Friday, October 25, 2013

Consent, Shameful Parenting, and Supporting Self-discovery in kids

I've been blogging quite a bit over at Raising Allies.

Helping Our Children Understand Consent is a follow up to my post Consent and Parenting Young Children here at With the Family.

Shameful Parenting addresses the topic of public shaming being used by parents, as well as other forms of shaming. "Shaming doesn't work as a punishment. Shaming doesn't work as a way of "encouraging" someone to change their behavior, try harder, or do better. Shaming goes beyond embarrassment, it makes the recipient feel mortified, as if they are no good, worthless, isolated, and diminished. Children who are shamed internalize these feelings. Shaming attacks who they are, undermining their feelings of self-worth. And while shaming may temporarily stop a behavior, it does not solve anything, and is terribly destructive in the long run."

My most recent post Create Space for Growth, Change, and Trying New Things talks about how "It's awesome to support our kids in being who they are, but we also need to be open to change. We must guard against pigeon-holing them or putting them in a box and then resenting them or getting upset when they want to paint their box a different color."

You can "like" Raising Allies on facebook Here.
I post relevant articles and my latest blog posts.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Why I Buy Red Vines with my EBT Card

There are a lot of judgments made, and spread around, about people who are on food assistance. The majority of those judgments are made by people who have never relied on food assistance to feed themselves or their loved ones. Some are made by people who get food assistance, or have in the past, who want to feel that they are in some way better than "those other people" who get food assistance.

Some people are critical of people getting food assistance. Other people are critical because people on food assistance buy low quality food or junk food: why should tax payers pay for someone's potato chips?  And then there are the people who criticize people for spending it on organic food: I mean really, they could get so much more for their money buying non-organic and do they really think that poor people get to be choosy?

My family gets food assistance. I'm not going to explain the complex reasons for that, or justify it, or play for your sympathy.

Here's what I want to share with you:

I buy Redvines with my EBT card. (That's what food stamps are these days, a debit card.) I also buy ice cream, soda, chips, and pretty much anything else my kids request. Not large amounts of any of those items, but I do buy them. And there's a chance that you'll be behind me on one of those runs to the store where we are picking up milk and eggs, along with a sugary or salty treat for at least one of my kids.

But why? Why, when every penny counts, and at our house it does, do I buy what most people would consider "non-essentials" or "junk food."

Here's why:

When you have to say no to your kids ever single time they ask for anything: No, we can't buy you shoes, jeans, a coat or a bra. No, we can't go to that movie, even at the $3 theater. No, we can't buy you the next book in the series, even though the library doesn't have it. No, we can't go to that cool museum exhibit that will only be here for 2 months. As a parent you want to be able to say yes, at least once in a while.

Every year there are fewer and fewer activities and traditions that we can continue. When the kids were little we went to the fair every year. It has been 5 years since we've been able to afford the fair. The kids would love to go to the county fair. Every year the fair happens, every year we feel sad about not going.

We used to go to the local pumpkin patch to buy pumpkins. Now  it costs $9 per person to get in, take they hayride out to the field, pick out your pumpkin, pet the animals, drink hot cider and generally enjoy the festivities. It's been at least 3 years since we've been able to afford to go to the pumpkin patch, maybe more.

Our friends go to shows, musicals, exhibits, and on road trips. Our friends take classes and lessons and buy cool art supplies. My kids know we can't afford to, most of the time they don't even ask anymore. And that breaks my heart.

Recently the financial stress has been eating at all of us. My girls snap at each other if we go to the grocery store and one of them asks for something extra. I spend the entire trip adding numbers to make sure we don't go over the amount on the EBT card. And I say no to every non-essential that isn't food, because the EBT card doesn't cover any non-food items. While I haven't figured out how to explain to the cats that they don't get canned cat food anymore, my kids understand the reality of living in the land of "no."

And so, on those days when my kids ask, "May we please get candy?"  "We haven't had ice cream in a while, could we get some today?" I'm going to say Yes! I'm going to embrace that moment when a request doesn't have to end up in disappointment.

