Because (Truth is Unchanged)

I'm starting to think I need to make digging through the blog archives a regular exercise. Each post is a verbal snapshot showing exactly where I was on the day it was published. I find myself getting lost as I find myself, but not in a bad way. It's more like opening a family photo album and looking up hours later only to realize the day has already flown by. Old family pictures tend to do that.I'm a writer. I paint pictures with words. I'm sharing an old one here from April of 2011. It's amazing how much has changed just as it has stayed the same...

  This is what happens when your little sister's birthday is December 23 and yours is December 26.

 This is what happens when your little sister's birthday is December 23 and yours is December 26.

Because I remember hiding in the pantry as a child to eat my feelings, I tell my daughter every day how much I love her.

Because my father died when I was 29, I finally understood my mother’s loss of both of her parents at the age of 19.

Because my family broke when we buried my father, I came to appreciate those connections that remain for the precious gifts they truly are.

Because I hated the girl/teenager/woman looking back at me from the other side of the mirror until recently, I tell my daughter she is healthy and strong before I tell her she is beautiful.

Because I grew up knowing I was the reason my parent’s got married, I didn’t have my first kiss until I was 15.

Because every time I thought He’s The One I was wrong, I said “I do” to the right man.

Because I was ashamed of my kinky curls, I silence my first thoughts and simply respond with a “thank you, baby,” every time my daughter tells me my hair is pretty.

Because I was left standing on my front porch waiting for my friends to pick me up for senior homecoming, I learned the importance of holding my head high.

Because I once wanted to die, I am grateful to live.

Because I still have dreams to make a reality, I wake up with a reason to try harder.

Because of yesterday, I have today.

Remembering When: A New Day

This post was originally published on Janyary 17, 2013. Two years later and I'm still working on my new beginning. And I'm okay with this because it means I haven't stopped trying.  

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A strange thing happened today. I didn’t notice it right away, of course. There was no dramatic realization. No being struck by a figurative lightning bolt. It was more like the rising of the sun…

Slow. Steady. And something that, when you stop to think about it, shouldn’t really come as a surprise.

Sleep has been fitful and restless and mostly non-existent. I was lucky to wake up in time to get Buttercup to her morning pre-ballet/tap class. I didn’t bother bringing a book to read. She upgraded me, you see. A few weeks ago, when she first started, I was timidly asked to remain downstairs in the waiting room while she danced. I’m embarrassed, Mama. Instead of allowing herself to fully relax and enjoy herself with her fellow dancers, I think she had been too focused on my opinion of her performance.

So I waited. And eventually, she asked me to leave my book at home.

I sat in the dance studio with the other mothers while the dancers sues-sused and tapped their happy little hearts out. We smiled and laughed as our daughters delighted in the movement their bodies allow and reveled in their own conspiratorial giggles. We clapped, as a proper audience should at the end of a worthy performance, when the teacher announced the end of the class. Then we helped our happy girls change out of their dance attire and into their street clothes and made our way across the studio to go on with the rest of our days.

That’s when I saw my reflection in the studio mirror. I barely registered what I was looking at….there were too many things to do and think about to concentrate on the size of my ass or what my hips looked like. Hear that? Taking the time to criticize myself would have been a luxury. Buttercup was asking questions and we needed to go to Target and The Husband needed me to pick up a few things at the grocery store before we headed back home and I was trying to remember what they were and…hell. If I don’t have time to read a book or watch trashy T.V. or sleep, do I really have the time to stand in front of a mirror and pick myself apart?

And more importantly, is that how I want to spend the few precious moments I do find for myself? Self-criticism and self-directed body hatred as LUXURY like fine velvets and expensive champagnes and rare jewels and days like tomorrow when I can stay home all day in my pajamas and don’t have to bother with a bra?

I met my own eyes in the mirror once more before leaving the studio and that’s when I saw myself through the light of the new day and realized I had sat in front of a mirror for an hour and only concentrated on my daughter, her happiness, and how I hope she grows up stronger than me.

The woman looking back at me in the mirror was smiling now. Maybe because she realized feelings weigh so much less when shared with others who understand.

Am I fixed yet? No. But it’s a new day.

And that’s a start.

 

That Time I Compared Santa to Chocolate

  Photo by Pauline Campos

My sink is full of dirty dishes. The house is not Santa Spotless as is my usual. I have tons of gifts still to send out and even more missing from under my tree. I lost our magic Santa key so I told the child I texted Santa the code to the lockbox we save for dog sitter. I didn't bake one christmas cookie. I only sent out 15 christmas cards. My usual is 50. It's hard work dragging your ass out of bed when there's no other place you'd rather be, what with missing friends and autoimmune hell running the show.( I got an answer, by the way: psoriasis. The rest of that story will have to wait for another post another day.) But it's work that must be done when you're not the star of a one woman show. And my costars demand Christmas cheer and holiday magic. This is good, because I am doing Christmas even though I'd rather be binge watching bad movies and eating too much ice cream. Pretty sure that depressive, self-indulgent luxury is one every person who agrees to cohabitation loses as soon as Yours  becomes Ours. I'm even telling myself the cluttered mess of a house and the dirty dishes are progress because Instead of staying up until 4 am to scrub the house clean just so I could say I did,  I'm leaving them as they are.

