary people can become families and have places to eat and sleep and fight with each other and say sorry and forgive each other and start again.
When she looks through her collection of classic Legos for the Lego people to put in these structures she is building, she only finds “boys” with mean faces and harsh uniforms. “Where are the girls?” she asks. “Please help me find a girl!”
So, I have to admit that I was quite grateful when she received her first set of “girl Legos.” (Yes, she does get a lot of gifts!). Finally, she had some girls she could add to her structures. I didn’t really mind that the bricks were mostly pink and purple because they added some color diversity to the mostly grey, blue, and brown that dominated her huge box of classic Legos. The “girl Legos” have not limited her options as a girl. Instead, they have honored her play style and have allowed her imagination to grow.
Now even I see the Lego bricks in a new way. I don’t get so intimidated about what I can or can’t build. Instead, the bricks become a vehicle for dramatic play and I can find my way in. I can engage longer with the toys and, ultimately, with my daughter.
All of this is not to say that Lego is completely off the hook. Their products include the “Heartlake Shopping Mall” and “Stephanie’s Beachhouse” but there is no soccer field or Oval Office kit to be seen. The girls pretty much all look the same – some a little browner than others perhaps. So, yes, I get “girl legos” but, we have a long way to go.