To my daughters: 15 truths about being female

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avniainsleyI was convinced I was having a boy. Complete strangers at coffee shops predicted it too, confidently sharing with me their unsolicited predictions while I was carrying my first baby.

Prepared for conversations full of gory villains and disgusting bowel movements, I imagined our closets would be filled with a tiny wardrobe of grass stains. In a few months, I thought I would comfortably hand off the leadership reins to my husband for him to share lessons of chivalry and tie tying, while sneaking in a few pointers about how to use cologne without smelling like a sock.

Later that September, I gave birth to a baby girl. I suddenly felt unprepared and quickly realized it would be my job to teach our daughter what it means to be a strong, independent and caring woman in a world filled with never-ending stereotypes, unrealistic expectations and unhealthy diets. Dove recently conducted a social experiment and showed just how critical women are of their own beauty.

Fast forward two and a half years. We have welcomed another little girl into our family and our toddler has no trouble wearing grass stains. While I know society will do its part to leave an impression in their young minds, I can only hope some of the advice I share with them about being a female in our society stands out a little more.

  1. It’s OK to get dirty (even in a skirt). Throw a baseball; dig for worms; sleep in a tent. Your clothes can be washed and won’t last forever. Memories will.
  2. Clean and cook because you want to, not because someone else expects you to. Knowing how to do both well will give you peace of mind.
  3. Don’t expect flowers.
  4. If you’re hungry, eat. It’s important to take care of and listen to your body. Eating will keep you healthy (and much happier!). Splurge on some chocolate every now and then, too.
  5. Be who you are. If you like science, great. If you would prefer to write a poem about the purple flowers blooming outside your window, that’s fine too. But, whatever you do, don’t be who you think others want you to be.
  6. Invest in a good bra.
  7. There’s only one man who loves you the most. Your Daddy loves you in a way no other man can. Even if he doesn’t always seem to know how to connect with you, he still loves you.
  8. Men don’t get it. They don’t understand females and it’s likely they never will. It’s hard enough for us to grasp the idea of periods, child birth and mood swings. It’s best to give them a break.
  9. Challenge yourself – physically, emotionally and mentally. Your body is more resilient than you can imagine. Find ways to test your limits and allow yourself to fail. Once in a while you might be surprised and do something you never thought possible.
  10. You will cry – sometimes for no good reason. There’s also a good chance you will fail to cry when others expect you to. Bring eye drops and thank your hormones.
  11. Speak up. Share your thoughts without apology and instead exhibit confidence, respect and tact. Anything you believe in is worth the fight.
  12. Be alone. Live by yourself and find out who you are. Find happiness and success by standing on your own two feet.
  13. Find an older brother. Well, not really – but, really. Every female should grow up with an older brother, and since you don’t have a biological older brother, find a male to stand in. While their pranks, burps and punches might not seem like an advantage now, you will thank them later.
  14. Wear comfortable shoes.  
  15.  Age is just a number. We are all in this together. Whether a teenage girl or a woman in her 80’s, all females share a common thread. You can choose to reject our differences or embrace the similarities.

I will always be a few decades older, ready to navigate this world alongside of you.  But for now, I am going to work on removing the grass stains.

 

Parenting musical chairs

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There are many benefits to being a parent, and more specifically, a new parent. The unforgettable first moment of seeing your sweet baby; the first smile; the first word; a belly laugh. All of these are commonly referred to as milestones in a little one’s life. But, I’d be remiss if not to mention the art of playing parenting musical chairs.

You may remember playing a competitive game of musical chairs during your youth, breezing by fold-up chairs in a circle as if running an important race. Once the music stopped, you were left scrambling to find an empty chair to avoid being ejected from the game. The key, of course, was to keep an eye on the empty chair, secretly hovering during each round.

As a new parent, the rules are the same, but the playing field is different. Sometimes the music is soft and easy going.  At other times, it can be fast and unforgiving. In both situations, it’s important to react. I recently encountered one of the challenging rounds while searching for an empty chair – literally.

Before heading to my daughter’s swim class, we planned to meet with friends of ours for a cup of coffee. I thought I would out-smart the logistics of preparing a baby for swim class by putting on her swimsuit and pool outfit before grabbing coffee. I was sure this would eliminate a few steps and make our morning less stressful. I was wrong.

