You’re More Than Your Looks, My Daughter, Friend, Sister…

(Photo:aliexpress.com)

One of my daughters is a major fashionista. From the moment we said “yes” to makeup at 13, she wore it daily. Now 19, her wardrobe far surpasses anyone else in the house. I’m fine with it except for the now and then when she begins focusing too much on the “outside”. This leads me on a rant about the true value of a woman – just as I do after seeing someone as revolting as Beyonce be recognized as a role model for young women – I throw up, and then I give my girls yet another lesson in what it means to be a beautiful woman.

Important disclaimer: I’m a highlighted blonde, wear makeup, and enjoy cute clothes as much as the next girl. I enjoy all things “girl”. I offer this disclaimer because people tend to believe that only women who are makeup-less or attend parties in sweats truly believe that “you are more than your looks”.

Us girls in my house like clothes, makeup and shopping. But, genuine beauty comes from within. Period. Regardless of how old we are, we want to – and should – take care of the outside. But, our society has lost its mind telling us and our daughters that we really are only the sum of our sultry, sexy, skinny and sassy.

What about being fun? Interesting? Interested? Confident? Well-read? A person with hobbies and passion and curiosity about the world? Silly and sweet and thoughtful? These and other qualities make people truly attractive.

This societal lie transcends generations. I know a grandmother who actually suggested her granddaughter buy a shorter skirt, despite the fact that the girl felt like a princess in a flowing skirt below her knees. The grandmother would also prefer trendier clothes on the teenager. Well into her 70s, the woman remains focused upon appearances. She will leave a legacy of superficiality instead of accepting, loving and caring for others. 

Do we love? Do we hold the tongue when appropriate and tongue-lash someone when that is appropriate? Yes, taking a stand when needed is strength and that’s beautiful.

Here is what I have above my daughters’ bedroom doorway: Does a gal’s new outfit or new mascara put a spring in her step and lift her posture? Of course! Heck, we all know that when we feel like our skin and hair are a mess, we would rather hide behind the sales rack then run into someone we know. When the outside is looking good, we walk taller and hope we’ll run into someone we haven’t seen in years!

Nothing wrong with that. What’s wrong is a society, celebrities, and endless trails of filth telling our girls they are only their appearance. Women who any one of us would identify as “stunning” are just as susceptible to believing they are unattractive. And, there are women who are initially stunning in our eyes who eventually become the ugliest humans we have ever met. The beauty of kindness – or not – shows up in a woman’s face.

I’m on this topic because I have two daughters. Because I am a woman living in this society – in the world though not of it – and there is pressure. While I can bemoan this as an adult, nothing matches the pressure of the American high school.

So, how do we convey this to our precious daughters bombarded by middle school and high school hallways full of rebellious, scantily-clad, hair-tossing peers?

Tell them. That their bodies are sacred. That happy girls really are so pretty in any room…at any party.

Tell them they are beautiful. The sisters, friends and daughters. Over and over and over…because they ARE.

 

 

 

The TV Show “The Middle” is Funny! Everything Else “Middle”… Not So Much


Middle
Sure we all like the show The Middle.    But I like little else involving “The Middle”. How about you?

Middle Age is surprisingly everything everyone older than me said it was. There really are aches and pains when you wake up in the morning. You really do notice that your skin is not what it used to be. I haven’t read, I Feel Bad about My Neck: And Other Thoughts About Being a Woman, but the title makes me say, Amen Sister!

Middle of The Road or Middle Ground is not something I like to take. Although my job as a college teacher (and being a parent) forces me to accept and examine the “gray” areas of life, I like black and white. Right and wrong. I’m a rule-follower and life just seems easier when I choose one or the other. However, Middle of The Road is occasionally necessary.

The Middle of My Long-Gone Waist Line is flab and this makes me mad! I already don’t eat all the M&M’s and potato chips that I really want to, and I exercise a few times a week, and I STILL have a ridiculously soggy, mom-of-3-kids middle!

