Sunday, August 31, 2014

"Mommy, I want to be a princess." Vomit.

When she was two, she wasn't yet entrenched into the princess world. And I naively thought, "my daughter really does not dig the whole princess thing." And I sighed with relief. Then she turned three. And like flipping on a switch, suddenly, princess world arrived in this house, and we were instantly schooled on Ariel, Rapunzel, Cinderella, Aurora... etc. Then Frozen happened.

I am not a tomboy by any means. I am pretty girly myself, so dresses and pink and tutus and glitter don't bother me. What bothers me is my daughter having a princess as her role model. I have asked adults, men and women, when they hear the word "princess", what comes to mind?


Nobody says "smart" or "capable" or "independent" or "strong." These are the things I want her to be. I also want her to feel beautiful, because every girl wants to feel beautiful. Growing up, I wasn't always beautiful. I had my cute moments and landed quite a good looking husband, but there were years in there that were not good. I've seen pictures. I rocked a fantastic mullet in 2nd grade. Not sure where my mother was going with that one.

However. The one thing I ALWAYS felt and ALWAYS believed about myself was that I was SMART. So now I have a little girl and thankfully, although she loves her princesses, she also loves Doc McStuffins (thank you Disney for that one!) But no matter how hard we push the importance of her intelligence and strength and courage, she comes prancing down the stairs every morning in a dress, does a twirl, and looks up at us with eager eyes, waiting to hear how beautiful she is. And we tell her because -- well, she IS beautiful -- and it makes her happy and feel good about herself. But we also tell her that she is smart and that she can do ANYTHING she wants to do.

So I will give kudos to Disney for its Frozen princesses. (If you are one of the 6 people left in the world who has not seen this movie, the "act of true love" that saves the princess is finally NOT a kiss from a valiant prince. The princess sisters, themselves, are pretty bad-ass tough girls and show their own strength by saving each other.) But, Disney, as a mother of a very impressionable 3-year old little girl, I still think you could have done better. Because guess who my daughter's favorite is? Elsa. And guess what her favorite Elsa scene is? Of course, the "Let It Go" scene where you successfully transformed demure Elsa into sexy hot Elsa. She starts in a conservative, yet beautiful dress and ends the song thrusting her hips from side to side with a slit almost up to her hoo-ha. Because that's what girls living alone in ice castles wear, apparently.

So here I am, fighting the good fight -- trying to instill confidence and self-worth into my little girl. She is amazing. She is brilliant and articulate and opinionated and holds her own quite well against two brothers. But she is a princess through and through. Who will she be for Halloween? Not Elsa with the hip-thrusting, you can be damn sure of that.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Packing the lunchbox

On the eve of my first born baby boy starting kindergarten...

This day seemed light years away for so long, and now it is here. The emotional roller coaster has had me on a high: my little boy is confident, ready, brilliantly inquisitive, and just a fun kid to hang out with. And a low: But he's my baby boy. And the world is taking him away from me. Tonight, as I navigate through the fog of nervousness, sadness, and joy, at a mere 10 hours away from kissing him goodbye at the kindergarten door, I am reminded of a night 14 years ago.

It was early October and I was 20 years old. I was leaving the following morning for a year abroad to study in England. I had never been out of the country before; this was the first time I had held a passport. I had never gone more than a few weeks without seeing my parents, having attended college only 90 minutes from home. But the following day I was getting on a plane, all by myself, and flying to Europe. I am reminded of this night because I clearly remember my mother packing my suitcases for me. Here I was, a junior in college, heading off to live in another country for 10 months, and my mom was packing my bags. But somehow it was right. I know now, why she did it. Why she needed to do it. I was thinking of this tonight, as I packed my little man's lunchbox and made sure his backpack was all set and ready to go. I had originally thought, "Okay, Mommy. Let's start on the right foot with responsibility! He should take care of his own things and help pack his own lunch!" But for some reason (I know the reason) I waited until he was asleep and I did it all for him. Because I am Mommy and I am having a hard time letting go. And whatever I need to do to hold on a little bit longer, well damn-it, I am going to.

I think about my mom that night in October. Her baby girl (all grown up, but still a kid at the same time) was leaving on a plane the next day without her. For the next year, that mother was not going to be able to run some chicken soup up to her daughter when she was sick. Or bring her home for the weekend for a properly cooked meal and some laundry assistance. Or just see her in person, and give her a hug, to make sure she was ok. Phone calls and emails were going to have to do for a long time. And I think that packing her daughter's bags let her be Mommy one more time before saying goodbye.

I am only in phase 1 of letting go: first kid off to kindergarten. (2 more to go.) I am so full of pride for my son and I know that it is time and that he is ready. One hand wants to hold on tight for just a little bit longer and the other wants to nudge him along and send him to fly. As I get my first glimpse into this heart-wrenching piece of motherhood, tonight, I say to my mom: Thank you for packing my suitcase. And thank you for letting me go.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The F-Word

If anything will break you of your type-A perfectionism control freak issues, it is parenthood. Because, inevitably, something will not go your way, or *gasp!* you will fail at something. For example, we are a bunch of annoying over-achievers in this household. My eldest son was reading at 2 1/2. TWO AND A HALF. My daughter is incredibly articulate and uses words like "improvise" and "sarcastic" properly in sentences. And what we aren't quite as good at, we work our tails off and we get better.

But then there is potty-training. And we SUCK at this. All of us. Me, them. Them, me. My first born took a year and a half to get there. Lots of failures all around. (And lots of drowning my tears in wine at night). I assumed that part of the problem was me starting too early with him. My daughter, however, was a completely different child: very focused, not easily distracted, mature. So I foolishly also started training her at 2 1/2. That was well over a year ago. And guess what? Mommy's a-drinkin'. My child still needs to change her underpants several times a day. She turned 3 1/2 two months ago. She is going to preschool in one month.

Mommy fail. TWICE.

Mommy DOES NOT FAIL. This has been a tremendous source of frustration, despair, and disappointment for me. We are the Johnsons! We kick ass at stuff! We do not accept failure well. We don't get sent home by the preschool in wet clothes because we "aren't quite ready." But here we are, pulling up the rear on the potty-training wagon. Again.

And trust me, I am not trying some new fangled potty-training method written by monks or something. I am using the same old, regular methods everyone else uses. I actually had a dad say to me recently (as I was lamenting my failures to his wife), "You know, we had to teach our kids how to do it. We had to put them on the potty so they learned." I almost punched him in the face. Are you kidding me?! Do you not think I tried that? A YEAR AGO??!!

And I still have kid #3 to train. However, I plan on having him skip preschool and get trained at 4 1/2 so he's ready for kindergarten.