Photo by Pauline Campos

My plans include wrapping a forgotten gift, writing a tiny goodbye note from her Christmas elf in sparkly gel pen in teeny tiny writing, and climbing into bed with The Husband and the child who was too excited to sleep, because Obviously Mom, Who Can Sleep On A Night Like This? She can, Obviously and Thankyouverymuch, tucked up between heartbeats that sandwich her own. Its the only sound loud enough, I think, to soothe her into an instant dream.

Photo by Pauline Campos

The dishes can wait. I've got sleepy hugs waiting. This is progress. Santa, like chocolate, understands.

Catching in the Rye (in Spanglish)

If The Catcher in the Rye had a sequel based on a Spanglish-speaking Mexican-American homeschooling, allergic to everything, eating-disordered writer mama of one, I’d be a happy girl. Because then, at least, I could just hand people a copy of the book when they ask how I’m doing.

‘Fine?” That’s usually a lie.

“My cat just got ran over, thanks for asking,” could possibly be the truth, but when people ask other people how they are doing, no one really expects an honest answer if honesty means replying with anything other than “fine.” Except  I don’t have a cat. I do have three dogs, though. And a kid. And two websites and an agent and a manuscript sitting in a file because I don’t have a platform big enough to stand on and wonder if I ever will.

This isn’t a Poor Me post. Don’t get your violins out, folks. This is a Truth post; one in which I step out behind the bullshit and tell you that fine is a lie and that I miss my nonexistent cat because I am, in short, a fraud. Not the Push Up Bra and Spanx Coming Off On the Third Date kind of fraud, mind you, but the Holden Caulfield kind in which I find myself standing in the middle of the high school cafeteria, holding my lunch tray, not sure where to sit because I have no idea where I really belong.

I preach body pride and self-acceptance because for some of us, we can't do the work required to care for ourselves if we don't value ourselves. I encourage you to find your inner chingona, redefine your path on your own terms and to celebrate the hell out of her because no one else is going to do it for you. I say thing like Love Yourself As You Are NOW and Our Daughters are Counting on Us to Get (and Keep) Our Shit Together (And I mean them...for you). I want to mean them for me, too, and I figured that if I shouted it long enough and often enough from my soapbox that I’d start to buy my own bullshit, but that hasn’t happened yet.

That, my friends, pisses me off.

I want to connect and inspire and feel validated for what I say and what I do and what I am hoping to become and I see so many others doing exactly that while I sit back and cheer them on, not sure what I’m doing wrong to keep missing the boat or if the boat’s going to bother coming back to the dock again to give me another chance. I want to speak to women on the same journey and let them know it’s okay to be where we are right now as long as we keep trying because that’s what matters. I want to organize inspiring workshops and a regular conference for women to focus on fixing the mess inside of our own heads because our kids aren’t going to believe in their own self worth if they constantly see us tear ourselves down.

It’s the old airplane analogy: No point in passing out from oxygen deprivation while trying to get our kid’s mask on first if the cabin depressurizes. The only way we can truly be effective role models is if we fight every maternal instinct and put ourselves first for fucking once. Once our heads are clearing from the oxygen-deprived fog can we be there to ensure our children are breathing, safe, and secure in the knowledge that Mommy has her shit together. And this Mommy is busy focusing on raising a future self-respecting bitch who (I hope I hope I hope) will never second guess putting her happiness before society's complex.

Maybe, I think, the boat is on to me. The boat knows I’m a fraud and frauds are not allowed on board. Only passengers who are truly at ease in their own skin who don’t look for and rely on approval and validation outside of themselves are allowed on this boat. I’m not there yet. I used to be. I will be again. But right here, right now, I’m a self-destructive mess who’s best bet it is to just let it all hang out because it’s the truth and it needs to be said.

I don’t have The Answers. I’m not standing at the Finish Line waving the Official Flag of Self-Acceptance because I haven’t run my own race yet. What I do have is a burning desire to share the crazy idea that it’s okay to be a fucking mess. It’s okay to have bad days and worse days and throw a party on the good days because they are so very worthy of celebrating. It’s okay to not love yourself (but want to) yet and it’s okay to talk about the bad in public because if we don’t then no one else will and the world will just continue to assume that “Fine” is the only acceptable answer to be given when they ask how we’re doing and that’s really just a giant disservice for those of us who need to know it’s okay to celebrate The Journey because The Destination is just a little too far away right now.

I’m not fine. In fact, I’m a royal fucking mess. My ADHD and anxiety are triggering my seven-year-old’s anxiety into fodder for her therapy appointments which happens to fall under the Mexicans Don’t Talk About That Sort of Thing category because it’s uncomfortable and much easier to sweep under the rug with the rest of our emotional baggage (like  the whispers about how pregnant the bride really was at the last wedding we went to while we collectively pretended to believe she wasn’t because it matters even though it really shouldn’t). It’s why I told The Husband I wanted yellow gold when he asked what kind of ring I would like when he was fishing for engagement ring hints because that’s what my family wore. It took me ten years to admit I hated yellow gold and really wanted platinum because that shit doesn’t work for me anymore, either.

