Raising my child

A few days ago, I read a post titled ” “Mom, I’m Fat:” One Mother’s Inspired Response to Her 7 Year Old ” by Janell Hofmann (you can see the whole post here ) and I have been thinking about ever since.

What were my concerns when I was 7?  I don’t really remember, but I am pretty sure weight was not in the ever changing top ten list.

I don’t know the exact age but I do recall at some point during my teenage years worrying because I was “fat”. But to be honest during the same period I worried about being too tall, having knees too “bony”, believing one arm was slightly longer than the other one, actually having boobs (swimming classes where pure torture at 13), my legs resembling “chicken legs”, and I even went through a phase where I was sure my knuckles where too dark when compared against the rest of the finger… Ah, youth!

An aunt used to say that you don’t watch TV to see “ugly” people, you watch TV to see “pretty” people, and now that I actually stop think about what she said, as an adult I must say, I don’t agree.

I can see where she was coming from; when she was growing up TV was not a common thing and going to the movies was a very big deal. Most movies and early TV shows where all about entertainment: a beautiful story, a good laugh or a good cry. But that single side aspect of the media evolved with time thanks to the increase in availability.

Now, audiovisual media not only entertains, but educates and is used as a means to transmit a message to society. Long gone are the days where all people wanted from a movie was Gene Kelly dancing, or lots and lots of glitter and glamour.

I think that as parents now, we need to be more proactive about tackling issues like this and help our kids navigate the body image perception jungle.

I have caught my toddler Llollo staring at Hubby a few times, while Hubby is completely unaware of being the centre of attention. On those moments Hubby is not doing anything remarkable, just mundane activities: watching the news, eating a sandwich or cooking  (my love, everything you do IS remarkable, but I do need to make a point) . I have seen how Llollo absorbs the moment and I see him trying to imitate his dad in the little things: how he holds a cup,  how he bites his toast.

Children are sponges; during the formation years, they will take as the norm what mum and dad DO and what mum and dad SAY. I don’t mean to say that home represents the only source; peers, environment and society have there share of the load. But it is silly to neglect the weight that the message at home has.

I am not generalizing, I am not saying this is the one and only root cause of a very complex problem, and I am not on my pedestal pointing fingers and preaching. On the contrary, I am realizing that drugs, sex and rock n’ roll are not the only things I need to worry about when raising my kid, so I am sharing with the blog-sphere my latest source of stress.

Of course, you don’t do it on purpose, you don’t wake up one morning saying: today I will mess-up my kid a little. Most probably one is not aware that is being the centre of contemplation when being negative about oneself body weight and image. One is not aware how we reinforce in children the media message of “beauty”, when we obsess about celebrity gossip or spend every single free moment in front of the TV.

It hurts when I read about a girl struggling with body image,  It hurts when I read about an adult woman struggling with these issues. I want this to stop, I want that every parent sits down with his/heir kid(s) and have that talk about how we all come in different shapes and sizes and how all of us are beautiful, what makes that kid special on her own unique way,  what we admire on her.

The message needs to be sent over and over again,  just like the one about not drinking straight form the juice carton, it needs to be repeated endlessly for it to sink in. We need to show them we have a positive body image, we need to show them what is important in life (your family, your call on what that could be).

I cringe reading about 16 year old girls getting the boob job they “always wanted” as a sweet sixteen present.  Always wanted?

Why are mum and dad reinforcing in their girl, the message that she is worth nothing more than the size of her breasts? Have they stopped to think what is going to happen when all her dreams don’t come true at 25? 35? 45? upgrade to a D cup? butt-cheek implants? look for the guy that is only focused on her “greatest assets”?

Why are mum and dad reinforcing in their girl’s brother, the message that it is right to value a women just for  her body? What will happen when junior realizes that he doesn’t have anything in common and doesn’t share anything other than boob-appreciation with the playboy bunny he married? cheating? divorce?

It looks like this became a rant, but my point is that whatever happens at home is going to be the foundation over which this new person will build his/her life, from here they will deal with the influence coming from the outside world.

