In Comparison…

I hate the concept of “keeping up with the Jones-es-es”.  It’s ridiculous.  Maybe it’s the fact that I’m totally non-competitive.  Maybe it’s that I’m a little lazy. Who are these Jones anyway?  And what makes them so great?  

I just read an article that my bestie posted on Facebook.  It is entitled “What Should A 4 Year Old Know?”  I thought, “I have a 4 year old, I guess I should read this.”  It was not what I expected.  I assumed it would be a list of all of the academic knowledge my big girl should have already acquired.  Stuff like counting, letters, writing skills, reading War and Peace, ya know, the usual.  Instead, it delved deeper than I had imagined it would.

This article stemmed from an internet conversation on a parenting forum.  One mother’s nervous question lead to a series of my-kid-can one-uppers that probably perpetuated this mom’s anxiety.  With all of my nervousness, academia is not something I’m fretting about.  They will eventually know the same things everyone else does and if they don’t, I will help them.  But, it’s what they should know about themselves that’s most important, and their self worth or inherent values should not be derived in comparison to those of their peers.

The article outlined five things that 4 year olds should know, but then five things that parents should know, too.  Parents are often so concerned with comparing their child to another, that they can lose sight of what makes their own child different and therefore, special.  In some ways, I did it, but not really in a “Dick, Jane, and Mack are all walking.  Why isn’t my Susie even crawling yet?”  It was more, “Oh crap, Susie won’t get her legs up underneath her.  She has a gross motor skill delay.  I better call an occupational therapist and get her evaluated, STAT!”  Sounds like me, right?

Turns out, not every kid has to crawl before they can walk.  My big girl taught me that (after the OT said, “She’s fine.”).  Today, she runs, she climbs, she is a spectacular ballerina (as far as I’m concerned).  She was going to do it her own way, not necessarily the way I did it or thought she was going to do it.  She and I are different and that’s a good thing.  As her parent, I need to focus on her individuality and help it develop so she can feel her own self worth, know that she is incredible as she is, and that her mom is her number one supporter and advocate.  

Even within one family, competitiveness can rear its ugly head.  I think this is just innate in some, but I sincerely hope to avoid this within my own little family unit. I can already tell that my girls are two completely different beings, which I hope will help in fostering a supportive relationship between them instead of a competitive one. I love watching them play, sometimes together enjoying the same thing and sometimes doing their own things. One seemed to be born with a paintbrush in her hand and a ballet slipper on her foot.  The other loves building legos and bouncing off the furniture (or climbing up a wall, she literally tried to climb a wall yesterday).  I never want to compare them, but of course, I just did, didn’t I?  

I hope that their differences, and those of their peers, will make them stand out when they want to, teach them that unique is a good thing, and that above all else, being kind to one another is way more important than who knows more, who can jump higher, or who achieves their goal faster. My favorite quote from this article summed it up for me. “That being the smartest or most accomplished kid in class has never had any bearing on being the happiest.”  

D-D-D-Defense!

I was Captain of my high school cheerleading team.  I say that with a spoonful of humility, an ounce of humor and a dash of pride.  Yesterday, I was trying to find music videos on the TV for my big girl to see positive female role models of musicians who can play guitar, violin or piano.  I was thinking the Dixie Chicks, Alicia Keys, maybe a little Taylor Swift?  Instead we found Kidz Bop!

This band of teeny-boppers (seriously, they can be described as nothing else) performs group versions of hot songs with kid friendly faces and dance moves.  In one of these videos, the kids were singing Sean Kingston’s “Fire Burning” (which begged the question from my 4 year old, “Why is the dance floor on fire?  That’s dangerous!”).  These youngsters were pretending to be high school archetypes: the jocks, the cheerleaders, the band members, etc.  Of course, my daughter sees the head cheerleader and immediately says, “I want to be that girl.”  Instinctively, I cringed.

But why?  Am I that ashamed that I was a cheerleader?  No. Do I see value in being a cheerleader?  Yes.  Then why is my reaction so negative when it comes to my hopes for her?  Competitive cheerleading is a big deal in some parts of the country.  Girls (and guys, alike) are in near Olympic shape and doing stunts and tumbling passes that you’d only see on your TV every 4 years, being broadcast from a country we used to be at war with.  As a team sport, you learn to rely on your teammates for your safety, you learn to control the timing of your voice and your body to be in sync with theirs, and you lift the spirits of all of those around you.  In the same vein, just like doing ballet, you learn respect for your body and what it’s capable of, musicality, rhythm, and the colors and mascots of all the other high schools in your county. Ok, so that’s not that important, but it’s exercising the mind and memory, right?