Away with the rug. Let the dirt fly. And when the dust settles, I’ll still be standing here holding my lunch tray because I’m not sure where to sit because no matter where I choose, I feel like everyone else will judge me for my choice even though none of that should matter. But it does.

And I hate that.

I most decidedly do NOT have my shit together. You need to know that. It’s okay to be a royal fucking mess. You need to know that, too.  I miss my imaginary cat and I have very real cellulite and I have a sweet tooth and a closet eating habit. I don't sleep enough and I am never on time unless a deadline and a paycheck is involved (or someone else is driving the bus.) My yoga mat is my zen place and I'm working my way back to being brave enough to step into the raging quiet inside my head (I'm almost there). I make sad things funny and funny things funnier because that’s how I deal.

I'm almost 37 years old and sans The Husband and the child, the words you see and the words you hear could be the same words I wrote when I was seven, 17, and 27.

All of this is today’s truth.

Now tell me…

How are you doing?

Raising a Chingona: Her voice (& Why it Matters)

Photo credit: Pauline Campos This girl.

She drives me insane.

Pushes every button.

Tries to work every angle.

Won't take no for an answer.

She's gonna be one hell of a #chingona one day.

But right now, my job is remind her daily that mama makes the rules and her job is to follow them. She can keep pushing. I don't want her to ever stop because that's the signal she's stopped believing in the power of her voice.

The goal is this -- and I tell her this often -- you can ask me why, but not until after you've done as you have been told. That shows respect and tells me you're still as smart as you think you are. Ask my why before and you're telling me that you're weighing you're options; trying to decide if not obeying is worth the consequence.

Mama's not playing that game.

And she gets it.

I know this because tomorrow, we will have this conversation again.

I look forward to it.

 

Update on the #ChingonaFest Project podcast: We're now shooting for early next week for the official launch of the first episode. Probably Monday or Tuesday. Until then, stay strong, my friends.

Launch Time: #ChingonaFest Project

My BFF Heather always says I am best when speaking only if I haven't rehearsed. Apparently, planning I guess, is just a reason for me to self-censor, and that jut takes away all the good parts, so I try to do that as little as possible. So here's the plan for the Big Thing I've been dreaming up for a few years now:

- Weekly #ChingonaFest Project Google Hangouts at 2 p.m. EST on Sundays

- Weekly podcast stemming from the original G+ show

- Conquer the world, preferably by next Monday.

 

 

 

#Chingonafest Fridays: Pauline Campos

Welcome to WEEK 10 of #ChingonaFest Fridays on Aspiring Mama!

 

 If you’re new to the blog, here’s the link to the my Latina Dimelo column that sparked the conversation that’s still going strong. The premise is this: I want to raise my daughter to be a Chingona — on purposeLas Tias and cultural backlash be damned. If you like the column, I’d love for you to share with your social media circles, leave a comment on the link, or whip up a happy lil’ Letter to the Editor telling them how you feel and send it off to Editor@Latina.com. You may not think that kind of thing makes a difference, but trust me when I tell you it does.

 

Have you checked out my past #ChingonaFest ladies? Juliana Maulanda and Lisann Valentin were two of the most recently featured wonder women. Each week, I’m featuring one fabulous Latina who’s moving mountains and raising hell because their stories are worth telling. Twenty questions will be presented to each and 15 will be answered and presented here to you in a Q&A format, like the fancy features in magazines, only with more typos and less airbrushing. 

 

Today’s featured Chingona is ....me.

 

Yes, I realize this smacks of All Things Self-Centered and Self-Serving, but if I tell you that it's my kid's birthday week and that her party was today and I decided to say Sure, Princess! when she asked for homemade coloring books as her party favor, and that The Husband and I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning manning the two-person hole-punch & ribbon line while the cupcakes cooled enough to frost, you'll understand the reasoning behind turning this week's Chingonafest into a dual anniversary celebration for my role as Latina Magazine's #Dimelo advice columnist. You'll also pretend to not notice I'm posting a regular Friday feature on a Saturday night because, yaknow, Motherhood.  It's either now or never, which is also why I'm mentioning the Speaking at BlogHer '14 Thing for the first time on the blog. It's time-management at it's finest.

 

My mad self-promotional skillz are mind-boggling, I know.

 

Don't feel bad if you didn't buy me a present. I didn't even know I missed it until LinkedIn started sending me congratulatory notifications from friends with better observational skills than my own. I probably owe myself flowers.

 

After I put out, that is. For now, though, let's get to that Talking to Myself thing.

 

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Is a caption really necessary?

Pauline Campos: Chocolate or vanilla?

Aspiring Mama: Chocolate if it's a shake. Vanilla if it's ice-cream.