My aunt didn’t have to deal with this issue, audiovisual media was scarce so its influence was not strong, there were other problems more present back in the day when she was raising kids; but for me, just like for the author of that post, this is an issue that needs monitoring and action on my kid and on my kid’s environment.

I believe TV and the media in general should be about people; not skinny, buffed, white-teethed people, but just people. Not “pretty” vs “ugly”, blonde bombshell vs mean fat brunette.

But while we wait for that change to happen,  I think we do need to do something about it at home, to help counteract the damaging message sent.

I owe that to my kid, I want him to be happy.

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On regret and being too late

My sister’s dearest friend is gay, or more precise, was gay.

They met ages ago right at the start of college through his then girlfriend; he was your typical small town, shy and dorky young man, passionate about arts and my sister was… well… my sister…

My sister and I were raised under the same roof. We ate the same food, drank the same water and got equal shares of love and attention from mum and dad. But if you give me a ruler and a pen and ask me to draw a straight line … well, I wouldn’t know where to start.

My sister, on the other hand, is amazing: she is creative, full of beautiful ideas and incredibly skilled with her hands. My sister is awesome, just like my mum.

Back to my story: my sister was, even at that young age, awesomeness in a petite package.

In each other they found somebody with intense passion for design, arts and all things creative. They became each other’s confidant and the toughest judge on the other one’s suitors. They were there for each other not only through the day-to-day drama that only college can be for the very young, but on deeply emotional matters; they were there when hearts were broken, parents were lost and when there were pregnancy scares.

They spent most of their awake time together; it was common for me to come back home in the evening from uni, to find him going through the fridge’s content, crashing on our couch or with his head on my mum’s shoulder pouting about something or someone.

It didn’t matter he had a girlfriend, or that he liked this or that girl. My sister knew, well before he admitted it to himself, that he was gay, and just waited until he was ready to come out.

She was there for him when he needed her, she helped him deal with many of his emotions and thoughts and tried to hold him together when he tried to face a tough and unsympathetic father. I am being unfair to his father, I guess he didn’t know what to do and didn’t really understand how to handle his doubts and assumptions and sadly acted the wrong way. He loved his son very much, he just didn’t know how to just accept and love, he put prejudice and “what others would think” first.

This post is and is not about that.

My sister’s friend lost the sense of home when he came out, he had nowhere or no one to “go back” to. He just turned around and jumped into the world with a new sense of freedom and unfair sense guilt and shame. He didn’t have “home” to talk about relationships, or what was right or wrong. By shunning him off, his family lost, if not the ability to help him stay balanced, the ability to guide and protect him when he needed it, just like we all need once in a while.

The only way he found to ease the pain was to put physical distance between him and his family. He dropped out of college, moved countries, and followed different careers. He wanted to explore, to learn and to love, and I guess, to find something or someone that would fill that huge hole that he carried in his heart.

He acted crazy and irresponsible, I am not justifying his actions, he was a young man and he knew what was right and what was stupid, but I do believe that when we are hurt or lost we tend to put more faith on acting on impulse.

On a silly night, my sister’s friend became HIV +

It took him quite some time to find this out, and when he did, he went and stayed in denial. My sister found out when he was hospitalized due to pneumonia and realized that days went by without him recovering, and that he was transferred to the “tropical and other infectious diseases” wing at the hospital. He wouldn’t talk about it and pretended not to listen.

She was there during his whole stay; she sneaked in the cigarettes and the cookies, she brought books and magazines and she helped him feel better.

She forced him to look at what being HIV + meant, and forced him to make changes on his lifestyle to take better care of himself and others.

Life got in the way and they drifted apart again.

Today my sister is at home heart broken. She is been crying for hours inconsolably. She got a phone call to let her new that her dear friend passed away last night, away from his family and most of his friends.

