If Only I’d Known it Would be the Last Time I’d Carry Her

little-girl-lostI wish I’d taken my time. I wish I’d leaned in and taken a deep breath, pulling in that musky scent made of a long day of play. I didn’t.

I huffed and puffed and moaned and groaned.

I stopped just inside the doorway, pushing her bottom onto the counter, heaving a sigh of heavy relief as I pulled shoes from feet and hat from hair. I stood for a moment, catching my breath. I still had a long, steep staircase to mount.

I didn’t know it would be the last time I’d make the trip I’d made so many, many, many times before. Unbuckling a harness in the early days, later a seat belt. Wrapping arms ’round my neck. Slipping my hands behind her back and pulling her close, the gentle breath of sleep warm on my neck as I made my way across the lawn, into the house and to her bedroom.

You never know when it will be the last time. The last time they call you “Mommy.” The last time they ask for a bedtime story. The last time they whisper a promise to never ever leave home because they’d miss you too much.

We push and prod our way to the firsts, cheering them as they roll over, take steps, wrap their hands around a fork and a spoon. We can’t wait until they’re talking and running and using an actual toilet. Every child is different and so too are the milestones they manage, but there are some basic guidelines at least, books and pediatricians telling us that development follows a certain series of firsts.

They don’t tell you about the lasts.

They don’t tell you to prepare for the day you pull into the driveway, wrest keys from the ignition, open the back door, unbuckle the car seat, wrap arms round your neck, slip hands behind back and stop.

She’s too big now, legs and arms too long to drape around me as I make the walk from car to house to bedroom. And so I open the car door. I unbuckle the seat belt. And I lean in to take one deep breath before I whisper, “We’re home.”

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10 Best Things About Raising a 10-Year-Old

10Let’s be honest. Being parent to a 10-year-old rarely makes the “things I can’t wait to do” lists. Ten is the age when everything falls apart. They hit double digits and the so-called tween years.

They’re independent. And they let you know it.

Frequently.

They’re hormonal. Angry. And much, much smarter than you will ever be (or so they say).

And yet … there’s something to being parent to a 10-year-old that’s hard to pin down. There’s magic in this uncertain year, magic we parents in the trenches of 10 would be wise to recognize.

  1. They’re funny. No, really. Knock knock jokes no longer knock them on their butt. Suddenly the jokes they spout off have an honest-to-goodness “haha” factor.
  2. They’re sarcastic. This goes hand-in-hand with being funny, but it brings you to a whole new level of wit.
  3. They’re useful. Not only does the dishwasher get cleaned out a whole lot faster when they don’t have to call you every fifth second to “grab the sharp knife I’m not allowed to touch” or “put that bowl on the shelf I’m too short to reach,” but you get whatever it is you’re doing done in record time when you’re not being interrupted very fifth second.
  4. They’re rational. OK. Not always. In fact, look tween behavior up in the dictionary, and synonyms include “often absurd,” “frequently unreasonable” and so on. One does not have an existential life crisis over a hairbrush when one is completely balanced. But something about hitting double digits opens up the still developing portion of the brain that allows us all to make sense of the world’s nonsense. Pearls of wisdom begin to flow. Listen for them. Write them down.
  5. They’re cuddly. Sure, they’re letting go of hands and refusing kisses in public. But in private, the 10-year-old is still small enough for a good old-fashioned couch cuddle. Grab them and don’t let them go.
  6. They’re amazed. They’re getting more jaded with every passing day, but there’s still magic that will take their breath away.
  7. They’re questioning. They may assure you that they know more than you, but they’re also unafraid to betray the gaps in their knowledge by asking you to fill them in on what they don’t know. Sure, it’s a bit hypocritical, but don’t tell them. it’s a beautiful thing to see their minds at work.
  8. They sleep. In their own beds. Enough said.
  9. They like their own space. Seeing that closed bedroom door is bittersweet, yes, but it’s nice to have a little “me” time again.
  10. They’re yours. College is still seven to eight years away. You still have them … and you need to hold on tight.

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Ten Things I Want My Daughter to Know Before She Turns 10

DandelionTen is bearing down on our house like a tractor trailer running down a steep hill. There’s no stopping it, so we might as well pull in behind it and draft along.

I’m embarrassed to admit it took me longer to realize I could ride 10’s coattails than it probably should have. Even 10 years in, I’m still new at this. She’s my first. My only. I haven’t had a starter kid to practice on.

But the requests have come for months, “When I’m 10, can I …” At first I sighed and promised to think on it, put it off in the way parents have for ages, with pledges to “talk to your father about it.” But lately my answers have been quicker, smarter. I’ve started to slip things onto the track greased by the wheels of 10, things a kid should know by 10: [Read more…]

‘Ever After High’: A Feminist Mom’s Dream? Close Enough

EverAfter2

If it weren’t for the tagline, I wouldn’t have given Ever After High a second glance — or let my daughter give it one. But when the Netflix series popped up atop my queue with the words “Are you a rebel or a royal?” I was intrigued.