PC: Neurotic much? Wait, don't answer that. Describe yourself in third person instead.

AM: Pauline Campos is neurotic, has a weird thing with ice-cream, including the need to chew it even if it's plain vanilla, and thoroughly enjoys arguing with her DNA over her love of snow-shoeing. She's also the founder of #chingonafest and ha that column where she tells people what to do on life, sex, and cultural drama topics. to Oh, and her favorite days are the ones where she gets paid to give solicited advice from the comforts of her couch without ever having put a bra on.

PC: Weirdest. Mexican. Ever. It's like Freaky Friday but with better dialogue. You do realize there's a poor Swedish guy somewhere trying to figure out why he felt smug about knowing who Ricky Martin was before General Hospital served as his crossover to mainstream, right? No, don't answer that one, either. Do you dream in color or black and white?

 

AM: Color. I don't remember most of them, but when I do, it's all kinds of High-Def in there. Also? Re-read your last question to me. Now who's the neurotic one? *blinks* Wait, never mind.

 

PC: You see my dilemma, then. Carrying on...Do you feel Latina enough"?

AM: I'm allergic to eggs, dairy, corn, yeast, gluten, and a bunch of other crazy stuff. What do Mexicans eat for breakfast? Whatever we had for dinner last night scrambled with eggs, wrapped in a corn tortilla, and washed down with Cafe con (a fucking-lot of) Leche. This makes me allergic to my childhood and probably the world's worst Mexican.

Of course I feel Latina enough.

PC: Let's play word association. I say CHINGONA and you say...?

AM: FEST!

PC: Do you consider yourself a feminist?

AM: Only if I don't have to burn my bra. Triple D's take precedence over social and political ideals.

PC: I'll second that. Do you think in English, Spanish, or Spanglish?

AM: I'm English-dominant now, but as a kid I know I wasn't aware of when I switched between languages. Now? I'm so concerned I'll pronounce something wrong in Spanish while sober that I think I'd benefit from an AA meeting and a sponsor prior to any events where my Spanish-speaking skills are a requirement. Also? Spanglish is my national language.

PC: Do you chew your ice cream? (Or is that just a Me thing?)

AM: Seriously?

PC: Okay then. Moving on. Favorite book and why...

AM: Right now it's Rick Najera's Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood. It's so much more than an exploration of Latinos and how we are represented in the media. I've been recommending it to writing friends of all backgrounds...because it pertains, dammit. And no, I wasn't paid to say that.

PC: You don't get paid for a lot of shit on this blog. But following up to your last answer, how do you feel about Latinas and how we are represented in the media?

AM: It's equal parts a bullshit and wake-up call. I grew up watching telenovelas at my tias house and all the rich and beautiful were portrayed by the blonde and blue-eyed. If you looked like me, you were the help or the poor villager. While that needs to change -- because it's still an issue -- we can't bitch if we think our job is done simply because we complained.

PC: Opinion much? Who inspires you?

AM: Anybody who has the courage to say what they think and stand up for themselves and what they believe in.

PC: Who is it you hope to inspire?

AM: My daughter, Eliana, is my number one. Right now, she is everything I wish I was growing up; feisty, independent, strong-willed, and confident as hell. Everything I say and do comes from that place where motherhood takes us and the realization that my todays are building the foundation for her tomorrows.

PC: You have the chance to eat dinner and drink wine with one person, living or dead. Who is it, what do you eat, what kind of wine, AND WHY THAT PARTICULAR PERSON?

 

AM: My dad, I don't care, I'm allergic, and because I miss him.

 

PC: One childhood memory that has stuck with you...

 

AM: My mom and me sitting on the front porch in the middle of the night during sticky summers without central air. We'd tiptoe outside and talk for hours, ignoring the mosquito bites, while the house slept. I can't tell you one thing we talked about, but I'll always remember the laughter.

 

PC: Quick! One takeaway you want your children to hold onto after they've grown and flown the nest...

 

AM: That it's always perfectly acceptable to leave the house in red cowboy boots, a blue tutu, and a super-hero cape, public opinion be damned.

 

 

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And there ya have it. To nominate a Latina for a future #ChingonaFest Friday feature, email me at aspiringmama@gmail.com or tweet me with the hashtag #ChingonaFest. And don’t forget to check out my latest Dimelo Advice column on Latina Magazine. A non-Latina wants to know how to navigate cultural differences with her employees.

Oh! And be sure to send me your questions to dimelo@latina.com.

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Check out my Zazzle Shop for Sassy #ChingonaFest gear! More designs and products coming soon!

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Top of Form

La Chingona: Defined

The Chingona -- Defined

This is what happens when one of Mama's friends falls in love with the girl: a Wonder Woman swimsuit and caped socks.

As a first generation Mexican-American, I was raised to keep my thoughts to myself and put the feelings of La Familia over my own. Considering the emotional baggage I've been packing since childhood, I'd say that line of thinking didn't turn out so well.

