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…]

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…]

NY Mets Send a Powerful Message to Little Girls

Mets mascotIt isn’t always easy being mother of a daughter. The world still tells little girls that their dreams should be delicate, their adventures on the lighter side.

It’s my job to bust through all that, to show her that anything boys can do she can do too.

This weekend, we checked another step in that process off our list.
We went to a New York Mets game, which, in and of itself, means little to a little girl. Major League Baseball is a bastion of big boys living their little boy dreams.
But the Mets have done something special for all the little girls out there; they’ve brought back Mrs. Met.
Don’t remember a Mrs. Met? The team’s bobble-headed mascot hasn’t had a wife since the ’70s, but she’s back now, dressed in the signature uniform and sporting a giant ponytail on the back of her giant ball-shaped head.
Sunday, because of the blogger relationship I’ve formed with the team, my daughter was one of the kids who got to meet her (and Mr. Met) up close and personal.
I watched how she approached them carefully.
She went straight for Mrs. Met, wrapping her arms around the (amazingly) tiny waist of the person inside the costume.
She’d done the same with Mr. Met on a previous meeting, but this time, she had little use for him. There was a girl icon in her midst, and that was that. She had a new heroine.
What did she see in Mrs. Met?
She couldn’t quite put it into words. But I’ve seen the way my little girl lights up when she sees girl heroes put in front of her. It’s like a lightbulb going off in her brain, telling her that her girlhood is appreciated, celebrated, that being a girl is a good thing.

Maybe my little girl will never play baseball (although she swung a wicked bat in the cages at Citifield!), but in just one meeting with one mascot, she got a powerful message: that dream is worth dreaming if she wants it.

Do you have a daughter? Has she ever said “that’s for boys?”

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Disclaimer: The Mets provided free tickets to attend Sunday’s game against the Phillies. I was not otherwise compensated, and all opinions are my own. 

Dolphin Organics Has the Solution to Big Kids Who Won’t Use ‘Baby’ Bath Products

dolphin naturals

We have an 8-year-old, not a baby. And as she thunders like a freight train toward puberty, I have a fear of anything that will get her there too fast. This is the dark side of being a parenting writer — you’ve read every study about the dangers of toxic ingredients in kids’ products.

But when scouting for the best non-toxic bath and body products out there, I kept running into the same problem. Everything says baby on it.

Now, the adult in me knows that you can use a “baby” product on an 8-year-old. The problem is, the 8-year-old reads “baby,” and she flips.

Product manufacturers, allow me to put you on notice: it doesn’t take kids long to understand the word “baby” and want absolutely nothing to do with it. We’re all about trying to keep them little as long as we can, while kids are all about growing up as fast as they possibly can.

Enter Dolphin Organics and its Dolphin Naturals line.

I have to admit that I happened upon this company because I’m a blogger, and they were doing smart marketing. They sent me a bottle of Just Berry conditioner and one of Just Berry shampoo. They were free.

More From Inside Out Motherhood: You’ll Never Use Another Brush Again

But what really drew me was the lack of the word “baby” on the label.

Nothing about it screamed “this is for little kids, big kids throw a fit if your mom tries to use it.” 

After checking them out on the Environmental Working Groups Skin Deep cosmetics database — which I check on every beauty product these days — I found this was a company I could trust. They don’t just use organic products and stamp natural on there to make you feel good about their products.

Every single ingredient is listed on the back with an explanation of why it’s there.
And the products are all vegan, hypoallerganic and free of parabens, sodium benzoate and all harsh chemical.

This is what mattered to me. No hormone-interrupting chemicals.

Here’s what matters to my daughter, and is why I’ve purchased several hundred dollars of the Dolphin Natural line since getting those first two freebies: it’s not for “babies.”

It’s for big kids and has a delicious fruity scent to match. When she actually uses the conditioner (cough, cough), it leaves her hair soft and tangle-free, and the body wash actually cuts the grime that builds up during a day of playing hard.

In short? I’m in love.

So in love that I reached out to Dolphin Organics and asked if they’d share a promo code to help hook Inside Out Motherhood readers. They gladly obliged!

So here it is — your intro to happiness:

Use coupon code IOM20 and you’ll get 20% off during the month of July 2013. You have to sign in to your account on the site (an account is free) to get the discount, but once you do, you also build points toward future purchases (another reason I’m hooked on this company).

Happy showering!

Do your kids have this issue with the word “baby”? What is your work-around?

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‘My Neighbor Totoro’: A Feminist Mom’s Perfect Pick

Before last year, I’d never heard of Hayao Miyazaki. And then the Japanese animator from Studio Ghibli turned his talents to one of my favorite children’s books — The Borrowers — and Disney scooped up The Secret World of Arrietty and released it in America, and a faithful devotion was born. Miyazaki doesn’t just make films for kids. He makes films for kids full of powerful little girls, girls who have guts and gumption, girls who could very well be real.

