Growing Up Girl Child: My First Instagram Account

first instagram account

picture: Instagram http://instagram.com/press/

I finally gave in. Yep. Girl Child is now the proud owner of her very first instagram account. Seeing as she’s just heading into seventh grade, SubHub and I second guessed ourselves on this one quite a bit. She has my old iPhone 4 for her personal use, and at the moment she does not have cell service on it. So far, she hasn’t needed it. She texts over WiFi without any issues. When she has after school activities, she can text me using the school’s WiFi. So far we’ve dodged the “add a line” cell phone bullet.

And So It Begins

Instagram? A whole different animal than cell service. I made the decision when I started blogging in 2007 that I would share Girl Child’s story, including pictures. Oh, how naïve and cute that was. I think in the years following, many parents and an entire generation of kids have learned that a picture is worth a million reshares, whether you want it to get reshared or not.

This is one of those moments that I feel like it was a lucky twist of fate that I got into blogging and social media when I did. So, when the inevitable happened and she asked for an account, I was ready. As ready as I guess a parent ever really can be.

My First Instagram Account: The Rules

Here’s where I cop to being an extremely strict parent. I’ve been paying attention all these years to what gets shared, what makes viral headlines, and what just counts as obnoxious behavior from kids whose pre-frontal cortex needs some work that only growing up and life experience can make happen. A friend of mine says, “Kids run ’til they find the fence.” For Girl Child, the social media fence is close to the house where everyone can see it. These were the rules we agreed on:

  • Her account is private. Anyone sees her profile has to request to follow her.
    • She cannot let anyone follow her that she does not know in real life.
    • Conversely, she cannot request to follow anyone she does not know in real life.
  • She cannot put personal information in her public bio.
    • Personal information consists of: age, birthdate, address, her personal email address, etc.
  • I have to be one of her followers.
  • Her older female cousins have to be her followers also. They are 15 and 18 years old, and have experience.
  • For the time being, she asks permission of me to post a picture.
  • If she wants to leave a comment on someone’s picture, we talk about what’s appropriate and what isn’t, including the use of hashtags.
  • She cannot reshare other people’s photos if they have private accounts.

As you can see, her first instagram account is tightly controlled. It’s also working. She is very reserved socially at school, and this is afforded her an opportunity to share pieces of her personality that she’s too shy to let shine in big noisy groups. Her school acquaintances have found her and requested to follow her, and she is following back. It’s opening up new possibilities for her as she starts to consider what she thinks is “share-worthy” about her and her life.

The rule that she has to show me what pictures she wants to post has come in handy, too. She brought a picture to me that she wasn’t sure of. It was selfie she took where she had face paint on. This led to a very productive conversation about “What if this gets shared by people? How would you feel about that?” She decided against it.

In talking about this entire thing, we also had to prepare her for the potential for hurt feelings. Her friends may post pictures of things that they have done together, and she wasn’t invited to join. This can hurt, even if you’re an adult. And it happened. She WAS hurt, but took it in stride, didn’t make any comments on the picture, and moved on.

Maturity vs. Sophistication

I’m trying to help her build a pause button before she hits send. I see parents everywhere mistake sophistication for maturity, and I can’t help but wonder if it leaves the child confused, or with a false sense of their perceived importance. We all know that adolescence is when we, as humans, are the most inward focused. I’m doing my darndest to make certain that her sense of importance comes from real maturity, not just the illusion of it.

She knows where the fence is.

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Service Is To Serve

service

Service

It’s been an interesting transition for me going from “mommy blogger” (which everyone seems to have a distaste for lately) to a behind the scenes content person for small businesses. I’ve been writing less here because of it.

But oh….I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned about online marketing, SEO, improved my writing in areas such as tone, grammar, readability, word choice…and for a writerly nerd like me, it’s been fantastic.

Here’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned:

The best online marketing plan on earth won’t make up for rudeness and a lack of willingness to be humble with your customer.

I can spend hours writing a post with a friendly, welcoming tone, stating that the business is there for their customer’s needs 24/7. I can make it perfectly clear that the business WANTS business and will provide the service they are selling with a friendly face, kind words, and a smile.

When a person online reads this, believes my words, calls the business only to be met with defensiveness, rudeness, and an overwhelming desire to get in the last word, I’ve just been made a liar.

