A Better Response

1

My arms may be hairy, but the good news is that I’ll never need a coat during winter.

Do you ever dream of being young again to return to that wonderful age when you were on the cusp of puberty and surrounded by children who rejoiced in each other’s differences? Yeah. Me neither. But as is the way of being a small human, my three children are current residents of Kidville and will remain so for the next several years.

Our youngest child stays busy during the weekdays at the daycare (and our firm belief is that she rules that place each day in her standard tyrannical style with pig tails a-bobbin’ as she bosses around her classmates).  Our oldest is in middle school and is happy (today) (middle school can only be evaluated in daily increments at most). And then there’s our middle child. She is currently working on her last year of elementary school and has started to become self-conscious about her body. One might expect that she would also have achieved some cognizance regarding the need to wear her shirt the right way or possibly brushing more than a one inch section of her hair, but those details have yet to make the awareness cut.  

Nevertheless she has become fixated on the hair on her arms. She doesn’t look a human wolf and the circus has yet to call. She just has a little arm hair. As fate would have it, some random boy in her school approached her at the end of today’s school day and teased her about it. Being a tweenager goofball, he could have said anything at all, but of course that was the one he had to pick. He walked off before she could come up with a response, and she came home heart-broken.

The thing is this – I’m a mama bear when it comes to my kids (and potentially my arms as well), so my instant response was to tell her to be put on a tough face and stand up to the other child. I don’t mean that I told her to get busy whacking him in his crown with those Rapunzel-esque limbs. I told her that what he said was ridiculous, and she should just come back with a sassy response in return or maybe just feign a reaction of utter boredom should he attempt such lame insults again. I even tried to get her to practice with me, but she wasn’t having any of that. As feisty as she can be, she doesn’t have that warrior spitfire coursing through her veins (see “her mom” or “her tyrannical 3-year-old sister” for reference). She is basically a human fairy, and someone stomped on her fuzzy little wings. Seeing her little heart aching hurt me more than she could ever imagine.

You think that you are grown up and that you are so happy to be free of all the emotional complexities (a.k.a. garbage / crapola) that goes with being a child in school. As an adult, you do get attacked at times, but ultimately, you can choose to put space between you and any of those bullies of the world. You may not like the consequences, but you can walk. That’s one of the best parts about being an adult. But then you have a kid. And that kid goes to school. And someone you can’t control says something cruel and hurtful to your kid.

And because your child is effectively your heart walking around outside of your body, you hurt as much as if it was said directly to you.

So my response to her came from a defensive place. It wasn’t all “I am rubber. You are glue…” We did have an extensive conversation about his insecurity. I explained the real possibility that the boy might have actually thought that she was pretty and just didn’t know what to say. We also talked about how completely inaccurate his comments were and that she couldn’t let another person’s hollow and mean words tear down her self-image. (We did not discuss the reality that those kinds of comments will always hurt and that we spend our lives fighting with self image deficiencies. That felt a little heavy for the fuzzy arms talk.) Clearly my words impacted her deeply because her eyes glazed over and she said blandly, “Where are the Frosted Flakes?”

Sigh.

The truth is that she is a beautiful girl with gorgeous dark eyes and olive skin (the stinker!). She is not a furball, but she does have fuzzy arms. Her fuzz happens to be from dark hair while mine are fuzzy with light hair. It bugs her, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary at all. The other truth is that the picture above is of my arm, but that’s not my arm hair.  That’s my dog’s tail. We are both blondish, so it worked for me. Unfortunately it seriously weirded out the poor dog.

The real problem is that my daughter is going to be a serious headache for her father and me when her teenage bod kicks in. I have visions of her leaving for school one junior high morning and then exiting the building later that same day in slow motion with the wind blowing and an Aerosmith song playing in the background. It worries the crap out of me how pretty she might be. Thankfully for now, there is only standard motion, and Minecraft is her theme song. I’ll take that as long as I can.

So I called another mama / confidant whom I completely trust. She’s a precious friend and an adultier adult. (Another dear friend once told me that sometimes we need to seek adultier adults to help with various situations, and she was right on target.) Her suggestion was for me to sit with my daughter and focus on sending prayers for the other’s child’s insecurities to heal. I know. It’s almost exactly the same as what I said, right? Her suggestion to “Send light and love to the child who is clearly hurting” was  almost word for word the same as “Come up with a better come back, and maybe roll your eyes and yawn.” So close, yes???

Well at least God sent me an actual grown up to help me navigate the parenting waters I like to refer to as “Me and My Issues.” I’m not even really angry with the other child. His words were a reflection of his insecurity and lack of kid filters. My daughter will turn into a mega-babe (much to my dismay), and his words will be small potatoes relative to other hurts she will face.

I want to find better ways to help my children to avoid empowering the unimportant stuff. I hope to teach them how to acknowledge the untruths for what they are and to learn to dismiss the malicious words of others. I want for us all to respond from a place of love rather than a place of hurt. I pray that my mama bear within is reading this post, but I also know that she’s a beast and that I will fail dismally more times than I can imagine. But for now, I’m going to try. So I’m going to locate my inner grown up, and we will send love and light to that other child.

