My Annual Rant About What America is Doing to Our Girls

Oh mercy.

I try to stay off my soap box, I mean that really preachy soap box, but about once a year I just can’t take it anymore.

Last year, you may remember my rant from little bit’s completely inappropriate ballet recital outfit.

Most of you probably missed the previous year’s rant about the Family Circle “advice” column that set me off (because I had about 10 readers at the time!).

But this Sunday I lost it.  I was simply trying to outfit little bit with a new pair of shoes.  Becoming frustrated at the Stride Rite prices, I decided to visit a few children’s clothing stores that also offered a limited selection of shoes.  Among my stops were the not-particularly-reputationally-racy Gymboree and Carter’s.  GYMBOREE and CARTER’S!  Wanted to make sure you didn’t miss that these are stores that don’t carry teen clothing.  Or adult clothing.  Or stripper clothing.  Supposedly.

Ahem, I’ll rein it in a little.

Since it is April in Houston (or is supposed to be anyways, tell that to the 50s we’ve had this week), I thought I ought to pick up a pair of shorts.  Little bit picked up an adorable pair of purpled striped knit shorts at Gymboree which I said she could have because they looked about right from a length perspective.  Then I looked at the tag.  They were a SIZE 12!  The shorts that would probably been about the right length for a 4 year old wearing a 5T were a SIZE 12!

I can see you nodding your head because that is exactly what happened when I posted this information to Facebook.

I got an unreal amount of comments to this post: “Is there anywhere that sells preschool shorts that are not micro mini?!?! If not, she may never know what it’s like to wear shorts!”

Here were some of the comments in response:

* We just try to find capri pants – no recommendations here.

* Yes, capris and cut offs.  Not sure who designs shorts that short, but we won’t be buying them.

* I started sewing again for just this problem.  My girls mostly wear skirts with attached shorts because they are longer.

* We shop second hand for older styles but it’s getting harder every year.

* Just wait, mine is 9, I break into hives when we go clothes shopping.

* The shorts for tweens and teens are so short that there is literally no inseam and if they girls do anything other than stand up they show everything.  It’s indecent what’s marketed to young girls.

* We have the same experience.  In a restaurant the other day I was embarrassed and appalled to see a 14 year old wearing shorts with her butt cheeks hanging out.

* We put leggings with sundresses because the dresses are too short on their own too.

* We buy boys shorts.

* Prosti-tot wear.  I cut and hem winter jeans.

EVERY SINGLE MOM HAD THE SAME REACTION!

HOW ARE THESE PLACES STILL IN BUSINESS?

I am stabbing my keyboard viciously as I even type this.  What the hell?  I am sorry, but what the hell?

This is not an issue for one category of people.  This is an issue for you.

Are you a Feminist?  This continued degradation and sexualization of young girls should outrage you!  It defies any progress that has been made and reduces young women to objects.

Are you a Christian?  The slippery slope is ever more steep and dangerous.  When four year olds can’t find clothes to cover up more than their rear then we are in trouble.  Pray all you want, but we also need to be taking some action and finding alternatives.

Are you a father, grandfather, or brother?  You know how men look at women.  You know what it does to see every shred of skin pranced in front of you.  Do you want everyone who passes your daughter, granddaughter, or sister to be thinking those things?

What on Earth?  So here is a very simple recommendation, short of taking up sewing which I know I’m not going to do so I’m not going to recommend it to you:  STOP SHOPPING AT THESE STORES.  Any store that believes micro mini is the appropriate length of short for a four year old or a fourteen year old doesn’t deserve our business.  And maybe if enough places see an impact, and hear an outcry, we can affect change.

Everyone laughs at this idea.  Like one person can’t affect change.  But you know what?  Even if no one else follows this recommendation, I will not personally be supporting them with my hard earned money.

Shop somewhere you see encouraging appropriate attire.  Some of the recommendations by commenters I personally went and checked out and agree that several of them have solid options:

1.  The Children’s Place - they are incredibly reasonable, and the girl on their cover page as I was typing this was in shorts that nearly hit her knees!  (They do have shorter shorts, but they have a lot of “skimmer” shorts.)

2.  Land’s End - again, they have shorter shorts available, but they also have Bermuda shorts and cute skorts that are longer.  (Y’all they also have some really cute, but modest, swimsuits and shorts for women!)

3. Hanna Andersson – pricier, but a pretty broad selection of longer shorts and summer skirts that are age appropriate.

And one last thing.  I said age appropriate in that last little blurb, but y’all, the length I am seeing is inappropriate at any age.  Women have got to set an example for our girls by dressing with some dignity and self-confidence and realize we have more to offer the world than our chest or rear.  It’s gone too far.

Got Manners?

Y’all, I’m talking a lot about kids this week.  But there have been several situations crop up that made me want to spend much of this week tackling the issues.

Today I am so excited to host Virginia Johnson, a long time family friend, and manners EXPERT!  Seriously, it’s her business.  She’s guest posting on manners for our kids.  I love her tips and she has an excellent e-book called Mimi Rules, A Kindness Guide for Young Ladies, you must download.  While it’s geared for 9 to 13 year olds, I’m taking many of the tips and applying them in our home now.  Without further adieu, here’s Virginia.

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It saddens me to watch our young people barrel through their days without so much as a “hello, how are you?”

Their ears are glued to cell phones; unable to hear instruction (aka ‘tools for life’) from mom or dad.