The Middle School Years… ahhhhh!!  Well, if we’re being Mommy-mushy, there are certainly priceless, beautiful moments between 6th and 8th grade. Lots of really nice days and fun events are now part of our family memories, but often, those years were challenging as I painstakingly sorted through daily questions, tears, and frustrations. Can we just camp on the Middle School years for a minute?

The Middle School Gym Class is where many girls decide that messing up their hair is so not worth actually trying to compete and win a game.

The Middle School Hallway is where walking to your locker feels like you’re being bounced through the center of a pin ball arcade game.

Middle School Staff sometimes forgets that the emotional maturity gap between a first-born 6th grader and a last-born 8th grader is the width of the Grand Canyon. Yet, we crunch them altogether and expect the 6th graders to feel welcome and safe. Some 11 year olds haven’t been raised on Black Ops and Mortal Kombat. If you’ve read my blog awhile, you’ll remember Desensitize My Kids?! This leads me to…

Middle School Assemblies. Sometimes, good intentions are ill-timed or go too far. Kids are ready for outside world information at very different ages. If they didn’t know prior to the assemblies, these events have taught kids where the best drug dealers can be found, how to roll, inject, snort and hide drugs. They introduced alcohol frozen pops and how to hide alcohol in your flip flops. Perhaps this information would be better suited for the parent assemblies in the younger grades. The Rachel’s Challenge assembly was much too early for my kids. My daughter’s eyes blazed at me that afternoon, “How can you EVER send me back to school?  Did YOU know that kids get shot at school?!” At 11 years old, the precious lesson from Rachel’s life which was well intended by Middle School administration, was buried by guns and mental images of terrified children. After that, I requested my children not attend any assemblies without a note or call home first regarding its content.

The Middle School Cafeteria is where lunchboxes stop being cool. Thankfully, my 9th grader still carries hers at the high school!  

The Middle School Church. Disclaimer: I delicately, respectfully and generally speak only of my small-world experiences!  We are in the Northeast and we can’t boast truly Christ-centered churches “on every corner”, as my southern friends have. Getting youth to come on a regular basis to church is challenging. That said, the desire for my kids to experience a thriving youth group led me a few years ago to visit several church kids programs, and similar organized events.  What I discovered was between nursery and 5th grade, the spiritual growth opportunities were plentiful. At 13, the kids are sometimes dropped off the edge of a spiritual cliff.

When kids are 0-12, they have little say about whether or not they’re going to church with Mom and Dad. When kids are 13-18, they can make dental surgery preferable to Sunday mornings.  Yet, at 0-12, my kids had more VBS, Sunday morning theatre shows, holiday events, and spiritually-driven girls and boys programming in one year than they’ve ever had as middle teens.

When they are little, we smile into those cherub faces saying, “God loves you!”  At 15, we shy away from telling them they are accepted and loved, often because their serious faces scare us off!  Leaving them alone just makes it easier for them to leave. The book, Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it, claims that approximately 90% of kids leave church in the middle teen years.

Not to mention that the best-intended parents who say church will come before sports when their kids are 5, find it terribly difficult not to break that family rule when the kids are 15 (myself included). When they do get to church, there needs to be connection. Important to note: we can be in the best spiritual environment possible and kids will still make their own choices-I know that. I’m also deeply grateful for the godly people who devote their time to the often thankless job of serving our youth at churches across this nation.

The Middle Teens: Aren’t Always “Cute”. Remember when your little ones did something mischievous or blurted out “no!!” to you? Their cuteness saved them.  During the middle teens, their moodiness and complaining is just ugly.

The Middle Teens: Puberty My son turned into a completely different species. Did you read, Moms of Teen Boys Be Encouraged?

Kids in the Middle of a divorce turn into adults who still identify themselves as such. Thankfully, there are programs, such as Kids in the Middle, Children in the Middle, and Divorce Care, which help children navigate the “two homes” “four parents”, etc., but living it out as a child is tough, no matter how well parents think their kids are taking it. Some interesting information is located in the book, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce.

