Archive for the ‘Family & Friends’ Category

The Present Game – Beautiful Like Me Project

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Today’s question for the Beautiful Like Me project is “what is the best way to build self-esteem.”

Honestly, I think self-esteem isn’t something to be built, but something to be preserved. We come ready made with a strong sense of self. I’m sure of it. My kids are young, 3 and 1 1/2. Both of them love every inch of themselves. Coincidentally, they love every inch of others too. They are able to do what most adults can’t, love and appreciate who they are without needing to diminish what others have. My daughter can tell another girl her hair is pretty without even thinking about her own hair. She can go to another kid’s house or play with another kid’s toys without any thought to how what that kid has compares to what she has. Her eyes and mind digest the world around her with no need to pick it apart and stomp on it or on herself.

It won’t last, I know. Society will make daily attempts to tell my kids how flawed they are, mostly in the hopes they will see the wisdom in opening their wallets and buying their way to a new improved human form. Adults will model for them the tried and true method of making oneself feel better by judging what others have as lacking or less than ideal. The best I can do, in the immediate sense, is make darn sure I’m not one of those adults.

Back to the question for the day, it is important to ask how to build self-esteem since so many of us have had our original infrastructure dismantled. So where do we find the tools and equipment for the rebuild? We could scout out building materials and spend a fortune on supplies and contractors. The handy thing is, in many cases, the boards, bricks and nails we were equipped with originally are still there. They just have to be rediscovered. Time needs to be taken to notice what is great about us again, to celebrate what is fabulous.

Just as my daughter has a good handle on self-esteem, she has also mastered the rediscovery process. She isn’t doing it with her own qualities yet, but with what she has around her. Perhaps we could follow her lead.

She loves to play the ‘present game’. I saved a dark blue velvet box from a gift a few years back. Olivia adores the thing. She frequently stuffs various toys and objects in the box and asks me to open my present. I ooh and ah over the contents. Then it is my turn to find something to hide inside so she has a chance to open a present. She’s always delighted. No matter how many times she’s seen or played with whatever she finds, opening the box and seeing it there is exciting.

Not long ago Olivia had a birthday and was able to open real presents. Interestingly enough, her reaction wasn’t all that different from when she’d been opening a velvet box jammed full of things she already had. Maybe at her tender age Olivia has managed to figure out the best gifts we have are already in our possession. What a blessing if she can find pleasure with what she has versus always wanting more. How thoughtful to take the time to reopen the same old stuff and allow the opportunity to take another look at what makes them so great. It’s so easy to become indifferent over time to the old and crave the new and improved. Perhaps we wouldn’t need so much new in our life if we followed Olivia’s lead and wrapped up the gifts we already have so we can rip them open and rediscover them again. Maybe we could do this with more than material objects. Maybe we could do this with all of the special qualities that make up us and our kids. Maybe we could dedicate time every day to unwrapping the forgotten and cheering with delight. Maybe we could help everyone to realize all that we have and are truly is a gift and that the best part of gifts isn’t the bows or paper that decorates the box, but what lies underneath waiting to be discovered. I know when my daughter is opening presents, the joy and celebration is an impermeable barrier to anything negative. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be so focused on the excitement of our own gifts the messages fall on deaf ears.

Thanks for reading, if you are interested in reading more blogs covering the Beautiful Like Me project, follow the links built into this post to Wicked Step Mom’s site. She is also on my blog roll. The list of participants grows each time. If you’d like to join in the cause, we’d love to have your voice.

Imitation Is The Best Form Of Flattery, But…

Monday, April 20th, 2009

A fellow blogger kicked off an interesting project a few weeks ago. WickedStepMom challenged several in her blogging community to write on assigned topics addressing self-esteem issues in kids. The project is called “Beautiful Like Me” and you can read more about it here. My blog entry “Perfect 10” was my first contribution to her effort. Today’s focus is on what types of things children and teens feel the most pressure to imitate and why.