He makes films that make mothers of daughters want to write him letters of gratitude.

Now we have another thing to be thankful for. Disney has re-released Miyazaki’s 1988 classic My Neighbor Totoro on Blu-Ray for the first time ever with the voice talents of Dakota Fanning and her sister, Elle Fanning. Even at 25 years old, the updating to Blu-Ray works with this movie, making it come alive onscreen in high definition.

But it’s not just the eye candy we turn to Miyazaki for.

It’s the ability to put a movie on, hand my daughter a bowl of popcorn, and walk away satisfied that she’s whiling her hours away being fed a story that will feed her soul.

Looking for one of those movies? Here’s why My Neighbor Totoro fits the bill:

1. Female Cast. The main characters of the film — aside from the forest spirit Totoro — are two little girls, Satsuki and Mei, but it isn’t just them. They are surrounded by a mostly female supporting cast, all cast in a positive light. Although they live with their professor father, he’s largely absent and not really all that important in the scheme of things.

2. Heroines. Sisters Satsuki and Mei are brave little girls, curious to explore their new home in the countryside, strong enough to deal with huge change in their lives, eager to make sense of this odd creature living in their midst. They don’t shy away from anything.

3. Sisterly bond. The stereotype of the catty sisters always sniping at each other is absent in a film about two little girls who depend on one another.

4. Mother Nature. With much of the film set in the woods, home of Totoro, the natural world seems to have feminine characteristics, and it is there where the girls find both strength and comfort.

What’s your favorite Miyazaki film?

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Disclaimer: I received a review copy of My Neighbor Totoro. All opinions expressed are my own.


Come Onnnnn Children’s Place

Of all the things I dread about my child growing older — and there are many — I dread her growing out of The Children’s Place.

Go figure … the mom who wears jeans and a sweatshirt EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. cares about kid fashion.

The truth is, I’ve started to dread shopping for clothes for my daughter. Not because of anything she’s done — she’s begun to develop her own taste and asserts herself, but manages to do it politely — but because of the clothes in half the stores that cater to young girls.

You know what I’m talking about, Moms and Dads (and grandmas and aunts and uncles and … ). The t-shirts with slogans that tell girls they’re too dumb to do homework. The pants with the writing across the behind, drawing the eyes to a young girl’s derriere.

If anyone wonders why 7-year-olds are dressing like tramps these days, it’s because there are slim pickings on the shelves.

Except for the aforementioned Children’s Place.

It’s become my port in the storm, the one place where her newly developed “taste” meets my cringe test. There are sparkles, but not too many. There are sayings, but not too dumb. There is style … and it’s just right.

Desperate for some solace in  your search to find something your daughter can wear without making you want to hide? 

The Children’s Place allowed my daughter to take a look through some of the clothes in their new line recently (blogger disclaimer here). The relief I found as she oohed and aahed is worth every second of agony it was to let me take her picture to share my favorites with you.

This purple dress is my favorite example of why I love the Children’s Place — you can find everything there … from an outfit for running around the park to a floaty dress perfect for a spring wedding.

This romper ($19.95) is the perfect example of why SHE loves the Children’s Place — it’s soft cotton made for play, but some sparkles on the ruffled collar and a spaghetti strap over one shoulder make playtime more hip and fun.

I think the smile says it all … and dresses like this one go for less than $30.

What is your go-to store for your kids? Are you a Children’s Place fan?

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Disclaimer: I received several Children’s Place outfits to facilitate this review but was not otherwise compensated. All opinions are my own … including the gushing. Especially the gushing.

If I Didn’t Tell my Daughter Girls Suck, It Wouldn’t Be Fair

I went somewhere I don’t usually go last week. I read some comments on an essay I wrote about my daughter having more boy friends than girls. I tell people not to do it, and I went there.

To be fair, it wasn’t right on the site. A friend had shared the piece on Reddit’s TwoXChromsomes, a site I love, and I was curious to hear what the women over there had to say. And that’s where I found a comment that spoke to one of my biggest problems raising a girl in America today.

Women who agreed with me that they recall being friends with more boys than girls, women who cited the cattiness of females they’ve encountered over the years, were called out for “internalized misogyny.”

It’s a trend I’ve noticed more than a few times in feminist readings. There seems to be a trend among feminists to insist that any words spoken against women are not feminist and must be stopped.

But what happens when the words are true? Who is the misogynist then?

It may not support the feminist agenda (whatever that is?), but the mean girl phenomena is not just a Tina Fey movie. It’s a problem that’s plagued girls for generations, and it’s not going away.

I recall the way I felt when I fought with my girlfriends vs. the way I felt when I battled with my boy friends. The girls could cut me to the quick, and would. Their taunts were vicious, personal.