I spent many years on the front line of dealing with the public. I worked in retail, restaurants, front offices and phone software support. I’ve worked with children and their parents. I’ve seen people be crazy mad, upset, fearful, and even sad. Here’s what you DO NOT do:

Hang up on them. Turn your back. Tell them that their business isn’t worth your time or effort. Tell them that they don’t understand what YOU have to deal with being the owner of said business.

I get it. Being humble is hard. It’s really difficult to listen to someone bitching at you. Listen anyway. Because really, that’s what most of us truly want: to be heard.

Most of the time, when I was dealing with a person who was really hot, my silence while they vented was all it took to cool them down. I would say, “I hear you. This is my understanding of what happened. What would you like the result of this conversation to be?” If they interrupt you, let them.

If you are providing a service, you may believe that your customer needs you and your knowledge, and therefore when they have a complaint they couldn’t possibly know what they are talking about. You’re wrong. You don’t know what your customer has been through that day, that week, or that month, or even that year. That’s when you allow yourself to be a blank slate. They can call you any name in the book. Let it roll off your back. Get to the heart of the problem, do your best to fix it, and then move on. As often as possible make certain that the customer leaves the conversation feeling like they’ve been heard.

The root of the word service is serve. Did you know there are two definitions of serve? One is to perform duties and services for a person or organization. This is the second definition:

be of service to, be of use to, helpassistaid, make a contribution to,do one’s bit for, do something for, benefit

As a business owner, success depends on you embodying both definitions.

 

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Imperfectly Perfect Family Photo

Perfect family.

Pffft. Back in December, I had an epiphany of sorts.

We went tromping through muddy, melting snow with friends to pick out a Christmas tree. I forgot my “good” camera, so our phone cameras had to do.

Here is the picture we took of our “perfect family:”

perfect family

It captures us totally. Ok, fine. I did a little edge burn on the sides of the photo, but this is us.

I wanted to send it for our Christmas cards this year, but it was frowned upon by an older family member. I caved. And I’m sorry and kinda mad at myself that I did. In previous generations, the pressure to appear like everything was fine must have been intense. It permeates all the way down to our Christmas cards in 2014. “What will the neighbors think?”

I’ve decided that I don’t really care what the neighbors think. This is who we are, warts and all. Please note: not actual warts. I’m talking about the metaphorical kind. I think when the warts are out in the open, we’re all better able to understand that messiness is life. And that’s ok to let it stick out.

Say, for instance, on your Christmas card photos.

And truthfully, that’s what I want people to see. Not my shiny ‘everything’s FINE!’ Christmas card picture. I want people to see that there is joy in the mess. That there’s a mess in the joy. That you’re going to forget your good camera, that you’ll step in a snow puddle up to your knee, that only two of the four of you will be facing the camera at any given moment, and that’s life. And that’s a life I’m really proud of. Faking it is exhausting. And I also think that faking it eventually makes it all crumble down around you because you can no longer figure out what’s the real messy family and what’s the fake perfect family.

Boy Child went to school last week in pajama pants. He was happy as a clam. And comfortable. He didn’t care that they were pajamas. He was totally himself and full of joy that day because he didn’t have to fake being perfect and comfortable.

We could learn alot from Boy Child.

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#PrayForReynolds: Yet ANOTHER School Shooting

I wrote a post shortly after the Newton tragedy. And then, when there was a shooting earlier in the year in Colorado, I published it again.

Here I am. Sharing it once again.

Live civilly. Teach civility. Love on another. Lead your children with love. Show them. Prove to them that they mean something to you. And if they are hurting or troubled, get them help. Denial of trouble can lead to tragedy.

We can talk all we want about gun control; we can argue until we’re blue in the face about whose fault it is, what’s wrong with kids, what’s wrong with parents, what’s wrong with us…..as if there was one simple answer to the layers of sadness and desperation that surround us. Maybe there is a simple answer, but it won’t be legislated or broadcast on cable news in a split-screen debate.

There Is No Absolute

Children, who were essentially the same age as my children, were gunned down in school yesterday. We scream and cry, “how could this happen?” As parents, our greatest fear bubbled violently to the surface of our consciousness on Friday, and we are left fumbling in the dark for answers.

I don’t think there are any.