Telling little girls they can rebel? Not bad, Netflix, not bad.

Upon a little more investigation, I found the show that’s now earned pride of place streaming on Netflix started out as a series of webisodes supported by Mattel, makers of the dolls that bear the same name (fair warning, letting your daughter get hooked on Ever After High opens you up to requests for merchandise). Now it’s found a permanent home, allowing the stories of the progeny of fairy tale characters to develop. So far, so good.

But what would little girls get out of it? I decided to find out. With some help from Netflix, which provided party supplies, I invited some little girls (all aged 9) into my living room for an Ever After High viewing party … to find out if the show awakens the rebel spirit the show’s tagline so proudly promotes.

[Read more…]

So My Girl Shoots a Pink (Toy) Gun — So What?

crossbowWhen the (toy) gun arrived in my house, I didn’t know what to say to my daughter. It was white, pink, baby blue, and purple, but still, it was a gun. Some folks would tell you little girls don’t play with guns because they’re girls. They’re supposed to be prepping for their future in the kitchen or some such.

I’ve never told my daughter she can’t play with guns. We are country folk, and we’ve been talking about the difference between toys guns and real ones since she could walk and — God forbid — stumble on the real thing in a playmate’s house. Safety first … for girls and boys.

But when the box arrived from Nerf Rebelle — one of those perks of being a blogger — I didn’t want to color the kid’s opinions.

Moms, what I’m about to say might upset a few of you. See, I don’t believe in “girl toys” and “boy toys.” I’m happy to see my daughter playing with trucks and your sons playing with dolls, and the sooner the world accepts that kids are better being raised with open minds, the better.

But I’ve seen something alarming of late. Ever since my little girl came barreling into this world, ready to climb trees clad in a dress, the notion that girls should have more options has slowly become a push away from so-called “girl” things and toward stereotypical “boy” things. Girls whose mom made them dress up as Darth Vader for Halloween = a step toward equality. Girls who decided on their own to dress up as Cinderella = oppressive.

Confused?

Me too. [Read more…]

Hair, There, and Everywhere — AKA Life With a Girl Child

little girl's hairThere it was. A long blond hair, hanging from the top shelf of the refrigerator. It must have caught as the 8-year-old rummaged for a yogurt to fill the gaping hole that is a signal of another impending growth spurt.

Yes, I’ve found hair in the fridge. The cleaned-on-a-regular-basis fridge.

What’s more, I’ve found long blond hairs on the short brown and white haired dog. I’ve found them inside a pair of freshly laundered jeans.

Behold another portion of parenthood they neglect to tell you about in the “what to expect” books. Hair, it seems, is everywhere, at least when you produce a girl child (side note: I’m aware there are little boys with long hair, but they’re the exception, not the rule, so bear with me).

Along with glitter, stickers, and itty bitty LEGO bricks, blond hair has taken over my life. [Read more…]

Children’s Book Giveaway: Whatever After Books 1 – 4

Whatever After sarah mlynowskiI have a princess kind of kid. It’s OK. I’ve come to understand that the word “princess” carries with it so much more than pretty dresses and sparkly things. Look at Kate Middleton. No one would accuse her of being an airhead, would they? ‘Nuff said.

When you have a princess sort of kid, one of your greatest responsibilities is to present them with the better side of princessdom — not the wilting flowers waiting on a man to rescue them but the heroines of their own stories.

Kind of like the girls in Sarah Mlynowski’s Whatever After series for elementary readers. Each book follows a girl named Abby and her little brother, Jonah, who get sucked into classic fairy tales. Fairy tales featuring a princess, of course. [Read more…]

THIS Is Why You Don’t Give a Kid Glitter

Thousands of multi-colored glitter stars cover the bricks of my front steps at the moment.

Love the UPS man though I do (doesn’t everybody love the man who brings the presents?), I haven’t rolled out the glitter carpet for him.

After shaking out the rugs before throwing them in the wash, my front steps now serve as a warning to all who dare enter my home: you are about to enter the den of an 8-year-old girl.

In the past week I’ve found glitter in a batch of fresh-made cookie dough (while scooping out balls of dough to make cookies), on the toilet seat, at the bottom of a basket of clean laundry, in the crevice of my computer mouse, and on the dog. Wait, make that both dogs.

I feel like I’m living in Studio 54, only without all the drugs and with Radio Disney instead of a DJ providing the soundtrack to my pounding headache.

I have swept. I have Swiffered. I have scrubbed and scraped.

And yet, nothing has successfully cleansed this home of the shiny remnants of an epic sleepover.

