Encouraging a Positive Self Image in Your Daughter

Posted on Apr 21, 2014 by No Comments

I really wanted to name this “Just the Way You Are” but it’s against every rule and addendum in the blogger handbook of how to create titles.

Encouraging  positive self image in your daughter is a hot topic these days. Women are finally letting the world know that we are tired of being stuffed into a Barbie mold, or trying to. We are finally accepting who we are with no makeup and unshaven legs. We’re just us.

Our daughters are the ones who are stuffing themselves in Barbie bodies and pretending that they like things that they don’t. They are the ones that are reading stupid articles that tell them how to modify their personalities so that boys will find them attractive.

This is one area that the trickle down theory doesn’t work — at least if that’s the only technique that you use. You are a much more important part of you daughter’s life than she is willing to tell you. She watches what you do and listens to what you say — it sticks with her her entire life even if she never acknowledges it.

I once knew someone who had trouble when trying on clothing because her mother’s voice was right there with her.

“That neckline is too low for you.”

“Wow, that’s not your color, is it.”

At the same time, I have my father’s voice in my head. He was always very encouraging and had a particular phrase he used to encourage me. I still have that in my head and it tends to streak across my mind in a blaze of glory when I feel like quitting.

Our words stay with our daughters. The examples we set stay with our daughters. The hardest part of parenting is keeping yourself in check so you don’t pass on problems to your children. If you talk about how much you dislike your thighs or nose, then you are telling your daughter that you aren’t good enough. That tells her that she isn’t good enough, either.

Not being good enough means that she feels compelled to change herself so that she is good enough. She reads those stupid articles, she weighs herself obsessively, and she reins in her natural intelligence so that she doesn’t outshine her current crush. How do I know?

I was that girl. I had extremely curly, dark hair in the 1970s when you were suppose to have straight, preferably blonde, hair. I was teased about my hair to the point that I would cry and throw up. I was a bookish introvert who had very little confidence. The more I was teased, the more I retreated into myself.

When I came out of that shell at age 16, I was a completely different person and I had not changed for the better. It was survival.

Looking back on that time, I can see now that I was pretty, I knew I was smart, and I was creative. My mother deflected any compliments that came my way, worrying that I would become conceited. I am still amazed when someone comments favorably on my looks. Now I know that there are men out there who can love me just for who I am, no changes necessary — at least one, anyway.

Tell your daughters not to change for someone, that it’s worth waiting for the guy you don’t have to change for. Tell them they are smart, pretty, creative, and accomplished. Let them see that you feel like you’re enough. Tell them that they don’t come up short and they aren’t too much for Mr. Right, if there is one, to handle.

Tell them that they are enough.

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How to Take Care of Baby’s Umbilical Cord

Posted on Apr 18, 2014 by No Comments

When I brought my first child home from the hospital, there were things I had no clue about, and back then there was no Internet. I had been an only child, didn’t do a lot of babysitting, and  frankly, I was scared as hell.

Of all of the new things I had to learn, one of the most frightening was that weird looking umbilical cord stump. What if I accidentally pulled it off? What if it got infected? What if I hurt my baby somehow?

Guess what? She and I both got through it without too much emotional scarring and her belly button is lovely. While these are tried and true tips, keep in mind that I am not a medical professional. Always follow your health care provider’s instructions and talk to her about any concerns that you might have.


Keep the diaper under the cord stump. The diaper creates a moist environment that encourage all kinds of bacteria. Fold the diaper down to keep it under the area and keep it low enough that it doesn’t rub. Some newborn diapers actually have a notch cut into them for this very reason.

Sponge Baths Only

Don’t put your baby in that cute, little bathtub you got at your shower. The cord should be kept clean and dry until it completely falls off. Just wash the baby with a soft washcloth and comfortably warm water. It doesn’t need to be real wet. A quick spongebath is perfect. The bonus to this is that it gives you a little while longer to take it easy.

Naked Time

I used to give my babies some time each day to be naked. I’d put them on a blanket covered with a waterproof pad on the floor. This is much easier in the summer than the winter! It gives the cord stump as well as their bottoms a chance to dry out a little. A big benefit is that bacteria don’t like fresh air and sunlight, so there is less of a chance of infection or diaper rash.

Dress Her in Loose Clothing

I always liked to use drawstring gowns for both boys and girls for those first few weeks. You know the kind, the ones with the drawstring on the bottom so you can pull it tight with the babies little feet inside the gown? These cover enough to keep your baby warm but are loose enough that the cord gets plenty of air circulation.