With boys, the disagreements were less so. In fact, disagreements is really the only term I can use for them. We didn’t fight. We disagreed. There’s a vital difference.

So too is there a difference between criticizing women and internal misogyny.

For all that we want to speak of equality between the sexes, we can’t ignore that there are differences. There are good differences and bad differences. And there are scientific reasons to explain such phenomena as the girl wars that crop up for so many females in the formative years.

In one study in Psychological Science, researchers describe how females who feel the threat of social exclusion are more likely than men to former other cliques and alliances to prevent their own exclusion. Researchers at the University of Buffalo have tracked relational aggression behaviors in girls as early as age 3 that lead to problems for girls in their teen years. And a study at Johns Hopkins has revealed that while teenage boys tend to be equal opportunity bullies, “teenage girls most often bully other girls, using sly and more indirect forms of aggression than boys, such as spreading gossip or urging others to reject or exclude another girl.”

Acknowledging the difference in how teenage boys and girls treat one another isn’t self-loathing. It’s scientific fact.

And as the mother of a little girl, I’m struggling with how to best address it.

I don’t want my daughter to be ashamed of her femininity or to assume that she is doomed to be a catty witch in the years to come. The fact that a large percentage of girls turn on the drama doesn’t mean she will, at least not if we work hard to raise a kid who is kind and generous.

On the other hand, I don’t want her flying blind into a hornet’s nest of hormones and hairbands in a few years.

She’s already dealt with mean girls in pre-school (convincing me fully that the folks at UB are on to something), and it wasn’t pretty. A group calling themselves the A girls (I wish I was making that up, but I’m not), made both my daughter and her friend feel like they were inferior human beings for an entire school year. I thought I had until 11 or 12 before that would start, but I had to handle it on the fly back then, and I’ll tell you, her boy friends helped. A lot.

They just wanted to play. They just wanted to be normal 4-year-olds. They had no truck with manipulation and rejection.

Today she has a lot of boys who are friends (as opposed to boyfriends) and a few close girlfriends. I have never suggested she value one over the other, never pushed her toward either. Although the boys are mostly the children of my closest friends, she asks for playdates with them herself, and she does so frequently. Just as frequently as she requests a sleepover with one of the girls.

I hope this continues, not because I have a hatred for girls, but because I know the years ahead are tough. I know kids — on both sides of the gender divide — can be cruel.

And I remember, all too well, what it was like to deal with the species known to scientists as the mean girls. Remember because I can never forget them or the things they said. Remember because they are real.

My job now is to strike a balance. I need to prepare my daughter for the mean girls who lie in wait, ready to tear off chunks of her self-esteem and leave her heart open and wounded. And I need to tell her that it’s OK, because she’s a girl. And girls can do great things, like leaving the mean girls in their dust when they leave high school to tackle the big bad world beyond.

What’s your mean girl story? 

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Wings of Life DVD Takes Flight With a Little Girl’s Imagination

Wings of Life

So I may or may not have said a few thousand times by now that I’m stuck between a rock and a scientific hard place. Although I was every bit the geek girl, I was never a big science girl. Only now I’m raising a female in a world where the STEM subjects are everything.

This weekend, our march to raise a budding scientist continued. Our mission? To watch the new Disney Nature documentary, Wings of Life (releasing this week on Blu-Ray and DVD)

How does one hook a 7-year-old girl into sitting down for a 2-hour movie with 0 animation or singing? One word: butterflies.

I don’t remember going through the phase myself (although I probably did), but the butterfly obsession ranks right up there with the horse one for girls of a certain age … or at least for my daughter and her little buddies.

And the imagery of the vast Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Mexico is breathtaking in this film. There’s a moment when you can hear what sounds like a giant wing, but it is merely the beating wings of thousands of butterflies.

It’s majesty is breathtaking, as is much of this film, which somehow manages to turn even creepy-looking desert bats into beautiful pieces in the puzzle of life, eliciting an “aww” from my 7-year-old daughter.

In a week when I witnessed her spend 10 minutes outside in the middle of the road (a back country road, and yes, I watched for traffic) “rescuing” earthworms lest they be run over when the school bus arrived, that “aww” was another shot in the arm for us as parents. She’s getting it! She’s understanding that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, for one, but also that creatures great and small matter — regardless of how they look.

When Disney offered to send me a copy of Wings of Life,  I agreed because I know I’m not the only mom trying to make science exciting for her kids. But I’ll admit I was dubious: would a 7-year-old really want to watch a nature documentary? Featuring bats and bees? Because the butterflies, though an important part of the film and the world, are just a part.

The power of this film is in its ability to make the smallest of creatures and their place on this planet resonate with all ages, and empower our kids to make a difference. Ending with a variety of ways to protect these winged creatures, the film has my kid convinced we need to start planting flowers in our yard IMMEDIATELY and begging me to find her a butterfly kit online.

