dress-up · physical appearance · raising strong girls · self-esteem · slice of life

My 5 year-old was makeupless for her dance recital. #sol16

Isabelle’s first dance recital took place last night. If you’ve talked to me lately (or read this blog post I wrote in March), then you know I haven’t been that excited about the recital. Some of my lack of enthusiasm had to do with the emphasis on performance rather than acquisition of discernable ballet and tap skills. Some of my lack of enthusiasm surrounded the fact that the rehearsal and recital went beyond Isabelle’s bedtime. And some of my lack of enthusiasm revolved around the idea of five-year-olds being requested to wear makeup.
So, about the makeup. If you read my March post, you might remember makeup was encouraged, but not required for preschool dancers. Seeing as it was optional, I opted not to put any on Isabelle. I figured I’d cave and allow her to wear lipstick if she really wanted to wear makeup because her peers were. In reality, I felt strongly that she didn’t wear it since she’s only five. (Believe me, I have nothing against makeup. I’m rarely out without it. I just don’t think it is for little girls.)
Isabelle either didn’t care or didn’t notice she was the only kid in her dance class without makeup. None of the other moms questioned me about it. (Note: We changed to a different class in early April.) And you know what? When asked, my husband said Isabelle’s lack of makeup didn’t make a lick of difference to him sitting in the audience. He was able to see her face the same as every other kid in her class.  (I was back stage so I was able to see all of the girls exactly the same.) 
I’m feeling slightly triumphant now about the makeup thing. But despite all of my disdain for everything that revolved around the recital (which also included the fact that the preschoolers’ moms were required to stay backstage rather than being allowed to watch the performance from the audience), I am pleased Isabelle had the courage to get up on stage, in front of hundreds of people, to perform without stage freight. That is a huge accomplishment! 

End of the tap routine.
independent play · medical · physical appearance · pretend play · slice of life

The Prescription That Felt More Like a Good Report Card

We took Isabelle for her annual well-child checkup this morning. We were delighted she’s grown three inches since her four-year-old well-child checkup considering more than half of the dinners she’s eaten in the past year have consisted of grilled cheese sandwiches! (Not for nothing, but they’ve been served on wheat bread with a vegetable and fruit on the side. I guess that helped.) In fact, today was the first time I’ve ever been visited her pediatrician where I haven’t come in with a notebook page or Evernote note filled with questions and concerns! Today, my husband and I had two questions, both of which weren’t significant enough to write down. And let me tell you, that felt awesome!

But here’s what really felt good:


Isabelle’s pediatrician handed this prescription to her towards the end of the visit. He went through every bullet point in an effort to explain what the words meant. He told Isabelle she needs to get eight or more hours of sleep at night. (Check! She gets about 10 hours/night.) Next, he stated  she should eat five or more vegetables and fruits daily. (Check! On school days I know she gets this amount. Weekends are another story, but everyone cheats a bit on weekends, right?) Afterward, her pediatrician told her she shouldn’t have more than two hours of screen time a day. Then he interrupted himself, recalling Isabelle told him the only two shows she’s allowed to watch, and said he knows she doesn’t watch much TV. (So… check! Case in point — Isabelle had an hour of screen time today: a half-hour of “Sesame Street” followed by a half-hour working with me on speech apps on the iPad.) Next, he reminded her to play for at least one hour a day. (Check! This kid plays more hours than I can count.) Finally, he reminded her to never drink sugary sweetened drinks. (Check! We don’t bring soda in our house.)

I chuckled aloud. “Dr. B., Marc and I aren’t perfect parents — at all. But I’ve got to tell you, this prescription makes me feel really good.”

He smiled,”You’re definitely doing an above-average job on these things. Keep it up!”

“Thanks,” I replied.

We spent a few more minutes talking with him about typical five-year-old concerns (which test our patience daily) before we checked out. This evening, as we were bickering with Isabelle about the merits of going upstairs for bedtime, I looked at the script again. Sleep, produce intake, limited media time, lots of play, and no sugary drinks. We may not have everything figured out, but five years in, I have to say, I think we’re doing pretty well.

Head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com  for more slices of life.
Head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com for more slices of life.
physical appearance · raising strong girls · self-esteem

The Road to Loving Yourself for Who You Are

A few weeks ago I received an email from one a former student’s mom.  She wanted to inform me about a program into which her daughter recently gained acceptance.  She shared a few of the writing samples she provided to the program.  One essay struck a cord with me.  It’s about growing up, self-esteem, and wanting to look like everyone else.  I read it and my heart ached since I wish I had known about the struggles she faced in elementary school.  However, I tried not to beat myself up about this since I know she has grown into a well-adjusted, confident young lady who will enter 11th grade this fall.

I asked this student’s mom if I could share her personal essay in this forum.  She (and her daughter) said yes.  I have not edited it at all.  It appears just the way she wrote it.  After you read it, I’d love to know what you’re thinking about how we can reach out to girls when they’re in elementary school to help them to become more confident with who they are.