A few months ago, I had the pleasure to meet my husband’s old pediatrician … yes, the woman that healed him from when he was a little premmie baby, gave his baby a check up. On our way back to her home, she went on “full advising mode”, the type mums get into when time is running out and they need you to absorb the maximum amount of pearls of wisdom: you know like: this to eat, that to wear, careful with blah blah …

And at the end she said, “remember, this baby is not yours to keep, is yours to prepare for the world. Who he decides to go to bed with, is his problem, and his problem alone. Just love who he loves”.

Is it worth for a parent to lose a child because we don’t agree with our child’s choice of life companion? Really?

A workmate argued that is not just a life companion choice but more of a life style choice … how is that a life style choice? we all eat, drink and sleep the same. Work the same hours and do the same things for fun. How does life style change if you are gay?

How can I, as a parent, justify pushing my kid away?

For me it is just the same as pushing him away because he doesn’t like broccoli. In my view, that is how absurd it sounds.

My sister’s friend didn’t have to leave this world alone. He needed his family and his family needed him. I know it is very hard to realize that one’s child doesn’t get that “parents know best”; but as a parent love is infinite, we need to let or children “make mistakes” and learn from them, make decisions and live with the consequences, without removing the anchor that home represents if we don’t agree with their decisions.

I am not perfect, I have made mistakes and I will make mistakes with my child in the future, but I hope he always knows that I love him more than anyone in the world and that I will always be there for him.

This post is to remind myself to leave a light on for my child, so he will always remember where he can come back to.

Darling in heaven, I hope you get the peace and love your soul deserves, You will be missed.

Basic manners

I live in central London, and as most of the population here, I take the underground train to work (aka “the tube”). In each carriage there are on average 4-6 priority seat for the elderly, handicapped, pregnant women, etc.

A few days ago, I was reading the “text messages & thank yous” sectionin a newspaper  ( one of my guilty pleasures ) and there was one that made me feel very angry and embarrassed.

It was from a canadian man, who came with his wife to london for the olympics. He thanked all the London women who take the underground for giving up their seat for him and his wife every time they ended up in a crowded carriage; he mentioned how impressed he was by the politeness and empathy of these women.

Thank you sir.

I felt angry because it is the same thought I had during the time I was pregnant and going to work. During this period I had a seat offered to me many, many, many times … but out of those times, only 3 times it was a man giving up his seat.

3 times!

The first one, this amazing man walked half way through the carriage and pulled my arm so I would seat. The second time, it was an old man, who really needed it more than I did. The last one, was a young man, who stood up right when he saw me.

That was it, all the other times were various women and girls who gave up their seat for me. I am sorry it took so long, but here it goes:

Thank you ladies

If you are going to come up with some ridiculous argument on how pregnant women wrongly assume they deserve more attention and consideration just because their condition then please, PLEASE, go ahead now and either click un-follow or hit the back button and read something else, because I DO think that a pregnant woman is definitely MORE tired than you are after the day is over no matter who you are.

It is a matter of respect and consideration. that bum of yours needs to get off a seat, not only the priority seat but ALL seats, for the elderly, pregnant women, handicapped or anybody that seems to need it more that you do!

I know why all those women give up their seats. I know why I give up my seat. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist, and you are a big-class idiot  if you really are happy telling yourself that you are too tired and deserve to be on that seat  reading or playing a video game. Just so you know, most probably you will be there in that same position one day hoping somebody will show you a little kindness. It is  very simple really, you do it, because you expect it. I give up my seat because I know how grateful I would be in the same situation.

Please, if you are going to mention that because you know that most probably your offer is going to be rejected, then you don’t ask … please go ahead and do the Un-follow/back button thing now as well. If you are going to use the “feminist” excuse … then you know what to do. Moron.

You always ask, always. If it gets rejected then happy days! you get to keep your seat.

I am sure there are a many different variables that converge and make this a normal occurrence in our society, but I’ll be damned if I am not going to try and do something about it. I felt embarrassed because It is up to us, moms and dads, to teach our little ones simple things like this. It doesn’t take any effort (it is definitely easier than feed them broccoli ), to teach them how to be considerate and look a little bit further than the tip of their nose.

The message is being sent, because girls are doing it, so what is wrong with the boys? what is it?

