Choices – Halloween Edition

This morning our darling 4 year old daughter, Rhys, changed her mind about the costume she would wear for her Halloween party at school.

Instead of the adorable poodle costume I lovingly bribed encouraged her to wear, she pulled a rumpled, rag-a-muffin princess dress, complete with stretched out bodice, ripped tulle and missing sequins, out of the dress-up bag it’s been jammed in for the past six years.

I had a choice. Let go or force my will on her:  rumpled Cinderella or precious, pristine poodle?

I hate that I believe how she looks reflects on me. I wanted her to be the cutest child in the room, garnering “ooohs” and “ahhhs” from all the other parents at the party. So I could feel better about myself.

I had a choice. I kept my mouth shut. (A feat of strength unheard of in the past!)

When Rhys noticed on her own that the tulle of the skirt was ripped and frayed, I rejoiced inside and lovingly handed her the poodle costume. She decided instead to change into a different rumpled princess dress from the dress up bag. Not a poodle-caliber costume, but an upgrade. Again, insides roiling, I shut my mouth.

Yes, she’s an adorable princess! But wait till you see the poodle costume!

I’m grateful for choosing wisely today. I’m hoping that exercising my “shut up” muscle today will make it easier to choose wisely next time. And by next time I mean this evening when she gets dressed as a damned poodle for trick-or-treating!

Does the poodle costume come in my size?

Make any wise choices today?

Who wouldn’t want to be an adorable poodle for Halloween? Rhys loved it during our Halloween dress rehearsal!

Image Management

Image courtesy of Google Images.

Here I am, wringing a second post out of my daughter’s recent bike accident; making it about me and seeing things about myself I’d rather not look at …

Once I knew my daughter wasn’t seriously injured in her bike accident, I found myself feeling embarrassed by her loud and uncontrolled expression of pain and terror.

Ava is a fantastic wailer – she cries and screams with abandon. And with an impressive disregard for what others think of her during her release of emotions.

When do we learn to care too much about other people’s opinion of us? When does that insidiousness begin?

When Ava was an infant, my husband and I decided one of our primary parenting goals was to support her in expressing all of her emotions. Over the years, we’ve focused on encouraging our daughters’ tears, rages, frustrations and fears.

Unfortunately, as much as I want to support my kids, I also tend to feel embarrassed if one of my children commands a lot of attention from others while she’s emoting.  So here’s the message:  “Emote away, darling, just don’t embarrass me.” Ugh.

After Ava’s accident, I was screaming and panicking on the inside; Ava was sharing her panic with the world. And I felt ashamed. Ava’s crying wasn’t quiet and demure and attractive. It was robust and loud and boisterous. And exquisite (in hindsight only).

When I’m in pain or shock, I’m typically quiet and stoic. Listening to Ava wail and scream and cry, I felt torn between wanting to shut my daughter up and being impressed by the fearlessness of her expression.

The Arboretum’s security guards who attended to Ava while we waited for an ambulance, while caring and kind, appeared taken aback by Ava’s cries and pulled me aside twice to tell me that until she stopped “being hysterical,” they couldn’t discern the extent of her injuries. Rather than focus on the guards’ compassion, I focused instead on their use of the word, “hysterical.”

While I didn’t actively attempt to shut down my daughter’s crying, I felt shame that I couldn’t control Ava’s “hysteria.” I told myself she was doing something wrong, something unseemly. And I, as her mother, was also.

I realize now I did my daughter a disservice. I comforted and soothed, but I didn’t stand up for her. I didn’t say out loud, “Listen, Mr. Security Guard, I appreciate your help and I support my daughter expressing her pain for as long and as loudly as she needs to. I will not shut up my kid so you or I can be more comfortable. I’m willing to wait until she’s finished. I trust her.”

Instead I felt shame that we were taking up the security guards’ time. Really? Isn’t it equally possible we were providing these guards with an exciting diversion from their usual mundane jobs? How often do they get to witness an adorable 9 yo girl releasing so many beautiful emotions while her equally adorable mom lovingly looks on? That’s the attitude I’d like to have in the future. Until then, I’ll likely be cringing in the corner!

I was taught from a young age to tamper my feelings:  don’t be too much, don’t take up too much space, don’t embarrass me.

I don’t want to teach my daughters to be ashamed of who they are or to alter themselves to make me or others more comfortable. (Actually, part of me does. That would be easier for me. And sad.)

My vision is to support my little girls, support all of their big feelings, all their expressions and not try to change them to fit some image or expectation I have at any given time. Easier said than done.

How do you support your children’s feelings? Do you ever feel embarrassed by your kids? How do you handle it?

I’m linking up today with the wonderful people at Shell’s weekly “Pour Your Heart Out” feature on her blog “Things I Can’t Say.”

Tangled Web

“These are my favorite cookies!” she said. “They’re Entenmann’s, right?”

In that moment, I had a choice. The first of many.

Save my face. Or save my ass.

I didn’t have time to bake my usual chocolate chip cookies for the potluck. My gooey, chunky cookies always garnered accolades from my fellow gymnastics team members. I prided myself on those cookies almost as much as I did my back handsprings, two things in high school I knew I did well.

I bought a box of Entenmann’s chocolate chip cookies, the distinctive bite-sized ones, put them on a decorative plate and brought them and my shame to the party.

I made a choice. My face.

“They’re not Entenmann’s,” I lied. “I made them. Yesterday.”

We stared at each other over the buffet laden with homemade goodies.

“Really?” said my teammate. “They taste and look exactly like Entenmann’s.”

Eyes now glued to the plate of frosted brownies between us, I chose again. Face.

“Do they?” I asked, fear dancing in my belly. “My mom found the recipe in a magazine, and I used it to make these cookies. I thought I’d try something new instead of my usual cookies. I didn’t know they’d taste like Entenmann’s!”

I looked up quickly to gauge my lie’s impact, unsure if I would ever stop talking.

Silence. She spoke first. A weak choice.

“These taste exactly like Entenmann’s. I want your mom’s recipe.”

I busied myself straightening the cookies on the plastic, flower-etched plate; popped one in my mouth to buy extra time and sugar-infused stamina.

“They do taste a little like Entenmann’s. Not exactly, but they’re close. I think I like my usual recipe better,” I offered.

Her eyes never left mine. “I have to have the recipe. Everyone’s going to want it.”

Panic. Face.

“I’m not sure I have it anymore,” I answered. “It was my mom’s recipe, and I don’t know if she kept it.”

My teammate never hesitated, “I’m sure she still has it. You used the recipe yesterday, right?”

My throat felt hot and prickly; the fifth cookie I swallowed no salve for my terror. “Right. Sure. I’ll ask my mom for it.”

Once home, I baked and inhaled a batch of cookies to soothe my shame. Momentarily sated, I weighed my options.

  • Make up a recipe and pass it off as magazine version
  • Convince my mom I was sick (does a sugar-induced coma count?) and stay home from school for a few weeks
  • Avoid my teammate for the rest of school year
  • Blame my mom for throwing out recipe

Sadly, I never considered changing schools or feigning a terminal brain malady. Or asking for help.

“Did you bring the recipe?” she asked.

My choice, repeated daily until I wore her down, “Oh, I forgot. I’ll bring it tomorrow.”

Lisa, if you’re reading, I hope you believe in the adage “better late than never.” I am sorry.

And yes, my ass feels better.

I am linking up with Yeah Write for Week Four of their Summer Writer’s Series

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