How could there be? It defies logic to any person whose brain is working the way it’s supposed to. And there’s the divide: brains working the way they’re supposed to.

I’ve seen so many say, “Gun control is the answer!” I’ve seen others say, “Evil reigned yesterday because we have become a Godless society!”

But the raw, ugly truth is that there is no absolute solution. You can’t force a person to believe in God. You can’t legislate sanity or courtesy. People are messy. We are all different.

At the same time, though, here’s what we CAN do: Love one another. Think before we speak. Teach civility, live civilly, and act on the impulse to reach out to others who are hurting. The people we reach out to may not reciprocate. Reach anyway. It’s worth the effort. People, no matter what their circumstance, are worth the effort, regardless of whether or not your efforts are appreciated. Try. Teach our children to try.

Peace in all of our hearts and minds will come when we truly understand that the essential nature of human beings is connection. Love combined with action drives out darkness. The person you avoid because they are so very different than you, could be the person who needs you the most.

“The good you do today,
people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.”

~Mother Theresa

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When Becoming A Parent Is Painful

postpartum depression

Remembering Postpartum Depression

We were digging through a drawer looking for something in our bedroom this weekend, and underneath the junk in the junk drawer, a piece of paper with my handwriting on it caught my eye. I didn’t recognize the paper at first, so I couldn’t remember how it got there or what was written on it.

I pulled it out of the drawer and then sunk down to the bed when I saw the date: 8/1/03.

I knew exactly what was on it. A long-ago forgotten letter I had written to myself when Girl Child was 11 months old. This was during the peak of my lingering bout of postpartum depression. All the feeling I poured out into this letter is totally foreign to me now. And yet, at the same time, achingly familiar.

 

“8/1/03

It’s been a really long time since I kept a journal. I started on my first journal (that were written in non-third grader complete sentences) here in 1986. I was 16. I kept them for several years – through college and even a little beyond, but stopped in about 1995. I just lost the desire to write about my life. When I look back on those journals, especially the early ones, I kind of laugh. It was pretty much all about boys. I wrote down poems that I liked, and song lyrics, too. Sometimes other writers could express the feelings that I was feeling.

A LOT has changed since I last kept a journal. It’s some of these changes that are compelling me to start again. I’m married to a wonderful man, and we have a little girl. She will be one in three weeks. To say that becoming a mother has changed our lives is probably the understatement of the century. I knew that I wanted a child, but I was unprepared for the rigors of what being a parent entails. It’s changed everything. I love my daughter more than anything. She is so beautiful and sweet natured. What I’m struggling with right now is that I feel somewhat like I’ve lost a sense of myself. I’m not working right now – I’ve taken the last year off. I’m finding that my days stretch out in front of me. As much as I hate to admit this, being with her is boring for me sometimes. I crave company.

Here’s the problem: I don’t have a job to focus on, I’m not a big hobby person, and I’m finding it difficult to NOT feel sort of lost. [My husband] has hobbies that take him away from home, like waterskiing, golf, etc. I don’t. I like to exercise, and want to focus on that, but I have to find childcare, which is a big pain. Juggling her schedule can be tough, too. I look at these obstacles and talk myself out of doing things that make me more ME. The weight of the responsibility feels very heavy.”

What I couldn’t find the words for, or maybe couldn’t handle seeing written on black and white, was the conflict I could feel tearing me apart inside. I had everything I had ever wanted, really. Why did I feel so trapped and heavy? Why did I feel so sad?

Shortly after writing this, I basically hit bottom. I went for several days either crying or nearly crying. I knew I needed help, so I made an appointment with my doctor. I told her, weeping, “I have everything I’ve ever wanted. Why do I feel like this?” She handed me a tissue and told me, “Because you’re depressed, and it’s not your fault.” We talked some more, and then I agreed to start taking antidepressant medication and come back for follow-up.

Within a few weeks, the fog had begun to lift, and I started to make a plan. I realized that prior to the medication, I wasn’t even able to make a plan. I was stuck.

How did I get myself back? I exercised more, I got a part-time job that involved doing something I used to love but had lost in the preceding years (singing) and started a slow but steady climb out. Looking back, I know that it was the combination of those three things that began my rise out of the dark.