I am not implying that my son will be a little cassanova, permanently walking with a carnation, and a cheeky smile. But he will learn to give up his seat, to let people past first when opening a door, to move out of the way in high transited areas …

Being a doormat? No, being a respectful man with manners.

Kids and strangers

I read this post a few weeks ago and it made such an impact on me that I decided to re-blog it. It is written by Sarah Levy from her blog Checklistmommy, and it is about what to consider when talking to children about strangers.

“Right after Diddy was born, I was in the car listening to NPR and I heard a child safety educator say, “Stop telling your kids not to talk to strangers. They might need to talk to a stranger one day. Instead, teach them which sorts of strangers are safe. You know who’s safe? A mom with kids. Period. Your kid gets separated from you at the mall? Tell her to flag down the first mom with kids she sees.”

This was fantastic advice. I have shared it with everyone who will listen, ever since.

Last month, I finally got to meet the woman who’d said this brilliant thing, when I had the enormous good fortune of attending a kid’s safety seminar led by Pattie Fitzgerald of Safely Ever After. Safely Ever After offers seminars to adults and children on the subject of “keeping kids safe from child molesters and abuse.”

I didn’t seek Pattie out. I don’t spend every moment of the day worrying that my kids are going to end up in white slavery. But Diddy and Gaga’s preschool offers the material to parents of pre-K students as a preamble to teaching it to the pre-K kids, and Diddy’s a pre-K kid, so I went to hear what Pattie had to say. (And in light of all the Miramonte Elementary madness, I am thrilled I did.)

If it makes you uncomfortable to think about offering this sort of material to a 5 year-old, let me reassure you by saying our school offers an opt-out. But after spending a morning listening to Pattie’s presentation, I can honestly say I would have let her go teach my 3 year-old about “tricky people.” If the boys could understand it, I’d have her come over and talk to them, too.

And they’d like it. Really. I did.  Sitting around listening to all the horrible things that could happen to your kids might not sound like a good time — but oddly enough, with Pattie Fitzgerald, it is.

For one thing, Pattie knows her stuff, and I felt confident that her information was accurate and her advice studied and strong. For another, she’s pretty funny — so the material she presented never felt horribly gloom-and-doomy so much as matter-of-fact and manageable.

FOR INSTANCE:

  • It is unlikely your kid is going to be abused by a weirdo at the park (huge sigh of relief).
  • That said, if there is a weirdo at the park, he’s not going to fit the “stranger” model — so stop teaching your kid about strangers! He’s going to come up to your kid and introduce himself. Voila! He ain’t a stranger anymore.
  • Teach your kids about TRICKY PEOPLE, instead. TRICKY PEOPLE are grown-ups who ASK KIDS FOR HELP (no adult needs to ask a kid for help) or TELLS KIDS TO KEEP A SECRET FROM THEIR PARENTS (including, IT’S OKAY TO COME OVER HERE BEHIND THIS TREE WITHOUT ASKING MOM FIRST. Not asking Mom is tantamount to KEEPING A SECRET.)
  • Teach your kids not to DO ANYTHING, or GO ANYWHERE, with ANY ADULTS AT ALL, unless they can ask for your permission first.

See how I said ANY ADULTS AT ALL? That’s because:

  • It’s far more likely your kid is going to be abused by someone they have a relationship with, because most cases of abuse follow long periods of grooming — both of the kid and his or her family.
  • Bad guys groom you and your kids to gauge whether or not you’re paying attention to what they’re doing, and/or to lure you into dropping your guard. Don’t. Kids who bad guys think are flying under their parents’ radars, or kids who seem a little insecure or disconnected from their parents, are the kids who are most at risk.

SO:

  • Be suspicious of gifts that adults in positions of authority give your kids. There’s no reason your son should be coming back from Bar Mitzvah study with a cool new keychain or baseball hat.
  • Be suspicious of teachers who tell you your kid is so special they want to offer him more one-on-one time, or special outings. That teacher who says your kid is into Monet, he wants to take him to a museum next weekend? Say thanks, and take your kid to go see the exhibit yourself.
  • You know that weird adult cousin of yours who’s always out in the yard with the kids, never in the kitchen drinking with the grown-ups? Keep an eye on your kids when he’s around.
  • Oh, and that soccer coach who keeps offering to babysit for free, so you can get some time to yourself? NO ONE WANTS TO BABYSIT YOUR KIDS JUST TO BE NICE.