I'm a mother now and my daughter is feisty and brilliant and wonderful. I want to raise her to be a Chingona -- the Mexican slang term for "bad ass bitch". It's a word steeped in history and controversy, but it's a word I've come to embrace. I want my daughter to grow up to be the kind of woman who respects herself and others, stands up for her ideals, and celebrates all that she is without feeling the need to apologize for it. Put in plain English, my end goal is for my girl to grow up to be the kind of woman the word  "bitch" is used as a compliment to describe. A real chingona.

 I want her to know she has a voice now and that what she says today matters so that tomorrow she won't think to look for validation outside of herself. I want her to feel and recognize her own value because it took me far too long to realize there are certain things we can only find within ourselves. I want for her to understand that the village is probably doing something wrong, even with her best intentions guiding our every choice. And I want her to know she can speak her mind, even if what she has to say goes against the culturally accepted norm.

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Maybe my family is weird, but my granddather called us his chingonas the same way most people call their kids sweetheart. Or maybe he called us his cabronas. Right now, I've got both stuck in my had because they are so darned interchangable. Either way, chingona is a controversial Mexican slang term that means "badass chick."

Well, to me, at least.

The term can have more negative connotations (author Sandra Cisneros for one made a case for women embracing it in HBO’s Latino List); I look at it from the standpoint of the word bitch: you either are offended to be called one or strive to be one.

My goal is to raise m'ija to be the kind of hell-raiser that radiates sass, self-confidence, independence, and doesn't take shit from anybody...but in a respectful way. I want to raise a hell-raiser who is respectful of herself and others, yet stands up for herself and what matters no matter what anyone else thinks. Some would call her a chingona and if I raised her right, the future Eli's gonna smile when they do. I might just have to print out this blog post from my friend Deb for a visual reminder.

Of course, this line of thinking is not just meant to empower mothers of daughters. Hell, you don't have to be a mom to get in on this party, either. If you've got sons, you're raising the boys who will become the men who will love the women our daughters will become. Teach them and guide them on their path and show them why there's nothing better than a relationship in which both parties are equal partners.

No kids? No problem. You are an aunt, a prima, a friend, teacher, a sister. You are an inspiration and the motivation to work harder and do better and never give up. The next generation is looking to you just as they are looking to the rest of us. That makes you part of my village.

Join me tonight for my weekly #Chingonafest twitter party! We will be discussing ways to better ourselves and the kind of examples we can provide for the next generation. I'll have a few surprises to give out to random winners, so make make sure you let me know you're there! Raise your voices, ladies. It's time to let the world know we are here.

 

The Luck O' the Mirish

Mirish is A Thing. The quick history lesson is that many Irish fought for the Mexican army during the Mexican-American War in the mid 1840's. The result is is blending of cultures that doesn't get a lot of air time in history classes. The Husband is the son of a Mexican-born father and a Canadian-born mother of Irish decent. That makes him Mirish, according to the (also Mirish) cousins who've married into the family. I'm willing to bet, however, that he's the only one who went out and bought an authentic kilt at a Renaissance fair a few years back (and has actually worn it.)

Back in 2012 -- when we lived in the desert, The Husband and I packed up the kid and drove the two hours to the closest Ren Fest for our fix. Before moving from Michigan, you see, we were festival regulars with the whole costumes pieced together because it was our thing. We both loved it. We couldn't go as often in Tucson with two hours being a slight headache, but we dived in with our usual geek-couple gusto and left with a kilt for him...and one for little Eliana. Of course, I made him put it on (he added his Ren Fest boots because they kick-ass) because there was most definitely going to be a blog post. I just needed a picture first.

That's when I caught the first moment. Eliana stood next to her Daddy and just as she looked up with those adoring eyes of hers, I clicked. I melted.

Fast forward to today's St. Patrick's Day, 2014. Eliana and I went holiday-themed-craft-crazy and watched too many Irish step dancing videos on YouTube. It was a blast. But nothing tops the moment her daddy walked in the door after his work day.

"DADDYYOUREHOME!? she screamed. NOWGETYOURKILTANDWHERESMINESOWECANGETREADYFORSAINTPATRICKSDAY" 

The Husband stopped dead in his tracks and glared at me because I'm the one with the blog. I just shrugged. I had nothing to do with this, I told him. You're the one who reminded her I've got a kilt, he said back. That was last week," I said, smiling.

Not my fault the child has the memory of an elephant. I got the iPhone ready for a few pictures because I couldn't have planned it better myself (and I wasn't about to miss photo and internet documentation). Whether or not I looked guilty was totally beside the point.

After changing into the kilt, The Husband walked into the living room in his socks, thinking he was off the hook with no more being asked of him. He got the idea when Eliana ran into our room and came back out with a pair of his black cowboy boots. He put them on as she beamed. Now, she told him, they had matching kilts and were both wearing fancy boots. She tried talking him into a pair of leggings he doesn't own so they could super match, but he managed to convince her that he was totally okay with his socks poking out the top of the boots. No matter how badly either one of us accidentally fucks up this parenting thing, she can never claim her daddy didn't love her enough.