Eleven years later, sitting on the edge of my bed remembering the pain in my words, I got a sense of just how far I had come. The next years weren’t without setbacks, to be sure, but I am healed. I may have times of sadness and depression again, but the difference today is that I know what to do about it: lean on my tribe. Take action. Ask for help. Reclaim something that I enjoy. Ignore the voice in my head lying to me, telling me “I can’t.”

I can. And I did.

If you’re reading this and think you may need some help, you’re not alone. Here is a link to postpartum depression resources. Please reach out.

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Growing Up GirlChild: Body Image

“Media Literacy” is a buzz term around OpEd pieces that discuss the raising of girls. I’ve been watching and learning about it for a few years now, lying in wait for the day that Girl Child begins to turn inward and worry about things like her looks, what she’s wearing, when she’ll be developing, etc. I want very much to make sure that she’s guided through the gigantic maze of body image issues. I had plenty myself, and looking back, I was FINE. Better than fine. Pretty, even. I’m hoping to spare her the same self-torture by educating her on what’s real, and what’s unequivocally NOT real.

Girls and women are assaulted on the daily with what I call “Girl Mud Flap” body:

body image

image:http://www.flickr.com/photos/notionscapital/

What’s so insidious about trying to make this body type come to life is that it’s not even real or attainable, yet it’s presented that way through manipulation. So, here are two videos I’ve shown Girl Child recently giving her a bird’s eye view of what really goes on after the pictures are taken, and how it can affect a woman’s body image.

Love your body, ladies. Not so much for what it looks like, but what it can do, be, and endure.

(video: iGirl Television)

And then here is the one I showed her where four perfectly lovely women were photographed and subsequently given The Photoshop Treatment. Watch their reactions to the changes made and how it may affect their body image going forward. (For the better!) Suddenly who they ARE crystallizes.

(video: BuzzFeedVideo)

I am hopeful that because she was born with an imperfection and now has scars (which I tell her, “scars are stories.”) that she embrace all that she’s been through, and realizes that life is too short to not accept who you are inside and out. We are all so much more than the size of our breasts and what the tag says in our jeans. My hope is to guide her through these years and help her see herself as a whole entity, not simply the sum of her parts that she has compared to an impossible standard.

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Otterbox Giveaway….and the WINNER IS…..

First, THANK YOU MY PEOPLE. First ever giveaway on my blog, and I so appreciate the entries and see your favorite birthday presents. You guys are awesome!

I took the total number of unique responses (one per commenter – those were the rules for me) and plugged that into Random.org.

Next: the winner. Drum roll please…….

random.org

 

Jo Blyskal….COME ON DOWN!

(in case you forgot…here is Jo’s comment:

jocomment

You rock, Jo. I’ll get in touch with you via email and make arrangements. Enjoy your practically-bullet-proof Otterbox, my friend!

Huge shout out to Andy Colley at AT&T Wireless for providing me this fun opportunity. :)

So fun! Stay tuned next week for my newest installment of Growing Up GirlChild.

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Otterbox Giveaways, Birthdays, OH MY!

Sometimes life gets in the way of writing about it. That’s where I’ve been.

But…I’m baack…..with a review and a Submommy first-ever Giveaway! Why? Because I turned 44 on Saturday, and I want to give someone a present. I am old(er). I have to admit, I’m starting to feel old(er). Joints and things are starting to make strange noises when I get out of bed in the morning. I’ve contemplated a case of glucosamine while wandering around Costco.

Wouldn’t trade a single moment though. My life is really good, in spite of my creaky joints. SO! In light of the fact that I’m having a mid-forties nirvana-ish moment, some lucky reader will get a present! From ME!

I won’t give someone something I’ve never tried myself, so I’ll let you know all about it first.

First, full disclosure: I received an Otterbox to try and review, and an additional one to give away from AT&T Wireless. I’ve worked with them before and really enjoyed the experience, so here I am again.

Otterbox iPhone Case (for 5/5c/5s)

The Otterbox iPhone cases are insanely durable. It covers your phone totally and completely. The only parts of the phone that aren’t covered are the front camera, ear speaker, back camera and flash. Everything else is encased in a durable plastic and then wrapped in rubber. OH! And then you get an additional half-case with a clip on it for extra

Unless you back over it with your car, (how often does that happen, really?) nothing will happen to your iPhone while it’s tucked away in the safe that is an Otterbox.