Just wait until she finds out how much science is involved in raising your own butterflies and planting your own flowers.

Wings of Life will be released on Tuesday, April 16, but you can get a sneak peek below!

Want more on the butterfly migration to whet your kids’ appetites? Check out Adios, Oscar! A Butterfly Fable by Peter Elwell. My daughter has outgrown the picture book, but she refuses to let go of the cute caterpillar and his dreams of Mexico. Not only does it cover the migration, but your kids will also learn the difference between moths and butterflies.

Want more fun science for kids? Check out the rad candy experiments we’re mixing up in our kitchen!

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Disclaimer: Disney provided a review copy of Wings of Life to facilitate this review. I was not otherwise compensated, and all opinions are my own … except those of my 7-year-old. She makes ALL those up herself!

‘Mulan’ & The Lesson of the Women Who Came Before

When my daughter and I sat down to watch the new Mulan Blu-ray, I have a feeling she thought this was just going to be a fun movie night with Mom. My husband was out at a doctor’s appointment, and we had control of the TV (no Xbox, no sports!). What could be better?

Poor kid didn’t know she was in for a long lesson in appreciating our feminist foremothers. She dealt with it rather well, all things considered. Her 7-year-old brain was righteously indignant when the hero soldier was quite suddenly cast aside when her brothers in arms realized she was a girl.

But she was confused too, nearly as confused as she was when we first started reading books about slavery and I had to explain that at one point people in America actually looked at people of color of property.

This is the advantage of raising a girl in 2013. She knows nothing of what it was to live in the time when Mulan was set.

And yet, it’s incumbent upon me, her mother, to tell her.

This is why I’m glad Disney pulled this film (and Mulan II) out of the vault.

It gave me another chance to drum into her head that being a girl hasn’t always been easy.

When I was in Los Angeles for the Oz the Great and Powerful premiere, I got the chance to chat with the film’s director and one of its chief animators — brother team Tom and Tony Bancroft (you can check them out on Facebook as The Bancroft Brothers). Both are accomplished men in their fields, but Mulan is special to them because they are fathers … of daughters. Putting the story of a kickass woman on the screen was a way they could honor their girls.

Watching it again, 15 years after they finished their work (yes, 15 years … I feel old … but Peter Pan REALLY made me feel it), I have to commend them. My daughter was just happy to be watching a Disney movie … because we are rather obsessed in this house. But she walked away from this one with a new sense of how lucky she is to live the life that she’s living.

She goes to school. She goes to dance. She can dream of being whoever she wants to be. And it’s all because of the women who came before her.

It’s a lesson every girl needs to learn, and there’s no better time than the present … Mulan and Mulan II have been packaged together on Blu-Ray for the first time.

Are you a Mulan fan? How have you talked to your daughter about the struggles of women before us?

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Disclaimer: I received a review copy of Mulan & Mulan II for review purposes only as well as the amazing signed artwork above (yes, that’s Mushu the dragon drawn just for me … although my daughter has claimed it!!). I was not otherwise compensated, and all opinions are my own … including the feminist rantings. 


Giveaway — Superhero Underwear for Little Girls

little girls superhero underwear

If there’s one thing I have learned about parenting a little girl, it’s that you don’t get a lot of wins out there in society. We spend a lot of our time groaning about this backward company marketing a t-shirt that tells girls they’re too dumb for homework or that company that tries to sell her something pink and useless just because, OMG, it’s pink. So when something as cool as superhero underwear made for our daughters comes along, we celebrate the HELLO out of it!

When I heard the news that Fruit of the Loom had paired up with DC Comics to bring little girls their own pairs of super-awesome undies, I wrote about it at The Stir to make sure the world knew how excited I was.

And then I started my social media campaign to make sure Fruit of the Loom knew too!

And wouldn’t you know it, they were happy! So happy, in fact, that they offered up a package of the awesome underwear for my daughter! But I had a better idea … I asked if I could give a set away.

Good news y’all!

Fruit of the Loom agreed they couldn’t keep all that super to themselves. They’ve provided one package (brand new … you don’t have to give your girl my daughter’s hand-me-downs, I promise) for an awesome Inside Out Motherhood reader.

Now let’s talk about the fine print.

The undies come in packs of 7, including pairs with Batgirl, Wonder Woman, and Supergirl on them. They’re 100 percent cotton (thank goodness), and they are actually cut FOR a girl’s body … this is not her brother’s underwear rebranded for her.

I showed them to my daughter, and the response I got actually made me a little misty-eyed. She told me she wanted to be Wonder Woman … and when I asked if she knew about girl superheroes before the warrior princess, she admitted she didn’t. She knew Merida from Brave was, brave, she said, but she always thought superheroes were a “boy thing.”

Want to make sure your daughter knows there’s equal opportunity to be awesome? Make sure you enter the giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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