Monday, January 28, 2008

Time-Travelin' Mamas

It's natural for us to look at the children in our lives and evaluate the paths they're taking…

Whether they're making good or bad decisions.
Whether their friends are good kids or little jerks.
Whether they're moving in the right direction or headed toward a bad place.

Not only is it a part of our built-in Mama-instinct to assess what's going on, but we've also "been there/done that" and can make comparisons based on our own experiences growing up.

Of course, offering advice to a tween or teen is sort of like trying to feed oatmeal to a rock, but we do our best to guide them in the right direction.

Maybe the old saying "Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself." is true. Our good advice may be right on point, but ultimately our kids need to make their own mistakes, learn from them, and move on… just like we did.

Actually, the people who would really benefit from our advice would be us…when we were young girls. So if you could go back to visit yourself when you were 12-years old, what advice would you give that girl?

I would tell 12-year old Mommy B:
• that her body was precious and perfect, just the way it was
• that her real power lay in her mind and heart, not in her looks
• that she was smarter and stronger than anyone could ever imagine
• that the emotions she felt and the words she spoke were valuable and important
• and that she didn’t need the approval of others to do well

Would she listen? That's the million dollar question.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

What the boys think...

There's been plenty of talk about how our sex-rich society effects the well-being of little girls, and with good reason. Early sexualization has far reaching effects that impact not only the healthy development of girls, but also how boys view girls and women.

I came across an enlightening (yet disturbing) bit of information a few years back from researcher Judith Jordan. She outlines two developmental paths in adolescence: "the emergence in boys of “sexual entitlement” and in girls of “sexual accommodation...” -- (Girlsinc.org)

So while media messages convey that being hot, sexually aggressive, and dressing to show what you've got is empowering for girls, the fact is… guys don’t feel that way. In their minds, if a girl is looking and acting sexy, it's because she wants to please them.

A great example of this type of male-thinking is this excellent piece done by the Canadian Broadcasting Channel. Here's the gist:

At an after-school drop-in arcade, we catch up with some volunteers who are trying to give young boys guidance. They see that a leading source of information about sex is now the media, and they’re worried about the message boys are getting about girls.

“Women are glorified as sexual objects in front of these boys,” says Nima, one of the volunteers. “They’re differentiating their bodies with who they are inside. They’re totally separating it.”

“They sell jeans with naked women in bus shelters,” says Myke. “You can’t ignore that. It’s hard to.”

These guys volunteer at an arcade drop-in, giving guidance to younger boys about respecting women.

“You’re waiting for the bus and there’s a big bum in your face,” adds Nima. “You’re just going to keep staring at it and miss the bus right? I’ve done that enough times.”

For Gordon, another volunteer at the drop-in, the majority of images he sees of women in the media aren’t helping young men to respect women:

“The magazine shows it in a sexualized way, that makes it hard for a man like me –or any man– to go out there in the world and see another woman, wearing that skirt, going to work, going to do her thing. It makes me look at her in the way I saw her in the magazine or on the TV.”

“I think that boys are losing more and more respect for women on a daily basis,” says Nima.


How deep is that?

These are older teens mentoring younger boys...real role-model types. Yet even they find it difficult to keep the sexed-up images they see in the media separate from their real-world views of women. If these near-adults are having issues, what the hell are little boys thinking when they see some chick gyrating in boy shorts, bouncing around in a bikini, or spinning herself silly on a pole while a group of fully-clothed men toss money at her?

Sure there are parents out there trying their damnedest to keep images like these away from their kids. But for every parent, struggling to raise a child with values and good sense, there are 20 other fools who could care less what their kid looks at.

Before we brush it off as "not my problem" don't forget, some of these media-soaked little ones will be sitting next to your good kid on the bus and in school. It can't just be a parental problem...the media's gotta take some of the heat as well.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sugar and spice and everything sexy

It's no secret that little girls today are exposed to sexual imagery much sooner and on a much greater scale than any other generation. From television to magazines to ads on the side of the bus, it's next to impossible to shield our girls from the flood of images that tell them that how they look, dress, and move is important…and what they think, say or feel is not.

Don’t believe it? Check this out.



"So what!" You may be saying. "I can shield my daughter from those types of images to some extent. And I can teach her that she is worth more than the sum of her parts."

Bravo, Mama! And indeed, it seems that many mothers are becoming more aware of the effects of this type of imagery on their little girls. Effects that, according to last year's APA report on the Sexualization of Girls, can include low self-esteem, eating disorders and depression.

But it's one thing for mothers to step up and say "I'm not going to let my child fall victim to this." That's certainly a positive. But what would really be wonderful (and absolutely, jaw-droppingly amazing!) is if the companies who are sending out these types of messages would step up and be more responsible in their advertising.

Of course this won't happen. Pre-teen girls are the most lucrative market to come along in years. The last thing on marketer's minds is the well-being of their bread and butter. Especially when selling thongs, padded bras, and v-string panties to them is so easy...and so much more fun.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Save your sanity. Don't read the news.

Anyone else notice a very disturbing trend in news lately? The stories seem to be getting more and more bizarre! A few weeks ago I suggested taking a stiff drink before reading or watching the news. At this point, it's probably better to just stick a straw in the bottle. Especially after these recent headlines...

Woman says dead kids were possessed by demons

Man throws four children off bridge

Man mails cow’s head to wife and lover

Man kills girlfriend then cooks her remains

And that’s just the tip of the nut-filled iceberg. I didn’t even include the dude in Idaho who cut off his hand and microwaved it because he thought the Mark of the Beast was on it. Or the two geniuses in New York who rolled their dead friend to the check cashing place in an office chair and tried to cash his social security check.

What the heck is going on?!? Is there a huge full moon? Is everybody smoking crack?

