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‘Living in Society’ Category

  1. The messages she carries

    June 13, 2015 by admin


    “What makes you a good person?” I asked my 3.5-year-old daughter today. She was sitting on the floor next to me while I sumo wrestled her baby brother out of his dirty diaper.

    “I’m pretty,” she answered, and smiled that sweet little smile that melts my heart into a pile of mush.

    I smiled back at her. “That’s not what makes you a good person,” I said.

    Her smile disappeared. “You don’t think I’m beautiful?”

    “Of course I do, baby. But I think you’re beautiful on the inside too and that’s what really counts. You have a beautiful heart, and a beautiful soul.”


    “What’s a soul?” she asked.AriaDoctor

    “A soul is the person inside you.”

    For a second, I swear, she almost stopped breathing. “What other person?”

    “I mean, there’s not really another person inside you. But it’s who you are. It’s Aria.”

    “But good is pretty,” she said.

    “No. Good is being kind. And loving. And caring. And using your brain. And being strong. And being there for people. You are and do all of those things.”

    I’ve read the arguments from people that you shouldn’t tell a little girl she’s pretty, but I’ve never been one to refrain from telling my daughter she’s beautiful. Because she is. As is every daughter to her mother. But I’ve always been very careful to pair it with these other qualities. I don’t live under a rock. I know the over-importance our society places on physical beauty. So I tell her she’s smart, she’s kind, she’s caring and strong. Because she is all of these things too. I tell her that I love the way she draws everyone with a mohawk. That she’s a super fast runner. And she makes a great superhero.

    But it’s interesting – and a wee bit disconcerting – the message she carries with her. Pretty. Beautiful.


    Later this afternoon, we were shopping. And as we headed toward the exit, my cart loaded up with plastic bins for one of my organizing sprees, I asked her to push it open, a task she’s done many, many times. For one reason or the other, she refused. Then a man, not much older than me, approached us from behind and kindly said to her, “Come on, let’s push together.”

    Out of shyness, she buried her face in my leg. And so, laughing, the man pushed the door open himself.

    “Why push at all when you can have a guy do it for you, right?” he asked.

    I’m sure he meant no harm. And I’m all for letting men – or women, for that matter – open doors for me. But something about the way he said it got my ire up. So I chose not to politely laugh along. Instead, I ignored him and told my daughter, “Um. No. YOU can push the door open. You can do things on your own.”

    I know. It was SUCH a small thing. And, as my husband said, she’s only three. She doesn’t understand what the heck I’m talking about. But isn’t that kind of the point? If I don’t start teaching her these messages now – that she doesn’t need to rely on physical beauty to be good, that she is strong by her own right – what kind of woman will she grow up to be?


  2. Picking Up Poo is My Cross to Bear

    September 9, 2013 by admin

    God, I wish I had a backbone.

    That’s not a heavenly plea. It’s more of a lament.

    For two weeks, I’ve been in turmoil over the fact that a neighbor’s dog has been pooping in my yard. For two weeks – two weeks! – I have gone out to my yard most every day, and, with great theatrics (i.e., looking around with great disgust, muttering not-so-much under my breath), have picked up steaming piles of fresh, fly-covered dog poo. Sorry. I’m not trying to gross you out. I’m just setting the scene. Do you have a visual now? Yes? Good.

    For two weeks, I have been texting my husband at work: “Hey, how’s your day? I just picked up more poop. WTF.”

    For two weeks, I have been that crazy lady, peeping through her kitchen curtains, knowing full well that catching the suspect dog in the act (I am 90 percent sure of the culprit) will only serve to make my spineless self even more angry.

    For two weeks, I’ve walked around my house, my stomach in knots, trying to psych myself up to talk to my neighbor about this in a non-threatening, friendly way. But how do I do this?

    “Hey there, neighbor. Nice weather we’re having. Well, anyhoo, I’ve been picking up steaming piles of dog poo in my yard. Do you think it could be your dog?”

    I mean, how can someone not take offense to that?

    As you can see, this is really bothering me.

    And yet.

    I do nothing to relieve my angst.

    So, what am I teaching my children then about confrontation?

    Avoid it at all costs. That’s what I am teaching them. To be passive aggressive and hold it all in until you are seething so much you fling the dog poo back into your neighbor’s yard, feeling good for a split second but then living in fear that you may have been caught on some type of surveillance camera and now your neighbor hates you. (That scenario is hypothetical, of course.)

    I’d like to believe that I have many strengths and admirable qualities that I am passing along to my children. But being direct in the face of a possible disagreement is not one of them.

    But here’s the bitch of the whole thing. My neighbor is not an unreasonable person. He’s not going to come after me with a snow shovel or toilet paper my house or go on a crusade to blacklist my kids from trick or treat.

    Our families are actually pretty friendly.

    So what he’s probably going to say is: “Oh, sorry. I’ll take care of it.”

    And yet.

    When I go outside, I can’t bring myself to walk the 20 or 30 feet to his door and start a conversation about it.

    So until I can get a backbone, picking up poo is my cross to bear.