The Middle of the Night. Or should I say 2am?  Anyone have the occasional insomnia? Just because I know it’s always “live”, QVC keeps me company!

The Middle Finger.Nuff said.

The Middle Class and being Middle Child are up for debate! Have I bummed you out or can you relate? The Middle is not always great, so I keep striving for better. Because I hate ending anything on a downer, some good things about The Middle? Middle America! Malcom in the Middle! (I never saw it, but I hear it’s good). The Middle of an Oreo…:)Oreos

Moms of Teen Boys Be Encouraged!

I got longer than most Moms.  More hugs, more “I love you’s”, more devotion from my son than any other Mom I know.  That was, until he turned 14 years and two months old.  In one overnight sleep from Tuesday to Wednesday, an uneventful week by anyone’s standards, my son woke up one day…a teenager.

On paper he’d been a teen for over a year, but he was still in my arms, or hanging by my side, and filled the house daily-often hourly-with professions of love.  He would literally yell from another room, “Mom!”  “What?”  “I love you!”  Apparently, if you’ve experienced this type of sensitive, loving boy at all in your home, it usually only lasts until about age twelve.

So, as I said, I got longer than most.  Instead of being grateful, I was appalled.  At his scoffs at dinner food, at his rolling of eyes, and barely-there embraces before going to sleep at night.  The grunts which replaced the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’ were maddening!  Usually one to laugh easily and often, he began purposely moving his mouth around in contorted ways to avoid any expression of having fun with his family.  He would leave the room rather than let us see him smile.  If you asked me then, the friends who said that his behavior was “normal” should have be put into therapy.  “This is not normal!” I would wail.

Approximately 14 years and three months into my new son’s existence, we traveled to Florida for spring break.  I only had one rule: no texting.  This vacation was for us as a family.  Guess who broke the rule the first day and every day until the phone died?  Guess who forgot that I have access to verizonwireless.com and can see all texts?  After revoking the beloved phone privileges, I fully expected instant remorse on my son’s face.  After all, this was a child whose heart-on-the-sleeve sweetness was the envy of my girlfriends.  This time, all I saw was pure anger.  He was angry?  Who broke the rule here?  Again, my friend reminded me, “This is perfectly normal.”

For weeks following the consequence, my son schlepped around without picking up his feet.  He barely spoke to any of us in the house.  He complained about everything.  At nausea.  He needed a new folder and asked if I would go out and pick it up – that night.  I said we could both jump in the car and go get one.  “Ugh.  Can’t you just go get it?!”  I laughed.  Loud.  He opted to search out a munched, crunched, written-all-over, used folder from the mountain of “teaching supplies” my younger daughter keeps in her playroom.

Alien-like behavior ensued for a really –l–o–n–g–  18 months.  Our entire family was tortured by his nasal grunting, shuffling feet, excessively loud exhales accompanied by eye rolls, and a daily “who-gives-a-poop” attitude (this was the most irritating).  He made his sisters cry.  There were cyclical periods of disobedience followed by the exhausting task of disciplining.  I experienced floods of anger right back at him.  Other days, I would remain eerily calm in spite of his nastiness.  Many mornings, I wept on my knees upon his departure for school.  Throughout the 18 months I still said, “I love you” when he left for school, but he said nothing in response.  I murmured, cried, and sometimes yelled countless prayers to God, filled with unease that he was “on the wrong path”.  Anxiety plagued me:  Had I babied him?  Should I have made him do his own laundry?  Make his own sandwiches?  Should I have prayed more since his birth?  Was I to blame?

Then, as suddenly as the foreigner entered our home, he just as swiftly exited.  Inexplicably, without warning, another regular day by anyone’s standards, my son said, “I love you” in response to my “I love you” when he was leaving for school.  He climbed into my husband’s car and I shut the door.