The Husband is a smart man. Without having to tell him, he knew exactly what I wanted before I said anything. We chose a spot, they stood up against the wall, and I clicked away, knowing I was going to throw away 14 of the 15 shots I had just taken. Or maybe 20 of the 21. I still didn't have the one I needed.

Without much direction from me, he assumed his usual stance and guided Eliana into place. Turn her head a bit...look up at me...put your hands on my waist...

She did as she was asked because the child has grown up with a smartphone camera in her face and complying just makes life easier.  I held my breath until I saw it.

Not yet. Cute, but no. Almost...

WAIT!

Right...there.

Two years in between. And my heart melted all over again.

 

Oversexualization & Our Daughters: Refusing to Feed the Demand

What do you see here? I'd love to know, because I see a problem.

This rather adorable outfit is from Jelly the Pug and, last week, was available on Zulily. I'm fine with the outfit. It's cute and perfectly age-appropriate, so don't think I fell off the deep end. It's the decidedly "adult" pose that prompted me to pull out the soapbox, y'all. This one, and the images like it, caught my attention and suddenly, the word "oversecualization" begin chanting itself in a loop inside my head.

When I images like this one, I see little girls and headlines about the dangers of over-sexualization and body image issues and

eating disorders and, sadly enough, I see complacency. We can't be shocked if we expect it now, can we?

When Suri Cruise stepped out in high heels for the first time in 2009, the world brought out the voice of judgement. And we judged. We are so very good at that, aren't we? (Don't try to argue with me on this one because I'm sure the 7,200,000 results that popped up for Katie judged Suri in heels" will prove otherwise). In fact, I'm judging right now.

Not surprisingly, sales for high heels for little girls jumped and designers scrambled to provide more for the masses. A quick search shows this pair by Michael Kors.

 

The black pumps and that teeny tiny heel make me nervous just thinking about my daughter breaking an ankle while trying to walk in them. But when compared to the snazzy little number available recently on Zulily, the first shoe is downright tame.

I should point out that I'm not out to vilify Zulily -- or any other singular source -- for promoting the sexualization of young children, but I am now wondering if I should allow my 6-year-old to browse the site with me. She's more apt to wear clothing she helps to pick out, but I don't feel like having to explain why there is no way in hell I'm ordering her a pair of hot pink stilettos that look like they belong to a very tiny stripper No offense to the stripper, mind you. Maybe I can't stop the world from playing strip-tease with our kids, but I can limit what my own daughter is exposed to.

I realize there are people who will think I'm overreacting. That my daughter will "see it anyway" on television or in movies or in magazines and I'm wasting my time trying to shield her from all I think she doesn't need to see right now. They will say it's not that big a deal and that little girls just want to dress like their moms and gush about how cute their kids look strutting their stuff in hot pink stilettos and say I'm too strict and need to lighten up. They will tell me that they may have had their own misgivings about buying their 8-year-old that string bikini for the neighbor's pool party because all the other girls have them and not wanting them to feel left out, so they did it anyway.

I also am aware that the constant finger pointing is how we deal as a society instead of taking a moment to consider our own responsibility when controversies become headlines and we see our daughters adopting our body image issues as their own. We would rather blame Hollywood, the magazines with emaciated and photo-shopped models,  the fancy designers who tell us why Unrealistic Ideals are the new black, and the retailers for providing us with yet another choice we are aware we would have been better off without then admit we contributed to the demand for the supply.

All of this is okay with me. You will either agree with me or feel sorry for my kid. This is entirely your prerogative. You can buy the take your preschooler to see The 300 at the movie theater and tell them to just shut up when they ask you why that lady has her boobies out and that man just got his head chopped off loud enough for the rest of us to hear. This is your right and I'm not going to tell you how to parent your children. I am, however, going to do what I feel is right for my own daughter and her well-being.

I'm going to continue to say no. Whether or not retailers like Zulily or designers like Michael Kors bother to take responsibility for their part in the oversexualization of our little girls, I still have that power. The rest of her friends can jump off that bridge my own mother always talked about while mine has the biggest I Hate You Mom! meltdown known to man. She can tell me that I am ruining her life and all her friends get to do wear bikinis and listen to Justin Bieber and don't have to wait for their parents to pre-screen movies before they can watch them, and I will wait for her to stop screaming at me before I tell her the answer is still no because I can't undo today when tomorrow gets here. The damage would already be done.

This is not an exaggeration. In 2007, the American Psychological Association's Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls released a report suggesting that young girls are are affected in many areas of development as a result.

 

Sexualization has a broad array of devastating effects on youth, both male and female, and ramifications that extend throughout our society. Exposure to sexual images of girls has been linked to multiple mental health problems including girls’ low self-esteem, symptoms of depression, and eating disorders. Sexualization is also linked to girls’ increasing engagement in risky sexual behavior such as having unprotected sex and using drugs and alcohol, which impairs decision-making (APA, 2007).

 

This is what Suri Cruise in her high heels and shows like Toddlers & Tiaras and sexily-posed little girls modeling clothes for little girls have done (and continue to do) to us and our children. What we say to them - and what we let them see onscreen - will stay with them. Do we want that? Are we happy where we are?