When we get to the end of the month and our EBT money is running low I have to start to say no even to the least expensive treats. But on the 3rd of the month, when our money shows up on our card, I get to say Yes! once again. And for a moment all is right in the world. We can fill up our cart, we can even go to Costco!

Once a cashier said in a confounded way, "You seem really happy to be getting food."  YES! We are thrilled to have food. It's something we can have, it's something we need that we get, unlike other things that we need that are just a hope for some day in the future.

So go ahead and judge me if that makes you feel better about you or your life, but I refuse to feel bad about buying a treat, or two! Because, it's a bright spot on those days when we are all feeling discouraged, stressed, frustrated, and in danger of losing hope. Because of all that I can't give my kids, buying treats at the store is a big deal. And while we may eat a whole lot of potatoes, cabbage, and carrots, we will also eat a small amount of Red Vines, potato chips, and chocolate. When life is hard, those little things make a big difference.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Matronly Women: Reclaiming the Term Matronly

Disclaimer: This post isn't really about parenting, but it is about body image and self-acceptance. How we view our bodies and our level of self-acceptance directly affects how our children view their bodies, so in my mind there is a connection.

If you search Pinterest for "matronly" 99% of what you find are posts that comment about something or someone looking "too matronly."  The other 1% looks like this:

Websters online defines matronly as: like or suitable for an older married woman

Google search pops this up at the top of the search results:
ma·tron·lyˈ /mātrənlē/  adjective
1. like or characteristic of a matron, esp. in being dignified and staid and typically associated with having a large or plump build. "she was beginning to look matronly" 

I have been gifted a subscription to Ladies' Home Journal. On the cover this month is "How to Look Sexy at 30, 40, 50, and 60." Each of the women features in this photo shoot are tall, thin and shown wearing heals and body hugging styles that would be appropriate at any age, as long as you were tall and thin, and capable of wearing 4 inch heals. 

The very next article in the magazine is "The LHJ Guide to Anti-Aging," which begins with this lead-in, "Let's face it: Once you hit a certain age, turkey necks don't just show up on Thanksgiving anymore. Thanks to a combo of age-related fat and muscle loss, genetics and sun damage, many of your once-perky parts start to look crepey and head south. But are you going to let the sagging get you down? No way. From small changes in your daily routine to surgical nips and tucks, there are plenty of options to keep everything on the up-and-up."

The article focuses on "Saggy Boobs," "Droopy Eyelids," "Baggy Arms," and "Neck Wattle." Under each heading you will find two sub headings "Defy It" and "The Surgical Solutions."  Defying it can involve exercises, lotions, Botox, the non-invasive use of "radio-frequency technology to reduces the circumference of the arm and decrease fat," or lasers.  

Google "What's wrong with looking matronly" and you will get a slew of articles about how not to look matronly.

But wait, what's wrong with looking matronly?

 I'm 45, according to the fashion police, mainstream media, and 99% of the internet, I should aim to look like the women featured in this Huffington Post piece on "Amazing Bodies Over 40: Celebrities Whose Astonishing Figures Have Us Deeply Impressed."  

Many people lump matronly and frumpy into the same category, and I believe both words were used to describe Adele's outfit at the Grammy's, which I thought was wonderful, but then I'm matronly so it figures: 

I wear long skirts, mostly because I have a health condition, chronic urticaria, that makes it uncomfortable to wear anything else.  But I like long skirts! Does that make me frumpy or matronly?  

I'm 45, I have given birth to three children, and I have two medical conditions that have affected my weight directly or though medications. And while I've rarely been thin, I'm leaning way more toward fat then ever before in my life. Not counting when I was pregnant, which doesn't count, because I was pregnant. As I work toward improving my health, physical and mental, I am working toward accepting my body. And, part of accepting my body is accepting that aging happens. Why should I defy that, as suggested by the Ladies' Home Journal, when I can accept it. Perhaps I can even embrace it, or revel in it. 

Instead of reading articles like "How to Avoid Looking Frumpy or Matronly," Perhaps I can research How To Rock Molly Weasley's style. Because, if ever there was a role model for the bad-ass matronly woman it is Molly Weasley. 

