Beauty. Babies. Bathrooms.

Not coincidentally, most of the blog posts that I write that really resonate with readers are the very same posts that really resonate with me.  The posts that make me laugh or cry, make me introspective and reflective, make me transparent and emotional.  This is one of those posts.

My five-year-old daughter wasn’t feeling well yesterday, so I kept her home from school.  She wasn’t really sick, just not quite herself, and a full day of rest for her seemed like a better choice than sticking her into the first-day-after-March-break Kindergarten chaos.  Her tired little body needed to stay in pyjamas, to watch movies, and to re-energize.  Mondays are an 11:00-7:00 day for me at the clinic, and my husband was unable to take the day off, so my in-laws stepped in and agreed to play nursemaid.  But before I took her to their place, we stopped into one of my happy places to sneak in a workout.  I saw my 9am crew, completed week four of the five-week Crossfit Open competition, and set her up with an iPad, crackers, and water.

It was after the workout that she threw me for a loop.  She was sitting on the vanity in the women’s changeroom as I applied my makeup, getting ready for work.  “Why do you need that mommy?” she asked, pointing to my eyeshadow.  “What does it do?”

Radio silence.

“Well, it makes my eyes look brighter,” I said.  And as she asked about each subsequent piece of makeup, I explained away concealer and powder and eyeliner and mascara as “it makes my skin smoother” or “it makes my eyelashes darker,” stumbling to find words to minimize the aesthetic component of cosmetics.  As I spoke, I cringed inside, realizing that this is where it starts.  This is where she starts to learn about society’s rules of beauty.  This is where she starts to learn about her beauty.  Her worth.  Her value.  Am I being too dramatic?  If you think so, then I will boldly tell you that you’re wrong.

Now, I don’t wear much makeup as it is, and you can often find my face completely bare, but nonetheless I swayed her views, however unintentional, to believe that having smooth skin, bright eyes, and dark eyelashes are desirable.  I fuelled the machine that believes that young skin, blonde hair, and a thin body defines beauty.  I contributed to the belief that natural looks are not good enough and I influenced my own daughter towards an ideal that I don’t even believe in myself, yet have somehow bought into.  My history of disordered eating is no secret, and I’ve written about it a few times; I still feel emotionally stripped down and exposed when I read those posts.  But with adulthood and hindsight and years of self-reflection under my belt, I’m sure that disordered eating also falls into the realm of beauty and self-worth too.  And it starts young.

So what should I have done?  What should I have said?  The truth is, I don’t know.  But I do know that I find parenting my daughter much trickier than parenting my son, because of social issues like this.  Beauty.  Value.  Self-esteem.  Uuugh, it’s just all so damn hard.

I’m trying to raise my little girl to value her brain.  And her abilities.  And her kindness.  Even if the world at large values hair extensions and self-tanner more.  It starts young and it starts with us.  And maybe, just maybe, it starts on a bathroom vanity at the gym.


“If Children Live with Friendliness, they Learn the World is a Nice place in which to Live.”

I had a group of friends over one morning through the Christmas break.  There were five of us, just a casual coffee-and-muffin kinda thing after our workout.  It was a chance to catch up and snag some girlfriend time in a world that needs more girlfriends.  Meanwhile, my kids were loving the extra action in our living room, and proudly demonstrated their toy saxophone skills, played Spot It with a new audience, and snacked right along with us on the food platters spread out on the coffee table.

I loved it.

I loved it because I love low-key, last-minute get-togethers.  I loved it because I love to show my children the value and importance of nurturing friendships.  I loved it because they were involved too.

We host friends quite regularly and as much as we can, we try to keep our children involved in those gatherings.  Come to think of it, we try to keep our children involved in everything we do.  They often visit my workplace, watch sporting events at my husband’s school, and tag along to the gym.  We take them to festivals and rodeos, baseball games and the movies, live theatre and hotel overnights.  We try to expose them to a life well-lived and well-loved.  I take live-in-the-moment advice to heart, and I’ll chose experiences over stuff every time.

But I think these friendship experiences are especially important for them to be a part of, and help to build the idea that it takes a village to raise a child.  In those couple of hours on a wintery holiday morning, they learned some important social lessons like not interrupting a person’s story, how good a belly laugh feels, and how fulfilled someone can be just by hosting people in their home.  They watched, they listened, they observed, they contributed.  They grew.

“What was your highlight today?” I asked them, as I often do, during their baths that night.  “Having your friends over,” they said.  Me too kids, me too.


Plugged in

I bring my kids with me to the gym often, especially in the Summer months, when my teacher husband is home and he and I get the chance to do a workout together.  The kids are very used to this drill and part of the routine involves watching iPad videos.  There’s a great front foyer at my gym; a large, open area overlooking the workout floor but separated by a half-wall.  They set up their chairs, I set up the Netflix, and they don their headphones and lay out the snacks.  For one hour, three or four days a week, they get an hour of iPad time and my husband and I get an hour of fitness and friends.

But I wonder about the judgement.

We almost always bring the iPad to the gym.  They almost always use it for the entire hour.  I almost always wonder if we should bring books and scooters instead.

Here’s the thing: we are pretty strict about screen time.  My kids each get 20-30 minutes per day.  Usually my son chooses an iPad game and my daughter chooses a Netflix cartoon, and in the Summertime, they often use their screen time right after breakfast.  On CrossFit days, they use it at the gym.  We are an active family with a busy life and we throw in a family afternoon movie once in a while and watch nearly all Jays games in their entirety.  TV is a part of our life, but not a big part, so why do I feel so guilty about plugging them in while I work out?  Perhaps it’s because of my worry about public perception or perhaps it’s because of the contradiction between their physical inactivity during my physical activity.

Whatever the reason, I’m trying to adopt my husbands stance on this (and on many things), “we do what’s right for our family.”  Yes, we do.  And this works for us.

The truth is, I’m not a huge TV person; my screen of choice is my phone.  But I do enjoy decompressing on the couch at the end of the day, nearly every day, with my husband, the TV in the background and my iPhone in the foreground.  My blog post last week talked about my need for daily solitude and downtime, both of which my kids deserve to have as well.  And if that downtime is sometimes done in front of a screen for sixty minutes, then so be it.

My kids love coming to the gym.  They love flipping on the rings, hanging from the pullup bars, swinging the kettlebells, and having their iPad time.  And when they grow up and look back on Summer childhood memories, I know that an iPad screen will not be a major player.  “We do what’s right for our family.”  3-2-1-Go.