Most of us have heard imitation is the best form of flattery. It’s what we are told when our feathers are ruffled over someone copying what we feel to be uniquely ours. Though the imitation flatters the one being copied, what does it say about the one doing the imitating? It’s a tricky thing to answer when we are talking about kids. Is the imitation rooted in a lack of understanding their own identity at that point? Is it a way to have fun and explore paths taken by others? Are underlying insecurities coupled with a desperate need to fit in the motivation for imitation? At times I imagine it is a combination of all the above.

When I think back on my childhood, I don’t recall too many incidents where going along with what others were doing was a result of stress or peer pressure. I’ve always acted about 10 years older than my true age. Perhaps that is why it was somehow easy for me to say no thanks to the things others were doing that didn’t appeal to me or seemed to be a poor choice. Yes, I wanted to be wearing some of the same clothes as others. Yes, my vocabulary grew to include words like snap, crunch and totally awesome. Where it mattered, I was able to stay true to the real me. The biggies like drinking alcohol, sneaking out of my parents’ house, lying to my parents, blowing off schoolwork or sleeping around weren’t on the agenda and no amount of eye rolls or verbal jabs were going to change my mind. If others considered me a nerd or a dork, I was confident enough in my decisions not to care. My friends somehow knew where I stood on things like that and didn’t bother to harass me. I was a goody-goody rule follower. Since that had been the case from the beginning, it was simply who my friends knew me to be. No questions asked. No judgments made. In fact, I might go so far as to say it endeared them to me. I was just so “Lisa.”

Looking at my kids, I wonder if they will have the same inner strength to break away from the pack when necessary. Is it genetic or something molded over time? I haven’t a clue. I’m not sure what allowed me to be a kid comfortable in her own shoes. I’d like to think my kids will follow my path and grow to be confident individuals who choose imitation when it suits them and embrace their uniqueness at will. There is no way to see the future, however. Already I see my three year old playing the copycat game. A playmate laughs and she laughs. He runs while barking like a dog and she runs while barking like a dog. It’s fun for her to do and fun for me to watch.

Fast forward 10 years and it will likely be less amusing. I don’t have to have a teenager to notice how much pressure is in their lives when it comes to things like sex, alcohol, smoking and materialism. Adults and peers contribute to the ever growing message you aren’t interesting if you aren’t crossing lines. Your sexuality opens doors. Trinkets and gadgets symbolize how loved you are by your parents. Drinking and smoking shows the world you aren’t a child anymore. To an extent, this has been the message for ages. The message is delivered with greater frequency and power in the age of the internet and cable television. Perhaps what gave me an edge as a kid was the very real fact the time others had to influence me was limited. There were only 4 television stations. Time with friends was confined mostly to school hours. There was simply more time in my day to allow the real me to emerge without having the distractions of what others were doing and saying.

Could it really be that simple? Could it be our kids are imitating others so much because they don’t have enough time to themselves without the influences of the outside world? Are they afforded enough time to find out who they are without being submerged in an ocean of messages, influences and pressures? It’s worth considering. When I’m paying attention, I can tell at the end of the day how my daughter’s time was spent. If she spent most of her time with me, she is a walking, talking, mini-Lisa. If Nickelodeon ruled the roost, she’s the live version of Dora or one of the Backyardigans. The days she is more what I would call “Olivia” are the days when she’s enjoyed creative and quiet playtime on her own terms. Perhaps the commitment I need to make as a parent is to do what I can to make sure a healthy amount of time is carved out of my daughter’s schedule, no matter what her age, that is dedicated to her being her without magazines, television, schoolmates or the internet around. If I can give her a real chance at knowing who she is, she may find it easier to stay true to herself.