However if that kid messes with her again tomorrow…

(I’m just kidding!)

(I hope.)

ūüėČ  Joanna

Taking Back Your Self-Worth – Releasing Another’s Unkindness

STONE

Sticks and stones have yet to break my bones, but words have left me reeling on countless occasions. ¬†Many of us were raised to speak kindly and ignore harsh comments from others, but as we all know, it’s not quite that cut and dry.

I’m going to share a personal story that very few people in my life have heard. ¬†Congratulations internet – you are now part of The Circle of Secrecy. ¬†(Apparently The Circle is quite large.) ¬†(Also I feel like it would be disingenuous if I didn’t clarify that there are actually additional Circles within The Circle.)

When I was in high school, I participated in a program that allowed several students and teachers to spend a couple of weeks with various families in Asia. ¬†It was incredible, eye-opening, and beautiful beyond words. ¬†Experiences like that change you forever in ways that you couldn’t imagine. ¬†Sadly, the trip also left me with a memory that I can’t forget either. ¬†It may seem small, but it had a tremendous impact on me.

The flight from Texas to Japan took about 500 hours (give or take about 485 hours). ¬†We were antsy teenagers, and while we were excited to be going, it took foreeeeveeeer to get there. ¬†100 or so hours into the flight, I started talking to the guys sitting on either side of me. ¬†I wasn’t looking for love in all the wrong places. ¬†I was just bored, so I chatted with the adjacent humans. ¬†Unfortunately they were also bored and got trashed with the adjacent liquor bottles. ¬†It wasn’t my favorite spot to be in, but I didn’t know what else to do. ¬†It was an exchange program, but the exchange option did extend to my seat number.

Eventually the men became extremely rowdy, so one of the head administrators of the school called me over to sit in a seat in the row in front of him and his wife.  Another staff member moved to take my seat instead.  That was 100% fine by me.  I re-seated my seat, buckled my buckle, and the plane kept plane-ing.  Nothing could have been worse than their obnoxious behavior, so I was incredibly relieved to be elsewhere.

Until I heard this spoken softly by the administrator to his wife in the row behind me…

“That Joanna is a total slut.”

I can’t tell you how much it hurts me to repeat such base words of intense unkindness spoken about me by a leading administrator of my school. ¬†There was zero truth in them. ¬†I may have been brash and loud, but I truly was an innocent child. ¬†Overhearing those poisonous words from this respected person of authority made me feel like trash.

I have kept this story close because it is something I have wanted so badly to forget. ¬†It’s one small utterance, but it scratches my heart raw. ¬†Someone who knew absolutely nothing about me saw that when he looked my way. ¬†He thought I was low.

My mistake was not speaking to the two faceless men. ¬†My mistake was listening the one whose face I can’t forget.

In his defense, he was not a bad man at all. ¬†On the contrary, he was a very good man who did countless wonderful things to help many students. ¬†While he was utterly wrong about me, I don’t know of any other student that he failed over the years. ¬†I want to believe that he was stressed while watching the whole scene from several rows over. ¬†He misunderstood my not being able to deflect those inebriated jackasses as an invitation on my part. ¬†He misunderstood the situation, but more than anything, he misunderstood me. ¬†I never called him out on those words, but I have often wished that I had for my own sake. ¬†In truth though, it doesn’t matter.

Even though I knew then that what he said was not true, it still tore down my self-image.  That poison has coursed through my spirit for years.  I should have never given such power to the thoughtless words of that man.  The unkind words and acts of another do not deserve the authority to govern my self-worth.  Self-worth should always remain an inside job.

Unkindness does not define me.  Unkindness does not define you.

People say and do things that are strikingly hurtful. ¬†They lash out and lose control and make mistakes. ¬†Sometimes hurting you is intentional, and sometimes they don’t even know that they are doing it. ¬†Your hurt becomes invisible collateral damage. ¬†Most can’t see, but you can’t avoid. ¬†It gnaws at us and steals our happiness. ¬†But their unkindness is about them – not you.

I now see the paper tiger in his untruth.  I forgive a kind man who mistakenly whispered callous words with zero understanding of their impact.  I release that ghost of my past.  I take back all power I once gave it, and I bring yet another part of my soul back out of the shadows.

We have sacrificed pieces of ourselves to others who never deserved them. ¬†No one should ever be given the power to make you feel substandard or less than. ¬†You are never less than. ¬†You are meant to excel and grow and dream and learn and soar. ¬†Let go of another’s false perceptions, and discover who you really are.

Release the unkindness.  Take back your self-worth.

You were born to shine!

In love and light always – Joanna

***This is one of my favorite posts from an awesome lady and fellow outcast / badass who also had to brush off hollow unkindness thrown her direction. ¬†High five from me to you girl! ¬†ūüėČ
Too Good for Wal-Mart

Substandard

Rise to Your Standard, Not Theirs (Day 15)

mudflap

Thank you Amazon.  I could stop writing now, and an insanely obvious point would have already been made.

