Monday, May 12th, 2014
In the New York City neighborhood where I live, the streets are busy on the warm spring days just before the first Sunday in May. All stereotypes about rude New Yorkers to the contrary, it is a friendly place and it is common for people to wish one another happy Mother’s Day here. Even complete strangers say it to me, often when my kids are nowhere around.
I like to think I have recovered fairly well from the physical assaults of pregnancy. We are long past the sleepless nights of babyhood in our house and the tricycle is on its way to being a rusty garden ornament. So what is the giveaway? I look down…maybe it is my abs? I like to think not. Perhaps it is something else. My breasts? No, it’s been years since I nursed my babies, although they certainly were perkier before those midnight feelings. Hmmm…perhaps it is something more subtle?
In poker they call it a tell–the little unconscious signs that give you away. When it comes to motherhood I bet I have a thousand tells. Like the dark circles that cropped up below my eyes during the first sleep-deprived flush of new motherhood and never entirely left. Or those little lines that radiate from the outer corner of each eye. They’re called age lines but I know mine are a direct result of sun damage from Saturdays on the soccer field and hours spent squinting by the side of my in-laws’ swimming pool, doing duty as the designated water watcher for my sons and their cousins. Maybe it’s the little grey hairs that I’ve sprouted of late…it is just a coincidence that they came about just as our older son started to text and Snapchat and find his way around both the social and physical world with more freedom? The scruffy nails come from loads (and loads) of laundry–a thousand pairs of pants turned right-side out, pockets emptied.
But it might also be the laugh lines on my cheeks, born of many good times with the kids. Or the soft spots on my cheek, the lucky recipient of literally thousands of goodnight kisses. Or the happiness our boys bring me that radiates however subtle and not just on that rare day when I get breakfast in bed.
I know some women take issue with the rampant tossing about of “Happy Mother’s Day.” It can be a painful holiday, one that is all the more upsetting when a total stranger thinks every passing woman is a parent. So I am careful with my greetings myself, always mindful not to assume. But when another woman–a total stranger–has the sixth sense to read my signals, whatever they may be, I always wish her Happy Mothers Day right back. Anyone who knows how much I relish this little thank you also, I am sure, needs one herself.
Now about those abs…check out this advice about helping get them back in shape post-pregnancy:
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Tuesday, February 11th, 2014
Mia from the Princess Diaries and I have a surprising amount in common. We grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, we went to schools with uniforms, we have high-maintenance hair, and we’re tremendously uncoordinated. I mean really, painfully uncoordinated.
I thought Mia was lucky to only have to tackle gym class. I, on the other hand, was forced to put my lack of skills to the test after school as well, in the form of softball.
I dreaded going on the field every day. I dreaded the missed catches and the embarrassing swings. Therefore, when I read Noah Berlatsky’s Atlantic article “Teaching Kids to Quit,” about letting kids drop after-school activities they didn’t want to do anymore, my initial reaction was, “Yes! Tell parents it’s okay for their children to ditch their unwanted sport/hobby/club.”
According to Berlatsky, parents tend to discourage kids from giving up on things just because they are bored or they don’t like it anymore. This is because our society values and encourages perseverance. However, Berlatsky writes, there are plenty of opportunities for kids to learn about perseverance without forcing them to continue doing something they aren’t enjoying. Everyone’s childhood is hard in some way already, and there is no need to purposely add more difficulty into the mix. I agree that we should make our kids’ lives easier instead of harder. I like the idea of giving children more choices in life and allowing them more freedom. Kids who are feeling overwhelmed by activities – Boy/Girl Scouts and music lessons and dance and lacrosse – should be able to make some choices about what they really want to do, especially as they get older. It breaks my heart to see overly tired kids on their way to school in the morning, and I do think kids need some free time.
However, parents who do let your kids quit when they get bored may not be doing them any favors. Some kids might need more of a push than others to have a well-rounded schedule. If I had been left to my own devices, I would have probably spent way too much time doing a whole lot of nothing, and childhood is prime time to be doing a variety of things during and outside of school. In fact, as an adult, I regret that I didn’t do more as a kid when I had the flexibility in my schedule. As much as I dragged my feet getting to softball practice, I made friends, got some much needed physical activity, and, yes, learned plenty about perseverance throughout the years. Playing a sport was actually a requirement at my school, and, while I wanted to argue my way out of it the same way I avoided taking a mandatory public speaking class, my parents encouraged me to stick it out by taking things one day at a time and focusing on the positives. Even though I didn’t enjoy actually playing softball, I had to admit I liked getting to travel around the Bay Area and having post-game celebratory snacks with friends. I hope that Berlatsky’s article inspires some parents to relax about their children’s extracurricular activities, and that parents of kids who need some encouragement continue to help them pursue activities outside of the classroom.
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Image: Cute young baseball player via Shutterstock
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