Women of a certain age have choices. If Molly Weasley isn't your style, spend some time looking at photos at  Advanced Style, where the women come in all shapes and sizes, and while they may not embody the traditional (negative) idea of matronly, they are fabulous in their unique self-expression through fashion. 

Reclaiming words that have been used negatively,or as insults and slurs, is becoming more common. Perhaps it's time to reclaim the word matronly.  Perhaps it's time to remind the world that women who are over 40 or who have given birth come in all shapes and sizes. And if that size happens to be rounder or thicker or greater than a size 8, that doesn't mean they can't be fabulous, sexy, a milf or a cougar. It means they can dress with confidence however they choose to dress because they are women of a certain age. They have life experience and have lived in their skin long enough to be comfortable wearing it just the way it is, wrinkles, fat folds, sagging breasts and all.

And then there's my personal attachment to the idea of matronly. As a kid I saw matronly women as comforting. The idea of being gathered to an ample bosom in times of distress was in my mind comfort and softness and "there, there, dear, let me make you a cup of tea." Perhaps similar to the image of a the soft breast of a mother hen who warms her chicks and provides shelter and safety for them in a big scary world.

Would I rather look "good" in form fitting clothes or be soft and huggable?  Well, gee, when I put it that way the answer is easy! When my kids think of me do I want them to think of someone who was their shelter in the storms of life or someone who spent a lot of time at the gym and looked great in photographs? Now I realize that matronly women can spend time in the gym, and women who fit the Ladies' Home Journal's idea of sexy at 30, 40, 50, and 60 may not spend any time at the gym. I realize that matronly women can be more like Miss Trunchbull in Matilda and less like Mary Poppins. 

Perhaps that's my point, how a woman looks on the outside isn't nearly as important as who she is on the inside. And if we let our outsides match our insides then we're beautiful, just the way we are, as long as we're beautiful on the inside. But it's circular, or interwoven, or really just not that simple! We can become more beautiful on the inside by accepting what we look like on the outside. And we can become more beautiful on the outside by accepting who we are on the inside.

O.K. now I'm talking in circles, so what am I getting at?  Well, as Ren, from Faces by Ren says, "Be Your Own Kind of Beautiful." Embrace who you are, inside and out, express that in how you dress, and how you decorate your body. Stop trying to fit into some narrow definition of beauty and stop trying to defy aging. If you are aging count your blessings, not everyone gets that opportunity.

Side note (which by placement here is actually a footnote) If you are wondering what is meant by a "woman of a certain age" you'll find the answer Here.

I've written a couple blogs about body image, fat shaming and related topics over at Raising Allies:

Let's Stop Comparing and Judging: Size Doesn't Matter

Worthy at Every Size

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Raising Allies

My most recent blog post, Consent, quickly reached over 900 page views in a week. For some blogs that is just a drop in the bucket, but for my little blog that made it my 6th most read blog post, including all page views since I began blogging in May of 2007! I started thinking about why people took the time to read and share that post when I can write a post that I'm quite proud of, or think says something important, and it will be lucky to reach 30 people. I also considered what I'm passionate about and what inspires me to write.

Before I knew it a new blog, Raising Allies, had come to life in my mind and was launched online before I could talk myself out of it. If you follow With The Family, you may want to start following Raising Allies. I hope to continue blogging both places, but for a while Raising Allies will be my focus.

So, what's this new blog about? Here's what it says on the Welcome page:

Welcome to Raising Allies!

Raising Allies is a blog that advocates parenting respectfully, with unconditional love and compassion, fully accepting our children as the individuals they are. 

My desire is to raise children who are compassionate people, and who experience diversity and inclusion as the norm. 

Blog posts relate to straight allies, body acceptance, slut shaming, rape culture, accessibility, inclusion, diversity, non-binary gender, and similar topics. 

Links to resources about these topics, particularly as they relate to parenting or children, will be included.   

Raising Allies is a safe, supportive, and encouraging space.

I would love your ideas and input on topics to write about, resources to add, or links to go with any particular post. I'm also open to kindly worded constructive criticism.  Email me at

You can "like" Raising Allies on facebook HERE.