I combined my search results from earlier today into a comparison pic, because that image is worth exponentially more than a thousand words. ¬†Go to Amazon and replicate the search if you doubt me. ¬†It’s pretty stunning stuff (and I’m not referring to those highway hoochies).

sexy mudflap guy results 2

As I am certain that you absolutely must know what all four of your “sexy mudflap guy” purchase options are, here you go. ¬†Please note that two of the four mudflap guy options aren’t even guys but actually more highway hoochies.

A few days ago I was searching for a funny vinyl sticker for the back of my car and happened to stumble across Mr. Mudflap. ¬†It was so ridiculously funny to me that I almost bought it for my car. ¬†Ultimately I came to the conclusion that Suburbia would have torches a blazin’ and pitchforks a stabbin’ before I would even be able to remove it from the backing. ¬†I opted for an alternate funny (a post for another day) but didn’t forget Mr. Mudflap. (He’s pretty freakin’ great, no?) ¬†(YES!)

A few more days went by, and my elementary aged daughter and I found ourselves at the magazine isle at the grocery store. ¬†I was searching for some Mad Libs kinds of game magazines that we could play as a family during tech turn off. ¬†Apparently Mad Libs aren’t a normal thing in stores anymore. ¬†SO. ¬†SAD. ¬†But do you know what is a normal thing? ¬†This….

magazines girls

vs.

magazines guys2

The sad truth is that I wasn’t the person who noticed the stark differences in the magazine section. ¬†My young daughter smacked me to attention when she asked, “Mom, why are all of the women in these magazines dressed like that and why do they all talk about sex?”

We started looking at the magazines together and basically couldn’t stop finding scantily clad babes who looked like they desperately needed a good chicken fried steak. ¬†We moved to the magazines right next to them that were clearly aimed at guys. ¬†Notice all the man nips, shiny sweaty abs, and advice on how they can stay gorgeous and younger looking?? ¬†Yeah. ¬†Me neither. ¬†Even the dog magazine was free of tips on “how to stay attractive for your bitches.”

I was thinking about those images earlier today, and my daughter’s questions continued to haunt me. ¬†I was also quite annoyed at the strong possibility that I probably had more in common with the hunting dog than I did with the beach blanket bingo contestants. ¬†Thankfully I remembered my beloved mudflap man. ¬†The memory alone made me smile. ¬†But then I started to wonder how bad it might be, and thus the mudflap search on Amazon. ¬†Admittedly mudflap girl is a pretty specific hoochie, but the disparity in perceived norms for women versus men can be found in countless places.

To be clear, I have no beef at all with sex or sexy. ¬†On the contrary, I’m a fan, and I also completely appreciate wanting to feel attractive and be healthy. ¬†My issue is that feeling attractive and being healthy don’t have the slightest thing in common with the oversexualized plastic pinup that is being marketed as the standard. ¬†I am at a point in my life where I can recognize that the pictures been photoshopped and the sultry silhouette images are merely cartoons. ¬†However my young daughter sees these over and over again in stores and magazines and movies and TV shows. ¬†Although we teach her that this is not normal or real, mass marketing and the world of glamour and fashion tell her that this is exactly what she should see in her mirror.

Physical beauty is most certainly worthy of celebration, but brilliance, bold achievements, and true grit should be the aim.  Those should be the covers we seek.

I don’t fault the magazine companies or stores. ¬†Not in the slightest. ¬†They create and stock what sells. ¬†The part that I can’t reconcile is why does it sell? ¬†Why are these markets thriving? ¬†Why are women so hell bent on achieving a standard that is anything but standard. ¬†Why don’t we address the problem while women are still young? ¬†Ask any parents with pre-teen daughters how much fun it isn’t to go shopping for Halloween costumes. ¬†This is the kind of crap we get to sift through…

halloween women

“I’m sorry baby, but please remind me again which theme of ho you said you wanted to go with this year.”

Do we have this problem with our boys?

halloween men

“Son, I think there’s something wrong with all of these boy costumes. ¬†Based on the girls’ section, these ones must have accidentally been made with three times the appropriate amount of fabric. ¬†Also they are all missing the thigh highs,” said No Mom EVER.

The two pics above were screenshots from my Google searches for costumes for women and costumes for men.  Each group of costumes represents the leading items suggested for the specific gender.

There is a striking disparity in the expectations for achievements and physical attributes for men and women. ¬†I was incredibly blessed to be raised by parents who didn’t ever lead me to believe that my being a woman would be a detriment to me on any level. ¬†As a matter of a fact, my father went out of his way to make it abundantly clear that I should never forget that nothing could stop a smart and fierce woman from achieving anything she wanted. ¬†Decades have passed and yet those words resound in my ears constantly. ¬†I knew that he meant what he said, and that was the greatest gift he could have possibly given me. ¬†Every girl should hear this from the important people in her life, and if at all possible, she should hear it from the important men in her life.

Release the belief that achieving an unrealistic airbrushed standard is the ultimate goal.  There are higher mountains to climb and greater missions to accomplish.  If you want to make those climbs while sporting a string bikini and thigh highs, I say rock on my friend.  If I had the bod and the confidence, I would do the same.

Just don’t confuse the wrapping for the real gift inside.

Know your true beauty.  Own every single inch of it.  And rise to your standard, not theirs.

With love and light always – Joanna

Grit

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