In The Box Mindset

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

When I was a manager in Corporate America I frequently told my staff to ‘think out of the box.’ That was where ingenuity could be found. That was where solutions never before imagined would develop. Boy was I wrong. I know that now that I have kids. Nothing turns on my kids’ imaginations more than sitting in empty cardboard boxes while letting their minds take them on incredible adventures. There are no limits to their creativity. In their boxes they are capable of anything. They have superhuman powers and an endless supply of resources to save the day. If I ever return to Corporate America I’m going to have to try the ‘in the box’ approach and see where my staff takes it. If nothing comes from it, it will at least provide an entertaining moment.

What FDR Didn’t Know

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

When FDR uttered those famous inaugural words “we have nothing to fear but fear itself,” he clearly had not experienced a house with two tots and an unaccounted for Crayola crayon.

Comfortable Mattresses

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

I’ve found the solution to an uncomfortable mattress.  If yours is giving you troubles and you are finding it difficult to sleep, I suggest you hire young children to wake up at an early hour.  There’s something to this.  My mattress has never felt as good as it does when I hear my daughter’s first “mommy” of the day.

This Can’t Be Good

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

“Just don’t put me in the cage, mommy.”  That’s my 2 1/2 year old’s newest thing to throw out when I’m disciplining her.  Lovely.  It joins her other favorites of “don’t be mean to me, mommy” and “don’t hit me, mommy.”  For the record, my daughter has never been in a cage and, with the exception of one diaper padded fanny tap, has never been hit.  Where she gets this stuff from is beyond me.  Part of me wants to giggle at her inventive responses to distract me from calling out her bad behavior.  Another part is scared poo-less she’s going to unload one of these babies at the worst possible time.  My memory is still fresh when it comes to our recent visit to the ER for a split lip.  That was before any of these juicy little nuggets were part of her conversation.  It wasn’t hard to conclude the staff there was asking questions to determine if they were dealing with a childhood accident or abuse.  I can’t imagine what would have happened had Olivia remarked about a cage or me hitting her back then.

Knowing whatever she says casually around the house is destined to make a public appearance, I’m torn over how to handle all of this.  Choice ‘A’ is to ignore it and hope it passes without any fallout.  The problem with choice ‘A’ is my luck doesn’t seem to go that way.  Choice ‘B’ is to tell her why it is important not to say things like that.  The problem with choice ‘B’ is it might actually sound worse if her conversation piece morphs into “my mommy told me I shouldn’t tell you I don’t want her to put me in the cage.”  Never mind having the discussion to begin with just brings the fact she’s got me by the toes to her attention.

Sigh.  Why is it I have to put so much cranial effort into figuring out how to counter my daughter’s clever moves when her strategy comes together effortlessly?

And She Wanted Cans?

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

My kids’ Great Grandmother gave them each $5 for Christmas.  My son is too young to know about money and buying things, but my 2 1/2 year old sure was excited at the thought of cash.  Grandma made it clear she wanted Olivia to go to the store and buy a treat with the money.  Olivia and Grandma both have a sweet tooth the size of Mount Rainier and can often be found tucked away in Grandma’s room indulging in naughty num-nums.  I fully expected Olivia to jump at the opportunity to buy junk food.  I was imagining donuts, ice cream, cookies and chocolate as top contenders on her list of possible purchases.

The day before I planned to take her to the store, we went over a list of things she could afford with $5.  Junk food was on the list, as it was in line with Grandma’s plan to spoil her, but my husband and I also worked in practical things like Dora panties, a tooth brush, a coloring book and lotion.  She loves all of the above.  After hearing the list Olivia shocked us both by picking something all on her own, something that hadn’t been on the list of possibilities at all.   Olivia wanted to buy cans.  Cans?  I clarified to be sure I was understanding what she meant.  Yes indeed, she wanted to buy cans and she wanted to be the one to put them in the cart.  “Cans with things for eating, mommy…MMMMMM!”  Oooooooookay.

When we arrived at the store, Olivia was ready with her money.  I had other shopping to do and fully expected her to waffle on what she might want to buy as we worked our way up and down the aisles.  We passed candy, donuts, yogurt smooties…all sorts of yummy stuff.  When we got to the aisle with all of the cans Olivia’s eyes lit up.  She was ready to make her selection.  She was ready to pick out her Christmas present.