Years ago, I can remember hearing about gruesome stories like this once in a great while. Now it's something new every day. Was it always this bad?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

You can’t judge a book, a pop star, or some weird guy on the bus by their covers

Taking the bus in New York City can be an ordeal. Rush hour traffic can turn a 10-minute ride into a 45-minute headache. And don’t get me started on the characters that get picked up along the way. Too late! I’m off and typing…

So my girlfriend and I were taking the M103 uptown a few months back. Traffic was heavy so we settled in for the long haul. Fifteen minutes into our trip, a guy got on and sat down. He had on grungy jeans, combat boots, a puffy coat that looked like it was made from an old rug, and a big matching hat. And I mean BIG, Mamas. Like this...


Oh…he also had on ski goggles, no shirt, and was carrying 5 or 6 bags.

Of course we assumed he was mentally ill because, hey… he looked the part. We continued our conversation, but kept our guards up, wondering whether he was going to keep it together during this long bus ride. I bet my girlfriend $5 that he'd have his coat and shoes off by 75th Street. She put her money on pants down, coat on, singing show tunes by 78th.

Yeah. We expected the worst.

A few minutes went by. He started fidgeting.

“And so it begins,” I mumbled.

He picked up one of his bags and started rifling through it.

I’m not ashamed to say that I made a mental note of the nearest emergency exit.

He reached deep into the bag and pulled out a wad of yarn. For the rest of the trip he sat quietly in his seat crocheting a big pink blanket.

NOW we were shocked, and a little embarrassed. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have been cautious, but we took one look at this guy and instantly made up our minds about the type of person he was.

All of which I say to make the point that you really you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. If a couple of thirty-somethings needed to be reminded of this lesson, I’m sure it’s one that’s difficult for pre-teens as well. Something to think about when they’re being mesmerized by their favorite tween star or singing idol, or reading magazines and believing that the picture perfect bodies, faces, and lives presented to them are real.

Which brings me, in a very round about way, to my final point (I promise), which is this website. MyPopStudio.com takes girls behind the scenes of magazines, television and music with fun activities and games that will show them just how all those perfect images are manipulated and created. They'll learn that what lies underneath is not always so pretty.

Check it out and pass it along to your young’uns.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Puppy Love, in a Whole New Way

In my daily scan of headlines for news and views on pre-teen culture, I came across this story. It's not my usual Reign fare, but it's so nice that I had to mention it. It's about a program in Washington where they use dogs to rehabilitate juvenile offenders.

Take a read and tell me that it didn’t make you pull out the tissues! I've got a little pile crumpled up next to the keyboard.

I've heard about these programs before. In some places they take wild horses and let inmates train them. So now, the only question is, why aren't more correctional facilities using programs like this to help rehabilitate young offenders? The Journal of Correctional Education did an article on this a few years back and noted results from a three year study that followed young offenders who had completed a similar program in Oregon. That study states:

"Students who completed the program reported improvement in the areas of honesty, empathy, nurturing, social growth, self-confidence and pride of accomplishment. A zero recidivism rate was also reported."

Zero recidivism!?! You'd think every juvenile correctional facility in the nation would be scrambling to get some dogs in the house for the kids to work with.

Anyhoo. It's a nice article so I wanted to share. Plus, now I want a yellow lab like the on the web page.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

2008 is off an running!

Can you believe it's 2008? I can remember when we were all partying like it was 1999 (and not because the song was hot, but because it really was 1999).

So of course along with the New Year come the new resolutions. Why beat around the bush, you know I'm gonna post 'em, so here there are. I only have three.

#1 -- I WILL TREAT MY BODY BETTER!
This does NOT translate to losing weight, dieting or working out more because I am so damn tired of those same old resolutions. So this year I'm making a promise to my body that I will treat it with the love and respect it deserves. And it deserves A LOT!

For more than three decades (almost four, Mamas!) my body has been doing exactly what it's supposed to do…legs are still standing and bending, nose is still smelling, heart is still beating, various organs are still organ-ing. As far as performance, my body has an excellent track record. It's time to honor it for a job well done.

So this year, I resolve to feed my body with nourishment that will renew its energy, support its functions, and refresh its very essence. Donuts taste real good, but lately that type of stuff tends to sit in my system like dead rocks.

No more looking in the mirror with an eye of judgment and berating my body parts with names like cottage cheese thighs, flappy arms, jiggle-buns, and the ever popular muffin top. If I don’t like the way my body looks, I have the complete power to change it. Until then, I will love what I see.

#2 – I WILL SLOW DOWN!
I've come to the realization that I've been in a perpetual rush for the past 5 years. I rush to work, rush to pick up the kids, rush to fix dinner, rush to get to the grocery store. I'm done with that crap. My new motto for the 08 is…Low & Slow, Baby (mutter it to yourself in a sexy Barry White baritone…mmmm…yeah, that’s nice).

That's me… leaned back in the car, shades on, music playing, cruising along to my next destination secure in the fact that I’m on time and haven’t forgotten my cell phone, purse, or one of the kids in my mad dash through life. So that means that I will make better plans, get to bed earlier so I can actually wake up in the morning, and organize ahead of time so my endless rush can finally end.

#3—I WILL BLOG MORE!
I would love to give some insightful, heart-felt reasoning for this resolution. Something like making connections with others moms, exploring issues facing pre-teens, and meeting new people on blogs all over the world, and sure all that plays a part in my foray into the blogworld, but mostly it’s just fun so I’ll do it more often.

Those are my promises for 2008. They aren't much, but they're mine and I love 'em. Of course, my goal of becoming a low and slow, body-luvin, bloggin fool may not happen over night, but it's something I'll be working toward all year.

Anyone else got any goals for '08? Feel free to share.
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