I suppose I don’t want my little girl pigeon-holed into the vision that our society has of a cheerleader.  People think they’re all just blonde, bouncy-boobed, and dumb as a doorknob.  Like so many other stereotypes, in my experience, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.  My fellow cheerleaders have gone on to be doctors, lawyers, engineers (toot toot: my own horn or a train’s, whichever you prefer), entrepreneurs, executives, and the list goes on and on.  For the majority, we were scholar athletes, but seldom felt that respect as we were also baking goodies for the football players on game days, hanging sparkly signs around the school with their names on them, and shouting “Go, Fight, Win!” from the sidelines.  The five steps backward we took in the women’s lib movement are the parts I’d like to erase from the job we had as cheerleaders.  I hope it’s not still like that today.  And if my girls want to be cheerleaders, I’m going to encourage them to fight the good fight and resist doing all of those things for the boys and instead, once in a while, ask those boys to cheer them on when they get benched during the game.  Instead of shouting to the defense, “Push ’em back, push ’em back, waaaaay back!”  I want those boys shouting to the cheerleaders: the sturdy bases to the high flying stunts and the school’s spirit, “Push ’em up, push ’em up, waaaaay up!”  Ugh, crap, of course that’ll just make them think about boobs again!

(For the record: my mom wanted me to fight the good fight too, but I just loved baking too much!)

Risky Business

On Sunday night, my best friend and I went to see Maroon 5 in concert. She lives in California now and as a birthday present, her husband surprised her by scoring us tickets. We were beyond excited at the prospect of a night out just the two of us while she visits East from West, awesome music, and of course, Adam Levine crooning with his shirt off. Unfortunately, it wasn’t hot enough for him to go topless, but we were satisfied with his white tank top and tatt-ed, chiseled arms displayed on the megatrons in front of our seats. It was a fantastic night!

Of course, one of the not-so-awesome things about going to concerts are the lines for the ladies’ rooms. There is no justice for us, ladies. I don’t know why they can’t build a stadium with twice the number of female pit stops as male. There’s never a line for the guys. Yes, I understand that their process is, well… quicker and washing hands often seems optional, but they never have to wait. So forgive us when we saw a few women start to take over a mens’ room that night and we, fortuitously, joined our sisters in line to stick it to the man. The two male event staffers who were gallantly blocking doors to allow us to use this restroom shall be met with excellent karma for days to come. We assured the young man, who sat on top of a garbage can to block a doorway, that he would be “gettin’ some” from his girlfriend or maybe a random concert goer to repay him for this good deed.

I am pretty sure I was the one who lead our charge to buck authority (or at least common social guidelines) and enter the men’s room, but my bestie turned to me and said, “Are you ok with this?” I said, “Of course, why not?” and she replied, “So I guess it is just with the kids that you get anxious over stuff like this and germs, etc.” I hadn’t really thought about it being so delineated, but it’s true. I used to occasionally throw caution to the wind when I was younger. I look back and think how stupid I was and marvel at how I wasn’t scared of some of the less than bright things I have done. I’ve been cliff jumping (not in an approved spot for such an activity), ice climbing on a glacier that had mysterious and cavernous crevasses, and I used to wait in the Albany bus-stop at 1am for my boyfriend (now husband) to pick me up after taking an 11 hour Greyhound at 18 years old. Dumb, Dumb, and Dumber.

Yes, some of those activities made me nervous, but I don’t remember feeling the same crippling fear that I get when I am watching my girls climb on a jungle gym. Most of my friends who I have talked to about my fear of flying have confessed that since they became mothers, they, too, feel uneasy or anxious on flights. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but that lioness roars in all of us when our little cubs’ safety and security is at stake. I wasn’t as scared when I went into my own surgeries as I was when my girls went into theirs. I’ve been told by many a seasoned mom that once you have kids, you will never sleep the same. This makes me really sad… I LOVE to sleep. I never understood it, but now I do.
I have to remind myself that I did these young, stupid things and I will have to brace myself for my little dare devil telling me that she wants to bungee jump. While I’d like to forbid her from doing these things, it’s a bit hypocritical. If I had had the chance, I kind of think I would have done it, too. There will be a time when they will want to explore and be adventurous. It was once good for my soul, spirit, and self-confidence and perhaps it will be for theirs, too. I just might have to tether myself to them while they’re doing it (and take 3 extra Xanax). And no, this doesn’t mean I’m going to stop freaking out when they’re climbing the jungle gym. I know myself too well.