Canned vegetables really aren’t our thing, so I steered her towards the fruit.  She looked at the labels and proclaimed peaches the winner.  She was thrilled to realize $5 would buy her more than one.  As I handed her cans to her and she set them beside her in the cart she had an enormous smile on her face.  I did too, for that matter.  My daughter’s maiden voyage on the roller coaster of making good choices with one’s money was a success.  She used her $5 to buy something she needed, something that was good for her and something she liked a lot.

By the time dinner rolled around that evening, Olivia was brimming with anticipation.  “Let’s have a can, mommy.”  Peaches are normally lunch food in our house.  I try to keep sugar at a minimum at night so I don’t have to battle kids bouncing off of the walls at bedtime.  We made an exception, however.  Olivia ate 1/2 a can all by herself and then offered to share with her brother.  He thinks peaches are a gift from the heavens.  Such a good sister.  Such a wonderful present.

I’m proud of my daughter.  Can you tell?

This Will Probably Sound Dumb

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

I’m spitting nails mad right now.  As I toss around words to express my angst, well, it all sounds ridiculously silly.  I’m going to give explaining myself a shot though.  Ready?

My husband cleaned the refrigerator.  Not ‘cleaned’, as in scoured, but rearranged the contents and purged what he felt was no longer needed.  I should appreciate the effort, right?  Grrrr.  It’s so not the case.  He did this after a few jabs over how chaotic it had become and jokes over how his mom could help me straighten it out.  I don’t dispute the refrigerator needed some attention.  After time it becomes a condiment cemetery of sorts.  Mind you, the condiments are mostly there to serve the never ending need for my husband and daughter to goop up their foods.  I’m not the condiment junkie in this house.  That’s another topic, however.  What irks me is my husband’s criticism of the space, which I view as mine, while so much of his world is a tornadic mess.  There is something deeply irritating about having a slob point out areas where I could stand to be more organized or tidy.  This is especially true because so much of my time is spent cleaning up after other people, namely kids and husband.  Yes, it is nice to have someone help with what I consider to be my territory from time to time, but for the love of God, take care of your space first.  If the goal is truly to help me, tackle the chaos that is your own.  Sort through the rubble I am unable to make keep or toss determinations on.

So there it is in a nutshell.  I’m mad because my husband pitched in and helped me today.  I told you it sounded ridiculously silly.  I really would like help with things like cleaning the refrigerator (although actually cleaning it, with a sponge and all, would have been a nice touch).  However, I’d have more time to stay on top of my territories if I weren’t spread so thin with keeping up everyone else’s.

You Shouldn’t Have

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

There is no joy in receiving a gift from someone when you know they can’t afford to give it to you.  I hate how the holidays create this air of obligation between close friends and family members to produce a trinket or coin in order to show love and appreciation.  Times are tough for lots of people and it crushes me some are choosing gift giving over a meal or bills.  How bad does the economy need to get for people to divorce themselves from the retail aspect of holidays and special occasions?


Sunday, December 21st, 2008

I’ve been robbed.  Toys, books and clothes are strewn all over my living room.  The perpetrators left nothing untouched.  Somewhere under all of my kids’ worldly possessions is carpet.  I’ve seen it before, so I know it is there.  Law enforcement won’t have a hard time nabbing the unlawful duo.  Finger prints are smeared everywhere.  Silly robbers were careless enough to adorn their fingers with a cheese substance so their prints stick out like beacons of justice.  Once these two are caught, I’d like to have them investigated for early crimes that remain unsolved.  This wasn’t the first robbery my house has seen.  In the past 2 1/2 years I have been robbed of my heart, sleep, patience, indifference, mental capacity and boredom.  Yep, I’m going to give these burglars a piece of my mind, what’s left of it, and tell them how grateful I am for all they have taken from me and how much fuller I am for it all.