While I am known for my tardiness, this time we arrived before our friends (they went to the wrong place first, but that’s beside the point).  After ordering coffee, I waited at the counter only to look down and see my daughter had spilled her cup of water all over the floor of the busy entry way. I smiled at the customers, used a few napkins to soak water in an effort to make the mess look minor, grabbed my coffee and headed out the door.

We found a seat outside by ourselves. After situating my daughter, laying out her apples and new cup of water, I sat back and took my first relaxing sip of caffeine. It was then I noticed my daughters chair was leaking. I quickly made the connection to identify what was dripping onto the ground. Thanks to what I thought was being overly prepared, she had a swim diaper on, not a regular diaper. For those of you who are parents know there is a significant difference between the two in the way they absorb. My daughter was peeing her pants and there was a small puddle under her chair.

After rushing back inside, I learned there was no changing table in the bathroom. My daughter and I returned to the car for a quick diaper and clothing change.  I wiped down the chair and exchanged it with a dry chair from a nearby table just before our friends joined us for coffee.

Parenting moments like this one have taught me an important lesson. Life is not about choosing the music we listen to; it’s about learning a new dance to the same tune.

It’s important to continue the race, just make sure you find a clean empty chair when the music stops.

The Name Game

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Have you ever played “the name game”? When, within the first few moments of seeing a new stranger, you rack your brain in hopes of coming up with the best guess for a person’s name given your first impression of them? OK, so maybe I’m the only one who does this. But, either way, participating for me means adding a splash of fun to what may otherwise have been an ordinary day.

During my first visit to a local coffee shop, I quickly noticed something much different from other establishments – when ready; every order and customer name was called out loudly through a microphone at the front counter.

Now, I know what you may be thinking: surely she’s been to a place with this routine. But, nope. Not like this.

“Marrrry! Your order is ready. Order ready for Mary,” the gentleman at the front loudly exclaimed, as if trying out as the announcer of a local baseball team.

This caught me off guard because it was abnormally loud, but also because it spoiled any plans I had for playing “the name game”.

Just as I saw a new customer and began making a list of name guesses, a loud, drawn out announcement was made.

“Ssssstephanie! You have an order at the front counter!”

At first I was a bit annoyed and turned off by the nuisance. But then I decided to use the obstacle as a jumping off point for inventing a new name game. For the next 30 minutes, I listened and took note of customer first names. Among them: Ashton, Jessica, Don, Faith, Buddy, Judy, Jason, Brian, Valerie, Lane, Barb, Caroline, Kate, Gavin, Phyllis, Mike, Sherry, Elizabeth and Donna.

No real rhyme or reason to the names, but interesting nonetheless.

I’ve recently noticed multiple articles claiming older names are “in” and are becoming increasingly popular for those parents looking to name their new babes. Perhaps it’s because I personally know of 11 women pregnant right now,  but I couldn’t help but think of these statistics when hearing names belted over the loudspeaker because, well, these customers were babies once, too.

According to TODAY Moms, baby name trends for 2012 are fierce and heroic. Baby Centre gives a nod to and blames the “100-year rule” for old-fashioned names being “cool” again. Parenting Magazine also released a list of 20 vintage names moving back into style. Of those, none of the coffee shop names made the list.

My attention was steadily captured by the man announcing each order until a gentleman sitting near me loudly shared his thoughts about the ordeal.

“Is it just me or should he take it down a bit?” he said, making eye contact with me. “I’m just waking up.”

I just smiled.

He then looked up at me before making a candid suggestion.

“You know, it would be much smoother if you went up and asked him to calm down his announcements,” he said. “If I went up there, I’d just simply look like a jerk.”

I smiled again and told him the noise wasn’t bothering me. (What I didn’t tell him is I was taking notes.)

After jotting down a series of names and packing up my belongings, I started toward the door. While doing so, I passed two older gentlemen sharing a newspaper.

“Do you like to look at the obituaries?” one of them asked.

“Yes, I like to see if someone with my name is in there,” the other man answered.

Hmm, I thought. Looks like someone else has a name game to play, too.

Motherhood – a cup of coffee all on its own

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Today’s post is from my own personal cup of coffee — motherhood. Too often as a new mom, I am given a very crucial piece of advice: “Enjoy every moment. They grow up too fast.” My recent guest post on Kelly Westover’s blog  shares my perspective and reflection on life as a new(ish) mom. Enjoy!

guest post :: learning to enjoy the here and now of motherhood