Alcohol Swabbing or Not?

Not. At least I didn’t swab it with alcohol. I left it alone.

Is It Getting Infected?

I looked for signs of infection hundreds of times every day. Was it redder than normal? Did it smell funny?

Here are the signs of infection:

  • Bleeding
  • Cloudy discharge or pus oozing
  • Stinky
  • Abnormal redness
  • Fever of 100F or more

If you are concerned that your baby may be getting an infection, call your health care provider. It’s always best to be safe rather than sorry.

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True Confessions – Did You Immediately Fall in Love with Your Baby?

Posted on Apr 16, 2014 by No Comments

Every mom I have ever talked to remembers the first time she saw her baby. I have never had anyone say anything that was anything but love-gush and I am wondering if that is common. Did we all fall head over heels in love with our babies the first time we saw them? Did we all think they were the most adorable things on the planet?

I remember my dad laughing and telling me (after the fact) that he had been so concerned about my firstborn’s looks that he asked a doctor if she was going to need surgery to make her head look right. It had been a long, hard birth and her head was a little misshapen. He said that the doctor looked at him like he was nuts and told him that she would be fine.

I am happy to report that she is now a gorgeous, 31 year old who has also given birth to gorgeous children.

I have given birth eight times and, for the sake of total disclosure, I don’t think I thought any of them were adorable the first time I saw them. I got used to how new babies look after the first couple, but I am not sure that the screaming, red body covered in goo was ever something that I looked at and thought, “Whoa! Stop the presses! That child is adorable!”

I was usually still in pain, covered in ick, trying to push out a placenta, and exhausted. I am pretty sure I didn’t look very good to my babies the first time they saw me, either.

Do we give women who are pregnant for the first time unrealistic expectations about their immediate feelings for their children? It can’t be just me that needs a Dr Pepper, a turkey sandwich, and a few minutes to wrap my brain around how I’ve spent the last 12 hours before I am ready to fall in love with my baby!

It’s been a long time since I was pregnant with number one child, but I can remember feeling nervous about the whole thing. Would I be a good mom? Would it hurt? Would it all be OK? Then finally, what if I didn’t love my baby or think it was cute? OMG! What if I had a super unattractive child?

If a young women is feeling all of those things and she is told not to worry, she’ll love her baby the moment she sees it, I wonder if we are not setting her up for stress and feelings of failure if, the first time they lay that wet bundle on her chest, she looks at it with horror. What if it takes her a few minutes, hours, or even days to really fall in love with her child and to really think that it’s adorable?

When I have been asked about my experiences by pregnant women I usually tell them that sometimes the baby looks weird and sometimes it takes awhile for all of those maternal feelings to gush in. If they aren’t there immediately, she should know that they will be soon. Her mind just needs to process everything.

How about you? Did you fall in love immediately or did it take a little longer?

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When an Older Sibling Leaves Home

Posted on Apr 14, 2014 by 2 Comments

I didn’t expect to deal with empty nest syndrome when my oldest left home to get married. At that time, I had six younger children that kept me quite busy.

It was just that the house felt weirdly out of balance with her gone, but I figured that it was just me. It didn’t take me too long to realize that the family was emotionally limping because the dynamic had changed. Over time, we compensated and things began to feel normal again.

A couple of years later, we did the same thing again when my son went into the military. Oddly, although we had plenty of experience with people leaving home, we went through another bout with empty nest when my next son went into the military. Now we are facing it again and I have no delusions that things will stay the same — everyone will be affected.

For some reason, when your family is young you feel like nothing will ever change. There are diapers to change, meals to get, a house to clean, possibly a career to juggle, and then you fall into bed and do it all over again the next day.

This goes on for years until one day your child isn’t there for dinner. She’s home less and less, and all of a sudden she’s gone. Even if your kids have been at each-others’  throats for years, the siblings left at home are going to feel the change.

It could be as simple as the blues, tears, acting out, or complaining of nausea. There is a feeling of loss that they might not even realize is there.

When the time comes that your kids begin leaving home, plan on the whole family going through a period of mourning. It’s normal.

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Mom’s Favorite Doesn’t Change with Time

Posted on Apr 11, 2014 by 1 Comment

People often ask me if I have a favorite child and the answer is always yes. I do, and I readily admit it. I have eight of them. Each is my favorite in a uniquely different way, from the one that makes me laugh to the one that knows when I am hypocalcemic just by looking at me. Some remind me of myself and others are delightfully different.