Only a Mom can understand the overwhelming flood of emotion that instantly rose up from my stomach to my throat, forcing me to turn around, choking out a cheerful “goodbye!”, as if nothing out-of-the-ordinary had occurred.  Walking into the house, my face contorted.  I covered my mouth with my hand, and water poured down my cheeks.  Emotion ensued for a good, long time that morning, thankfulness to God overwhelming me.

My son wouldn’t become an empty, hardened criminal after all.  The casual “I love you” expanded nearly overnight, into doing chores without complaint, picking up his feet, laughing again with his sisters….

As I finish typing this, my now 16-year old son yelled from the basement, “Mom!”

“What?”

“I love you!”

Ugh, the joy and the pain.

This post was originally published on 5/16/13: Throwback Thursday! 

Desensitize My Kids?!

Throwback Thursday from 5/8/2013

I was participating in a women’s prayer meeting at a church where I was relatively new. Until that day, I regularly offered prayer for others, but rarely requested any for myself. As my children began Middle School, I realized that it would take the proverbial village to protect my kids from the stunning corruption widespread among American youth.

That morning I mustered up the courage to ask for prayer that my kids would not grow desensitized, but remain kindhearted despite the shocking revelations that they are eventually exposed to at that age. I had recently confirmed for them that, “Yes, one German man and his team of assassins murdered multiple millions of people. Yes, Edgar Allen Poe’s writings are disgusting and disturbing. Yes, several men flew airplanes into buildings wanting to kill Americans.” The Holocaust, 9/11, and murder-filled literature, were upsetting to my 11-year old twins. They had also experienced their first pains of meanness from other kids.

Relieved that I had asked the women to lift up my kids in prayer, I experienced a temporary feeling of peace about the changes that Middle School had brought.

Pushing in my chair to leave, a 50-something, confident woman approached me. I expected her to confirm her intent to pray on my behalf. Instead, she blurted, “Your kids need to get desensitized.” Huh? I was confused, slight angry, and embarrassment rose up in my cheeks. Noticing my facial contortions, she offered, “I retired early last year, having been a Middle School Principal for many years.”

I stared at her without response.

“It’s just that the world is a terrible place and kids are awful. Your kids need to be desensitized or everything is going to bother them.”

Finding my tongue, I retorted, “not everything is going to bother them, but injustice, prejudice, and blatant violence against others should trouble them. I don’t want them to ignore or walk away from such things. I want them to be responsive toward others.”

She smiled at me in a condescending way, patted my hand and said, “Well, I’m just telling you from experience that it’s better if they get desensitized.”

My mind was outraged and my feelings hurt. I had expended terrific effort to train three kids to care. I was not about to conform to the ways of this world in a lazy, irresponsible effort to create more zombies. All that came to mind at that moment was the group of teens who watched, cheered, videotaped and photographed the brutal beating of one of their “friends”. Then, they uploaded the unconscionable horror to YouTube. While I know that level of degeneracy is rare, the day to day lack of sensitivity is rampant in Middle Schools and High Schools across the nation.

One of the great battles for Christians (unless they are the sort who cut themselves off from contemporary life) is to remain kind when they’ve had a string of wrongs hurt them over the years. In addition to the unforeseen events like earthquakes, hurricanes, and illness, we unfortunately also endure heart trauma by the entirely avoidable meanness of others. It is natural to grow hardened.

All humans make big mistakes and bad decisions. We err and say hurtful things. The difference between desensitized and remaining sensitive, is remorse. The desensitized person doesn’t experience regret, sorrow or repentance. There is no reflecting or pondering or consideration of the consequences.

Despite the bad advice of the retired principal, I choose to continue the hard work of raising three human beings who care. My intent isn’t to shield them. I encourage “speaking up”, even to those in authority, when appropriate. All of my kids play competitive travel sports and are not ones to shrink back from conflict when necessary.

They are acutely aware of the world’s evil, feel sad when they are treated unjustly, but always move forward strong and confident. I’ll never believe that desensitizing children so they feel little, if any, compassion, is wise or responsible parenting.