At one point it was Play-Doh that we’d find everywhere and between the couch cushions. Then, when it had all dried up and we outright refused to buy more of the smelly childhood classic, she moved on to stickers. Look close enough at some of the doors in my house, and you’ll see where more than some sticky paper was removed. Probably some of the walls too.

After that, the timeline gets blurry. Our house has survived Silly Bandz; although they might have been what killed the vacuum cleaner. Markers have come and gone and left their mark in the stairwell. And there isn’t a bit of tender foot flesh that has not connected with a LEGO.

But glitter. Glitter!

Nothing can hold a candle to this shiny symbol of girlhood exaltation and it’s unfailing ability to make you wake up, shuffle to the bathroom and find yourself staring into a mirror at a woman who appears to have just partied it up New Year’s Eve style while she was sleeping in her own bed on what she thought were freshly laundered sheets.

Looking for the gift that keeps on giving? I’ve found it … inside the batch of fresh-made cookie dough, on the toilet seat, and on a few of the pets running around these parts.

What happens to glitter in YOUR house?

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Image via mjtmail (tiggy)/Flickr

The Little Mermaid Is a Father/Daughter Tale for the Ages

little mermaid diamond edition

We were walking into Fantasyland’s relatively new Ariel’s Under the Sea ride at Disney World when the seagull sensed movement and started talking. “Who is that?” I asked. “Scuttle!” my husband piped up.

I was asking our 8-year-old daughter, but the fact that the answer came from him should — I suppose — be no surprise. The Little Mermaid, now out in a new “Diamond Edition” Blu-Ray is one of the films that hails from a time when both my husband and I were still young enough to be taken to children’s films. It came to the screens in 1989, turning Hans Christian Andersen’s rather forbidding tale of a mermaid who (spoiler alert) kills herself after getting “all she ever wanted” into a eminently more kid friendly tale of a plucky young mermaid who goes after what she wants and … surprise, surprise … finds her happily ever after.

Still, he was not your typical The Little Mermaid fan; IS not your typical Little Mermaid fan.
What he is is a father of a little girl, a father who would do anything for said little girl … even watch a movie full of song and dance about a mermaid. Even stand in line for 45 minutes at Disney to spend 2 minutes on a ride about, you guessed it, a mermaid.

It’s a message of the Little Mermaid oft over-looked in the scuttlebutt (pun intended) about the songs, the feminist (or not) messages, and the fish-out-water storyline.

When Disney offered me a copy of the new Blu-Ray to share my thoughts with the world; I expected to be caught up in all of that, to perhaps be caught up in the fun of the crab-e-oke with Sebastian (I won’t lie, I sang along … you try not to; I dare you).

But the Blu-Ray of the Little Mermaid that I sat down to watch with my daughter is special for the fun extras — including the addition of Carly Rae Jepsen singing the classic Part of Your World — but what got it to this point, to being worth a “Diamond Edition” in the first place, is the story it tells about families, specifically about fathers and daughters (because, like so many Disney tales, the mother is long since dead).

King Triton does his utmost to keep his little girl safe, but at the risk of quashing her spirit. And when she rebels, he realizes it isn’t what he wants for her that matters. It’s what she wants; what makes her happy. It’s a realization that our kids’ have dreams far beyond those we will dream for them.

What is your favorite father/daughter movie?

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Children’s Book Giveaway: The UltraViolets Power to the Purple

The golden rule of reading is that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t happen … especially with my kid. Sometimes all it takes is a good title to hook her.

And when it came to Sophie Bell’s new girl power series, The UltraViolets, the title said it all. They’re girls, who like purple, and they’re ultra-cool.

What’s not to love when you’re an 8-year-old girl, now really?

Fortunately for this mother of an 8-year-old girl, when I managed to wrest book two, Power to the Purple, from her clutches, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was more than just a colorful title.

The Ultra Violets are everything my girly girl needs in this femmephobic world. Kick-ass little girls who are not thwarted by their love of things proto-typically girly.

I love that there is finally attention given to the fact that girls do not need pink, boys do not need blue, that girls can play with LEGOs and boys with dolls. But even as we’ve shifted toward a more gender-neutral environment, there’s been an unfortunate tendency for some to lash out against all things pink, glittery, puffy … all things that were once “girly.”

Folks, that’s not OK. Girls AND boys can like pink and puffy. Girls AND boys can like blue and boisterous. What we need is freedom of choice for both sides, not a banishing of one or the other.

This is what I found in the Ultra Violets: a merging of the two sides of my daughter that happily co-exist. She can be a fierce female and love pink and purple at the same time, and so can the super-powered Ultra Violets.

It’s not a book for adults — I should put that out there — it’s definitely for kids. But my kid is loving book two enough after Penguin sent us a copy that I’m now on the hunt for book one.

And she’s loving it enough that I asked the folks at the publishing house if they wouldn’t mind sharing one with an Inside Out Motherhood reader. They gladly obliged.

Want in on the giveaway? You know what to do!

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