A study by Purdue University indicates that the favorite child doesn’t seem to change over time and that is usually the one that is the preferred caregiver when Mom reaches the age that she needs help making decisions.

They found that mothers usually have one consistent favorite over time. This was usually the child that had the most similarity to their mother, as well as the one who provided the most emotional support over the years.

I think all of my kids provide me with emotional support, friendship, family, and I believe any of them would make good choices for me if I needed them to. Maybe it’s the difference between a large family and a small one, but I believe that my children would make a decision about my care together.

My choice of a caregiver would be the child that was in the best position to implement the decisions that the others helped them make and I would expect all of them to share equally in the responsibility. Oh, not because I want them to. They’d do it because that’s how our family is.

I read the study with interest, and it made me think about my own future plans and needs. I honestly can’t imagine having a favorite and I think it’s best that, long before it’s necessary, you sit down with your older children and talk about your future plans.

It’s also important to broach this subject with your parents so that you know what their wishes are. It’s not an easy subject but it is a necessary one.

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Mommy Guilt by the Bucketful

Posted on Apr 7, 2014 by No Comments

So, several months ago my youngest came home from school and bounded into my room where I was working feverishly to conquer my looming deadlines. It was the end of the month, Halloween day, and I was eyebrow deep in research. I put my computer aside as she came in, prepared to give her at least a few minutes of my undivided attention. I figured I could at least spare that much.

“We were like almost the last ones at school.” She stated in a matter of fact voice, as she rifled through her costume backpack, the one that held all of her candy stash.

“Oh really? Why was that?” I wondered if my son had been late picking them up.

“All of the parents came to the costume parade and took their kids home when it was over.” She looked at me unblinkingly while she slowly chewed a Tootsie Roll.

And there it was. A rush of mom guilt hit me like a tsunami on steroids. I didn’t even know there was a costume parade. “Why didn’t you tell me there was something special? I would have tried to be there!”

“I know, Mom. Actually, I did tell you last week. You are busy, though. I understand.” She pulled out a Milky Way bar and unwrapped it tantalizingly close to my face.

The tsunami on steroids suddenly loomed larger than before. Now it was Tsunami-Kong. How could I have forgotten? I still didn’t remember her saying anything.

I wondered if she had been scarred for life — if someday she would be lying on a psychiatrist’s couch recounting how she waited for some sign of me at the parade until all hope died in her heart. I wondered if she had looked eagerly for me in the crowd, if she had felt a deep sense of abandonment when she trudged back to her classroom with the handful of other students who had crappy parents like me.

I can be quite dramatic when I get going.

I can’ t be everywhere. I can’t be everything she needs as much as I want to be. My parents were supportive but were not involved in every aspect of my existence and I ended up reasonably well adjusted.  Some people would disagree but it’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I don’t think women from my mom’s generation had mom guilt. They didn’t have Facebook and Pinterest to be beaten over the head with all the things they should have been doing. Parenting was basically just something you did privately, kind of like pooping. You knew everyone did it but you just never discussed the details.

Back then you might be judged for the shininess of your dishes, the flavor of your coffee, and whether or not you could bake an edible pie, but raising children? That was off the table.

No matter how badly I want to be that perfect mom, I won’t ever make it. I have to satisfy myself with doing my best and trusting that somehow things work themselves out. All of the mommy guilt in the known universe will not accomplish my goals for them and will just sap my energy for positive things.

What about you? What brings on the mommy guilt at your house?

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Why Aren’t Kids in a Hurry to Drive?

Posted on Apr 3, 2014 by 1 Comment

When I was fifteen I took drivers’ ed, and yes they really did make cars back then. I could hardly wait for my sixteenth birthday because my mom was going to take me to school and on the way were planning to stop at the Department of Public Safety so I could take my test and get my license. She didn’t even care that I was going to be late for school.

Best. Birthday. Present. Ever.

I was thrilled when I got my license and finally got to hop in the car and head off to the store by myself, or to a friend’s house, or just cruising through our small town looking cool. That’s what we did.

My kids couldn’t care less about their licenses, or at least it seems that way. There was no push at age fifteen for us to put them in drivers’ ed and, when they turned sixteen it wasn’t a big deal that they had to wait to be able to drive. In fact, I have a seventeen year old who has her learner’s permit but just hasn’t been motivated to begin driving.