And, here’s another good reason to add to the PANTHEON of reasons to teach your children the anatomically correct names for their genitalia:

  • There isn’t a child molester on earth who’s going to talk to your daughter about her vagina. Really. But if she suddenly starts calling it a cupcake, you can ask her who taught her that.

*

Ultimately, after spending an hour with Pattie, I felt LESS worried, not more. That, to me, is the number one sign of a good book or seminar about parenting — it doesn’t stress you out.

And you know why Pattie Fitzgerald and  Safely Ever After won’t stress you out?

BECAUSE SHE’S CHOCKFUL OF CHECKLISTS!

She’s got a PREVENTION TIPS list, a RED FLAGS & WARNINGS list, and my personal favorite, a THE SUPER-10, PLAY IT SAFE FOR KIDS AND GROWN-UPS! list.

Check out Pattie’s site. Read her material, buy her kids book, organize a bunch of like-minded parents to take her seminars. I promise you’ll feel better after — and way safer — when you do. ”

 

 

Toddlers and meals

As any mum of a toddler, I am sure, I am worried sick about his eating … or more precisely about him NOT eating.

I spend many hours a week on the internet checking on recipes and meal ideas for Llollo. When he was a baby, introducing new flavors to him was relatively easy, I followed gina ford’s introduction to solids and he pretty much gave it a go on most dishes. But somewhere between then a now it all changed.

He doesn’t eat pasta, all kids love pasta! doesn’t he know? ; he won’t try chicken, fish or meat. I gave up trying to mix mashed potatoes with other stuff when I realized he didn’t actually eat mashed potatoes at all. Cubes of vegetables? no, fruit? no!

The weekends are “challenge time”; I wake up saturday mornings with new recipes to try on his meals… and so far success has been scarce.

It is not that he starves himself. We know that he will always eat: bread sticks, rice crackers, baked beans, mozarella cheese, cheerios (damn you cheerios!), heinz pasta hoops and bananas. But those were the items for our “emergency meals”, not to be served on a regular basis.

To bring things back on track I made a meal planner for his dinners during the week and all his meals during weekends, since he has lunch and tea at nurser. I included 1 veg and 1 fruit with all meals, I designates days for eggs, pasta and rice. My toddler is brilliant, he sits in that high chair and plays and smiles until I accept he just won’t eat it.

There is no forcing, no threatening, no crying. We both smile at each other, me knowing that he is hungry and he knowing … I don’t know what he knows, but he just won’t eat.

I am a working mother, yes. But I am not a clueless mum, I KNOW what is going on.

It is me who, every time picks him up at nursery, has to hear all about how he LOOOOOVES fishcakes with white sauce, pasta and veg and lamb and coucous…

Lamb and coucous!

Seriously, last time I had to endure this: “Oh, Llollo asked for second servings of tofu and veg, cheeky boy”

TO

FU

?!

Of course I thought that maybe those nursery portions were tiny or not really “lamb and couscous”, but after a few “surprise” visits at meal time I am convinced that they serve what they say they do.

To top it up, every time I take Llollo to the health visitor for a weight check I am told : “Well done mum! your toddler has been bang on the 75% percentile , keep feeding him as you do” … no help there then.

Well done nursery.

One weekend, Hubby was trying to feed him while I was doing other stuff in the kitchen; since llollo was not eating, he came to the kitchen to make himself a smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel. He took the sandwich back to the table and … do you know what happened? …

Llollo ate half the bagel and all the salmon.

My toddler eats smoked salmon and tofu, but won’t eat pasta or mashed potatoes.

So I can’t really complain that I have a fussy eater, he just won’t eat MUM’s food … AAAARGH!!!!!