Like many other daughters, sisters, and nieces in the world, I was once one of many who suffered from low self-esteem. Even though I was always told I was pretty and beautiful by my parents and family members, I could never find the truth behind those two words. Parents were supposed to tell their daughter that she was beautiful, even if she really wasn’t. What beauty might have stood for my parents and family was definitely not what I felt beauty was. In my eyes being beautiful meant that you had long, flow-like hair, an olive skin complexion, and wore nice clothes. Needless to say, I was not blessed enough to have any of those beauty must-haves. Instead, I had short, ethnic hair that didn’t even past my shoulders or neck. My skin complexion was a deep brown and my clothes were a mix of hand-me-downs and attire that was two seasons too late.

It didn’t help that I attended elementary school where there were a majority of Hispanic girls who had those three beauty must-haves. The African-American girls, who did look like me, were mean and cruel, so I tried to befriend the Hispanic girls. Even though I envied the Hispanic girls around me, I considered them my “friends” because in some ways they accepted me into their cliques. As I grew to know them, I felt that I could slowly turn into them. I wanted to finally be pretty and feel beautiful, even if I had to kiss up to them and just brush off their crude comments. Being a quarter Puerto-Rican didn’t really help me either, being that I felt that I was almost them. It took me a while to finally realize that I would never be them, and would have to learn to love being me.

It was a long journey learning to love who I was, and it took me to the middle of junior high, to learn to do so. It may have been because I began to receive male attention and was even told I was pretty by the girls in my junior high school. Most girls might have used this newfound attention and used it negatively, but I didn’t do so. I didn’t run off and have sex with any guy who told me I was beautiful or do shameful things to continue the male attention. Instead, it gave me the boost to see what I was told all along. What made me beautiful was my huge heart and warm spirit, while physical features attractions were pluses.

When I look back at how insecure I used to be, it doesn’t upset me or wish I’d never gone through what it did. It makes me feel lucky but I know appreciate myself more than I would have if I didn’t have low self esteem before. Going through what I did, has also led me to be a mentor of my eight-year-old sister, Sade. Just like me, she faces insecurity and has even shared wanting to be pretty like the Hispanic girls. I’m able to share my experiences and help my sister understood her beauty, in and out. Low self-esteem and insecurity can way a lot on young girls and is an epidemic even more today. Luckily, my experience hasn’t been negative enough for me to take my life, but hopefully better the life and give life to another. The number of daughter, sisters, and nieces continues to increase, and I hope I can help decrease the number of self-esteem and insecurity cases.

OBSERVATIONS · physical appearance · reading the world

Embracing My Curly Hair So My Daughter Will Too

There are very few photos of me and Isabelle with our backs to the camera. This one, which my father took as I was showing Isabelle an app that makes animal sounds, features both of our curly ‘dos.

“I’d like you to cut my hair to curl,” I told Lani, my stylist, when I went for a haircut in late June.

“Really?” she asked raising her eyebrows.  She’s been cutting my hair for the better part of the past three years and I’ve always been all about long layers, blow-outs, and having her flat iron my hair.

“Well, it’s too hot and humid for me to keep wasting my time straightening my hair everyday,” I confessed telling a partial truth.

“Okay. How much do you want to take off?”

You can figure out where the conversation went from there.  The balmy weather we’ve been having is only part of the reason I’m going curly.  The real reason I’ve decided to embrace my natural curls is because I want my daughter to do the same.

When Isabelle was a baby (i.e., before she reached a year old), she would willingly sit in her Nap Nanny at the doorway of my bathroom, and watch quietly as I blew out and straightened my hair.  As she got older, her willingness to sit and watch dwindled.  Therefore, I found myself trying to do these things before she woke up or after she went to bed.  What a waste of sleeping baby time!  There are so many other things I’d rather be doing (e.g., reading, writing, catching up with family/friends on the phone, exercising) or should be doing (e.g., paying bills, working on the manuscript I haven’t touched in over six months).  Why was I wasting my precious time straightening my hair?

To that end, should Isabelle become interested in watching me straighten my hair with the same rapt attention she used to have, what will she glean from the experience?  Three things came to mind:

  1. Mommy should be playing with me.
  2. Mommy isn’t happy with how she looks.
  3. I have curly hair like Mommy and I want my hair to be straight like Mommy’s too.

NONE of these three messages are ones I want her to internalize.  First of all, if she’s watching me straighten my hair, then shame on me.  I should be playing with her.  Second, I am pretty happy with how I look.  (Sure I’d like to lose a few more pounds, but I’d never say that in front of Isabelle.  I’ve come to believe that straightening my hair in front of her will lead her to believe that I’m unhappy with who I am.  Not the kind of message I want to send to her.)  Third, I love Isabelle’s curly hair!  There’s no way I would do anything to damage her beautiful hair with the kind of heat one would have to use to straighten it.

One of the many things I’m teaching my daughter to do is to read the world.  Right now, mommy is a huge part of her world.  Therefore, I want her to read me in a way that makes her realize I am satisfied with who I am.  Hence, the straightening products on my bathroom vanity have been tucked away and replaced with products for curly hair.  My flat iron hasn’t seen the light of day in nearly two weeks.  I’m now walking through life as the curly haired woman I am.

Inevitably, I will smooth out my hair again.  Maybe it’ll be when we go to synagogue for the high holidays.  Or maybe it’ll be the next time my husband and I hire a babysitter for a date night.  (For the record, my husband, who also has curly hair, prefers my hair curly.)  However, I will think twice before picking up my blow dryer and flat iron again.  I want Isabelle to see me embrace my curls so she will love her own (and be happy with who she is when she looks in the mirror).