Black

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Black is my color. Not because it is my favorite color to look at but because it’s the color I look smallest in. I know I am not alone in this. Millions of women across the world feel the same way. And this is never more true than after the birth of a baby, or after a very long winter cooped up in the house power snacking or during perimenopause which I am now intimately acquainted with. The fact is that I have been trying to divorce those last 15 pounds for about 10 years now, which, by the way, just happens to be the age of my youngest child.

Normally, this doesn’t bother me too much. But lately I’ve been thinking a lot about self-image and how our society pins labels on us. This is mostly because my 12 year-old daughter is in the middle of trying to figure this puzzle out and has been asking a lot of questions lately. I am alarmed to find that some of the questions are about classmates who have started bingeing and purging and other bad habits related to low self-esteem. Somewhere along the way, our girls are picking up the idea that they are not good enough just the way they are.

As moms, we learn the true meaning of unconditional love from the actual act of ‘momming’. We would jump in front of the proverbial train to save our kid’s life. It doesn’t get much more unconditional than that. And yet, in our society, we put all kinds of qualifiers on love. We see this every day in the conversations we have, the movies we watch, songs we listen to, etc. The message always seems to be ‘You are lovable when you look pretty, wear the right clothes, become athletic and perform like a pro, get the grades, keep your room clean, and on and on….

I’m wondering how much of this ‘not good enough attitude’ comes out of my mouth at home? How often am I too critical when I’m correcting her or looking at myself? How many times have I deflected a compliment because I didn’t really think I deserved it? How many unconscious ways have I shown her that I don’t think she or myself is good enough?

I know she is watching because the other day she said to me, “Mom, why do you wear so much black? Are you trying to be a Goth?” Luckily, I didn’t say “Because I’m too fat.” But who knows what has slipped out when I wasn’t really thinking? The bottom line is that our daughters won’t love themselves unconditionally until we, as moms, learn to love ourselves that way. Once we give ourselves the love we so willingly give our children, we won’t feel the need to correct all those external things about ourselves or them. Maybe then our girls can find some peace.

And instead of trying to make ourselves smaller to fit into the world’s idea of ‘right’, let’s emulate for our daughters what it means to show up BIG, as our own authentic, lovable selves just the way we are. And if that happens to be with an extra (__fill in the blank__) pounds, so be it.

Perfect

 

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My oldest is graduating from college this May.  I have a hard time believing this is where we’re at.  The old cliché ‘time goes so fast’ is slapping me right in the face.  I remember the first few days after I brought him home from the hospital.  I had a mini freak-out over the fact that now I had a living clock lying in my arms.  From that day forward I would be counting the days, weeks, months and years according to how old my baby boy was.  I would never again be oblivious to the passing of time.  It made me feel like I’d been caught red-handed by Father Time.  “Oh no”, he said, “Even you can’t escape me”.

So on that day, I decided to make the most of each moment I had with my son.  I put so much emphasis on each little change he went through.  I poured my whole heart into teaching him everything I could.  He was a smart little boy, soaking up each bit of information, hitting all the milestones early.  I was so proud.  I was doing a good job.  But soon, my savoring turned into this disease called perfectionism.  I was going to get this mommy thing right if it killed me.

This worked for a few years, until fast forward to three little boys under the age of five.  I was starting to feel the cracks in my armor.   Boy, was it exhausting throwing perfect Martha Stewart birthday parties, being room parent and taking the kids on a new outing every day!  Not to mention, monitoring their diet carefully, following a strict schedule and disciplining them consistently.  This mommy stuff was hard!!

Perfectionism didn’t loosen it’s grip on me until my fifth child was born seven years later.  It was then that I had no choice but to cry “Uncle”!  I finally realized that parenting was never going to match up to the vision I had in my head.  So the funny thing is, I still do all the things I did before.  Only now, when an outing I’ve planned goes to hell in a hand basket or a kid comes home with a D on a test, I don’t consider myself a failure.  I’ve come to see that none of us has control over life, especially the lives we’ve created that are our children.  We get caught up in the idea that our parenting skills are being graded on some invisible score board, and in that belief is the greatest curse of Father Time.  Because all the energy we are using to make each moment perfect is a moment in time that we aren’t truly present with our kid.

So, as I reflect on the fact that my son is an adult now, soon to embark on his own life out in this great big world, I find myself wishing for a do-over.  I wish I could go back and really be there with him and his siblings in each of the stages of his boyhood and savor the sweetness like I did in those first weeks after he was born, before I forgot that I didn’t have to be perfect.