It’s very frustrating for me because it would help a lot if she could drive herself and her siblings to school and bring them home!

I see it as immaturity and a refusal to grow up. Maybe it isn’t, but there are so many things that kids today don’t seem to be in a hurry to do, like get jobs. After getting your license, the next thing to check off the list was getting a paycheck so you could afford gasoline!

Why do you think kids are waiting longer to do “adult” things?

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Teenagers Are Just Like That

Posted on Mar 31, 2014 by 1 Comment

It never fails. When I am in a group of people and the subject of teenagers comes up, the conversation suddenly is full of horror stories that invariably end with the phrase, Teenagers are just like that. It’s the age.

I have not yet succumbed to my temptation to hit the speaker in the head with a hammer, nor have I voiced my violent dislike of such generalities. The truth is that teenagers are incredibly cool people if you remember that they are people — individuals with different ideas, opinions and personalities. They are not at an awkward “in between stage”, nor are they necessarily overly opinionated and rebellious. At least not more than adults are.

I am on number seven of the eight teenagers I will have raised by the time I am done. Out of all of them, I don’t think there was one that acted in a way that I would classify as classic teen behavior.

Oh, I am not saying that we never disagreed. We did, and sometimes violently. People do that because it is part of life not because one of them is a teenager.

I have disagreed just as violently with my husband as I have with any of my teens. I have disagreed with friends, with acquaintances, and with people I don’t even necessarily know. Whenever you have people with opinions, you’ll have disagreements as long as one of them isn’t holding a gun, if you know what I mean.

It’s just that when I see parents that have difficult to deal with teens, I generally notice that the parents are grasping at control when they should be loosening the reins a little.

It isn’t just the important stuff, either. They are critical and controlling of what their teen wears (obviously there are some instances when this is necessary but surely not every single outfit?), they say no more than they say yes, and they want their teen to think just like they do.

The idea of keeping a teenager controlled until they move out is dangerous. If you can actually accomplish that, you are almost guaranteeing a young adult that goes wild  because he’s never learned self control.

If you have raised a child the best you can and given him plenty of good parenting, then you really should be able to start releasing control and letting him make some of his own decisions by age ten or so. By age sixteen you should be more or less an adviser rather than an enforcer. By age 18 your child is an adult and his decisions are his own, or they should be.

I think that if you are struggling with rebellious, disrespectful teens it might be time to look at what you are expecting and requiring, how you’ve handled things in the past, and why they might be resisting you. It could be that, while they are struggling to become adults, you are struggling to keep them children.

If you are always at odds with your teen, find out why. Take them out for coffee and ask them where they think you are being unreasonable. Listen to what they have to say. Try to say yes more than you say no and trust them until they prove to you that you can’t. Even then, there has to be hope of earning your trust again someday.

Let them know what you expect and where you feel they are letting you down. Reaffirm your love for them.

People that are afraid of water rarely learn to swim. People that are afraid of teenagers rarely get to enjoy this amazing stage of life.

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Night Terrors: What, Why, and How to Cope

Posted on Mar 28, 2014 by 1 Comment

It’s eleven at night, you have an alarm set for five in the morning, and you are deep in the velvety nothingness of sleep. Suddenly a blood curdling scream slices through your house like the very worst scene in a horror movie. Adrenalin pumping, you literally bounce out of bed and into your child’s room where he is crying, thrashing, rolling his eyes, and totally oblivious to everything around him because technically he is still asleep.

Sort of.

Night terrors happen to about six percent of children. They are usually between the ages of four and twelve, but not always. They occur during the moments that your child transitions into REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and no one knows exactly why. Researchers surmise that it has to do with an immature nervous system and some sort of interruption in those few seconds between non-REM and REM sleep.

Since your child isn’t actually conscious during night terrors, it is hard to console him. Sit quietly and speak calmly telling him it’s alright and he’s safe. Pat him on the back softly. Soon he will settle back down into a deep sleep and not remember a thing in the morning.

While there isn’t much you can do to keep it from happening, you might be able to make it more unlikely. Follow a relaxing routine at bedtime and keep it the same every night. A warm bath and a peaceful story can help lull him into an uninterrupted sleep. Make sure there isn’t something that is causing him stress during the day.

You’ll be happy to know that kids usually grow out of night terrors fairly quickly. Stay calm, soothe him as much as you can, and head back to your own bed when he settles down. Like many stages, this too shall pass!

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