I have already spoken with quite a few mothers who had the same knee-jerk reaction to the too-sexy child models as I did. I know you aren't happy with any of this. Maybe we make noise and spark a discussion or three. The important thing is that we show our daughters that we are here when they need us and again when they don't.  And that's a start.

Waffles for Breakfast

It’s impossible to always put yourself first…

but poisonous to always put yourself last.

Those words are by my friend, Jenni Chiu. I found them tonight and I'm sharing them with you now, partly because they need to be shared.

Mostly because I needed the reminder myself.

I'm in a weird place right now. I'm not even sure of the words to use to describe it, which doesn't happen very often. All I know is I keep hoping that tomorrow the veil I can't shake will have lifted. I want to see the sun again and feel it on my face.

I want to stop being the reason The Husband worries.

I want to stop being tired all the time and remember what it feels like to revel in my once-regular workout routine because I know it makes me feel good.

What I don't want is for Christmas to be a giant farce wrapped in pretty paper, because right now, that's what it's turning out to be. The Christmas cards went out. The gifts are under the tree. Santa's ready. I know Christmas morning will be magical for her. Her magic is my own.  But I want my own groove back.

When I wake up to find my daughter quietly playing in her room, her breakfast dishes in the sink, and the opened cereal box on the kitchen counter because she knows Mama needed sleep, I vow to sleep like normal people do and wake (like normal people do) with (or even before) my child. I'll start tomorrow. Then I'll start the next day. And then it's 3:30 a.m. and I've accomplished nothing. I climb into bed, drawing myself close to the warmth of my husband's body, and fall asleep before I can worry about everything I still have left to do.

She asked for waffles the other day. I made them for lunch. But I know it's not the same.

I'm going to be 36 soon. The new year is almost upon us. There's a promise in every tomorrow. I know all of these things. I just don't feel them right now. Maybe it's something in the water. Or maybe I'm seeing so many friends writing about how they are pulling themselves through this holiday season just barely because so many of my friends are writers now and this is just how we process. I'm not sure. What I do know is I see myself in their words. Maybe you see yourself in mine.

We're mothers. We're women. We're tired but don't want to be.

We're doing what needs to be done for others. We're wishing we didn't feel guilty for even considering that we must also do what we want for ourselves.

We push ourselves relentlessly because we've learned to balance the weight of the world on our shoulders and don't know how to deal with the sense of lightness that comes when anyone else tries to lift it because that is what we would do for those that we love. The problem is that we don't know how to handle taking the time we need for ourselves to just breathe and do for ourselves before we find ourselves running on empty.

On Second Chances & Our Daughters

I wasn't going to write tonight. There's frankly too much going on right now to really justify the time I am using right now that could be spent doing needed things. Like sleep.

And yet, here I am.

I'm here because of a tweet that was written because of a blog post that was written because a well-meaning mother decided to tell teenaged girls to stop acting like teenaged girls because their sexy selfies on instagram are sending the wrong message to all the good teenaged boys in the world.

Like others who have responded, I immediately thought of myself when I was younger and my daughter and the reality of growing up on social media and iPhones. I admit to shaking my head and wondering what the hell they are thinking when seeing selfie-updates posted online with pouty lips and sexy poses. Sometime I remember the only difference between then and now is that then didn't include instagram. So I refocus on doing (what I believe is) right by my daughter.

It's my job to raise her, not society's job to judge her. It's my job to teach her right from wrong and left from right and that she is so much more than a pretty face. I want her to be proud of herself, feel no shame in talking about things like anxiety and mama's ADHD and the therapist that we share. And I sure as hell am working my ass off to try (oh please, God) to provide her with a foundation strong enough to weather the demons that still chase after me like body image and my eating disordered past. As her mother, it's my responsibility to give her the tools, the knowledge that society will always have an opinion, and (hopefully) the sense of self to not give a damn. From there, it's her job to make mistakes, learn from them, and make some more until she's found her path.

It's my job to raise my daughter. It's not my job to judge yours.

I have no doubt my daughter will grow into an incredible older version of the wonder that she is now. But looking at the innocence in her little 6-year-old face is sometimes heart-breaking because I know that one day she will stop believing in the tooth fairy and asking to snuggle between me and her daddy and she will start pissing us off by pushing the boundaries. It's my job to try and make it through the storm she will create as she defines herself on her own terms and love her no matter how many times she disappoints herself...and maybe even me.

She's a lot like me, this little girl. And I wonder how many times I will see myself reflected in her actions as each day passes. The difference, though, is that while I was a teen, my mistakes were only recorded in my journals and written in overly squiggly cursive with i's dotted in hearts. Today's girls have a whole world waiting to serve as judge and jury for every misstep they share on Facebook or twitter or instagram or tumblr. I wish we'd stop judging. I wish we'd stop telling our daughters that it's their responsibility to get it right the first time and that it's their fault for anything relating to sex that may run through a young boy's mind. I wish that we'd just stop with the You Should's and You Shouldn'ts and remember that we didn't stop falling and picking ourselves back up just because we learned to walk.