The Breakdown:

The Otterbox is not really a snap-on and go type of case. Installing your phone in the case is a multi-step process. It’s not difficult, just multi-step. There is an inner plastic grey box:

otterbox

An outer rubber case:

otterbox

And an outer plastic case with a clip. This is optional – you don’t have to use it if you don’t want to, but it comes with it.

otterbox

Assembly:

First, I would recommend cleaning your phone with a lint-free cloth first. I’ll explain why in a moment.

Next, place the grey inner case around your phone. It snaps shut. Then, the outer rubber piece wraps around the grey inner case. (Pink is a great color, huh? Hint hint) The front screen is covered in clear plastic, hence why cleaning your phone before installation is a good idea. Little pieces of lint on the screen get trapped in the Otterbox and serves the sole purpose of annoying you. Cleaning it first solves this problem.

All of your phone’s controls are covered but accessible, including your screen. The only the exception is the bottom speakers.

The Good:

After I had it all put together, I dropped it. (On purpose!) It bounced. I appreciate a good bounce. It is most definitely durable and your phone is very protected. I really liked that the plastic that covers the screen is quite responsive. They’ve done a great job of making that feel and respond as if there wasn’t anything covering the touch screen.

I also really like that while the Otterbox isn’t waterproof, it is water resistant, and judging by the torrential downpours we’ve had this week, it was nice to have the extra protection for the weather. The case feels really solid in your hands, but it doesn’t impede the use of the phone.

The Maybe Needs Work:

The biggest critique I have of the phone is the home button. It’s covered completely by the rubber case, and in the iPhone 5s that I have, it renders the fingerprint scanner useless. That’s a nifty feature that I really enjoy using and the Otterbox doesn’t allow for it the way that it is designed now.

This is a really good, solid  case that you know you want.

Now: the giveaway

To enter, please leave a comment, telling me what your favorite birthday present you’ve ever received. I will select a winner using the random number generator on Random.org. (Appropos, yes?) WINNER CHOSEN ON FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 21st.

 

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I Think They’re Becoming Friends

friendship

When we decided to have a second child, we weren’t sure what to expect. I remember being frightened when we found out Boy Child was on his way. I thought, “Can we handle this? Two? Or will I turn into a referee?” SubBro and I never fought too badly, but I had heard horror stories of siblings who hated one another growing up and have never managed to forge a decently healthy relationship with each other. It was one of my biggest fears as we welcomed our little boy to the family.

There has been plenty of refereeing since Boy Child arrived, but something has changed recently. Something beautiful.

They’re becoming friends.

Not just friendly. Actual friends. The kids went ice skating over Thanksgiving break, and Girl Child helped Boy Child along the entire time, watching out for him, assisting him when he fell, and really made sure he was doing well and having fun.

Over Christmas break, Girl Child woke up on a Saturday morning screaming because she realized that there was a giant spider right next to her head. She had a near panic attack. Can’t say I wouldn’t have, either. Boy rushed in, saying, “it’s ok! It’s ok! I’ll get the spider! Are you ok? I’ll get it!” And proceeded to comfort her for the next ten minutes. I ended up getting the spider.

Sidenote: if you knew me 15 years ago, you realize what a big deal it is for me to get the spider all by myself. Because SPIDER. Also? HUGE SPIDER.

Girl said recently, “My best friends are E, A, and my brother.”

Boy came home from school today with a book he made titled, “My Heroes.” Page one? Girl Child. He drew them holding hands. He wrote, “My sister is my hero because she plays with me.”

I’m not delusional enough to think that simply because we’re having a good stretch of getting along that this will continue indefinitely. I’m sure there is a healthy amount of refereeing my future. But there is something growing out of the fighting and the yelling and hurt feelings: love.

This fills me with hope. Because, as much as I dislike the the realization that I won’t see the entirety of their lives – I won’t be here to see them grow old – it comforts me to know that we have planted the seeds for them to be there for each other. It gives me peace to know that long after we aren’t there for them any more, they’ll have each other. Neither one will ever be truly alone in the world.  Just like my brother and I, they have a shared experience in their childhood. That’s a powerful connection that can sustain them, even if they aren’t in physical proximity.

They’re friends.

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