I wish that I am successful in conveying the importance of never passing judgement on a friend just for making a choice she may not agree with.

I don't want to think about what I'd find searching my name online if the social media had existed when I was 15 or 18 or even 20. But even without the permanent record, I still held my breath waiting to hear my parents tell me that they still loved me. I'm not sure how many second chances they gave me. All I know is that when I fell they were still there to watch me brush myself off as I picked myself back up, reassessed, and gave it another go. One time in college I swallowed a bottle of pills because I just wanted to sleep and panicked when I realized sleeping and dying were to very different things. The friend who took me to the hospital in the middle of the night was a second chance. The friends who forced me into therapy were a third and so on and so forth. I am the product of all of my fuck-ups and all of my successes and I wonder how many of you recognize that about yourselves. We are who we are right now because yesterday happened.

When she's older and looking back like I am now, I don't know how many regrets her yesterday's will hold. I probably won't know half of the regrets that will have been posted online or maybe even all of the little things she is proud of. I might not even know how many second chances she counts as part of the foundation that -- even if a bit cracked here and there -- is still strong enough to hold another tomorrow.

Moments. Mothers. Days.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012  

 

Mama? Is it Mother's Day yet?

No baby. The calendar says it's not for a few more days.

But I want to give you your bracelet now!

I can wait.

Please, Mama!

 

 

I crumble. The excitement is shining in her eyes as she runs to get a manilla envelope that just arrived with my name on it. The return address is her preschool. She has printed her own name in the top left corner. She might not realize it, but the envelope is part of her gift to me.

 

 

 

I carefully open it and gently extract a large card fashioned from construction paper and a message telling me that her heart flutters for me. I see a bracelet and her smiling face and see her pictures for me and then collapse into laughter, tears streaming down my cheeks, and hold my defiant little princess close to me. Teacher Jessica captured her personality alright. And I couldn't be more thrilled with what has to be the most honest Mother's Day card in the history of the universe.

 

And then this morning

 

Open it! Open it!

 

 

It could be Christmas morning judging by the level of squealiness in Buttercup's chirpy screams. She's been waiting for a few days now, trying to convince me to ignore the calendar and just tear into the gift my sister, her godmother, sent for me. Receiving anything at all from someone other than my child or The Husband Who Knows He is Contractually Obligated to Forget a Card but Still Be Awesome is a bit of a surprise, and it's a nice one.

 

I unwrap the box, cut through tape, and lift packaging materials out to find that I've been sent an angel. I am instantly in love with her serenity and how it so fluidly flows throughout her form.

She's beautiful, Mama.

I know.

I set her on my desk to watch over me as I write and we continue with our day.

 

Kinky

Bruja.

It means "witch" in Spanish and was something I grew up hearing constantly as a child. It was a reference to my crazy, kinky curls that my mother insisted on brushing so much they frizzed to a static nightmare before pulling and twisting the whole mess into the world's tightest pony tail.

I'm sure my aunts and uncles didn't mean anything by it. They thought it was cute.

I probably laughed it off.

"Look at her hair," I say to my friend H.C. just a few weeks ago when out and about, "it's crazy and I love it."

I'm referring to a little girl, probably five or six years of age, and she's oblivious to the admiring glances being cast her way by anyone who passes. Her kinky curls are wild and free and defying gravity just because they can. She doesn't notice the glances because what other people think doesn't matter to her. I imagine she's been raised with "you're beautiful just the way you ares" and "the world would be so boring if we all looked the sames." It's the same message I try to convey to Buttercup every chance I get. I don't want her growing up to think everyone is judging her appearance and that her crazy curls must be manipulated to be something they are not just so she can blend in with everyone else trying not to look like they are trying to blend in, too.

My mother came to visit a few months back and good times were had by all as she spoiled her granddaughter with cuddles and toys and kisses. She spoiled me, too, with little things like mornings to sleep in and the opportunity to go grocery shopping by myself. I didn't realize until she left that Buttercup hadn't had one wind blown curl fly across her face during the entire visit. And I certainly wasn't prepared for temper tantrums and pleas to "pull my hair back, mama!" for the two weeks i "lost all the hair bands in the house."

But there it was. And here I am.

If I wasn't a mother of a four-year-old who asks me questions like why I didn't wish for two babies or if humans will become extinct if the Earth runs out of water, I might continue to pull my 'fro back into a bun at the nape of my neck because I'm not self-conscious that way. But I am the mother of a fou-year-old who asks me questions like why I didn't wish for two babies and if humans will become extinct if Earth ever runs out of water. And unless I want her asking me why I encourage her to love and celebrate her curls while I try to hide my own, it's time to celebrate what I've got, too.

For both our sakes.

Today, I went out with The Husband with my mexifro in all its glory. No one pointed. No one laughed. I even got complimented. And after I forgot about being self-conscious, I realized how lovely it felt to just let myself be.