Rarely is the door held open for an adult.  Food is shoveled from plate to mouth in a matter of seconds.

Manners are not medieval, a thing of the past – they are here to stay and make everyone look better.  And when they look better, they feel better and eventually have confidence to handle most any situation.

When I tell high school boys, “manners help you on the court, the field AND out to dinner with a young lady,” the room gets quiet.  I tell girls that the first tip on my list of ten must-know manners is first impressions count!  You have approximately 15 seconds to make a good or poor impression.  (And that goes for everyone, really.)

If one does not have ‘social savvy’ during an interview, your GPA won’t get you the job!  With social skills dwindling for all ages and experience levels, top notch manners and social ability will not only set you apart but can get you the job!  Manners allow you to gain confidence and authority in social and business arenas.

The good news is our young ones are sponges and can learn the ropes long before they reach high school.  They model what they see.  Why not have a ‘fancy’ sit-down dinner once a week?  Calendar the time each week to set a nice table (teach them how to do it), make dinner, and eat together as a family.  While you are seated around the table, discuss and practice these table-time tips with your children:

1. When you set the table, the bread plate is on the left, dinner plate in the middle, water on the right (B-M-W).

2. Have the kids wait behind their chair until you come to the table.

3. Pass the bread, rolls, or muffins to the right.

4. Cut one piece of meat at time.

5. Eat slowly, with mouths closed (food or drink is not to be heard).

6. ….and there is much more!

This is about more than just table manners.  It’s the start of a conversation about respect and social grace.  The time you invest in developing your children’s social skills builds their self-esteem, self-respect, and respect for others.

vjohnsonVirginia is the married mother of two grown boys and the owner of Manners Plus which offers a variety of etiquette programs that teach leadership skills and the social graces to all ages, from eight to eighty!  The workshops are fun, informative and often involve food.  For more information, contact Virginia Johnson at www.mannersplus.com
Photo by Elizabeth Messina, Words by Virginia Johnson.

Time for (Tiny) Tea

I love to take tea.

God gave me a little girl so we could have tea parties.  I am certain of that.

Early in the year, we had our cousins over for a little tea party.  The impromptu fun was such a hit, little bit kept asking to have one for her friends at school.  So in February we settled on the weekend the boys were going turkey hunting.  We decided TWO MONTHS in advance to host the tea party for this weekend.  That may have been a little too far in advance since she has talked of nothing but the tea party since then.

Friday night we braved Central Market and cookie pick ups and assorted errands, and then we stayed up setting up the house.  Even at 8:30 she refused to go to bed if I was going to do one more thing for the party because she wanted to be a part of everything.  She set every place card in a well thought out seat, selected the tea “cups” and tea pot lollipops for each girl, and set their place setting including making the napkin ring fans.  We worked to wrap the art table in wrapping paper (this is solid gold friends – tablecloths get pulled with little kids, so cover the table for art projects with wrapping paper; it stays put and adds to your décor).

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We got the yummy cupcakes from Central Market and the adorable tea pot and tea cup cookies from Curlicue Bakery.  As soon as we woke up Saturday, we went to work on the food – fresh fruit, tiny finger sandwiches in peanut butter, cucumber, and chicken salad, mini quiches and yummy sweets.  I did make her take a nap so she’d be rested for the party, but I didn’t count on the fact that she would wake up in a terrible, awful, no good mood and flip out about wardrobe.  She lay nearly naked in bed crying for over a half hour before the party because I wouldn’t agree to the only outfit she found acceptable.  Luckily, at just after 3 (not even a half hour before the party!) she agreed to a lovely sundress we found tucked in the back of her closet.

The girls came, four year olds from her Pre-K 3 class along with a few sisters, and took over.  They played dollies and princesses in her bedroom until it was time for tea, and then they promptly came to the table and acted like little ladies.  There’s something about sitting at the big table, with glass plates and cloth napkins, that just has girls sitting straighter and using their best manners.  It’s one of my favorite reasons for a tea party.  We so often cave to the easy route of paper plates and rushed meals that manners are becoming harder to find.  Not to mention, the kids, mine most certainly included, don’t treat things with respect because they’ve been living in a disposable culture.  So toys break, pages get ripped from books, and everything can be replaced.  But if we teach them that things are precious, that we must take care, and that we must show respect and gratitude for even having lovely things, then maybe they’ll more mindful and careful with those things with which they are entrusted.

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I digress.  Our little ladies went from the tea party in the dining room to the art table in the kitchenette and made bracelets (teeny tiny beads, bad idea) and teapot fans and teapot picture frames.  They closed the party down by listening to classical music and performing a very free form ballet in the play room.  The party was a hit and I’ve found an avenue for entertaining until I can host grown ups again!  I did learn I should note on the invitation that it’s just a fun party, not a birthday party, because when moms see party invitations they think birthday!

Little bit is already asking for another one (I’ve warned her it will be another year).   It also reminded me that we need to use our dining room and nice linens and dishes more often.  In fact, on Wednesday, I’ve invited a family friend to join us to discuss manners and how to incorporate it in our daily lives with kids.  I hope you’ll come back for her wisdom!

To My Littlest Encourager

To my littlest encourager:

You may have inherited your momma’s love of words.

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I see you there, late at night, under the cover of the closet light, reading a book with emphatic flare even though you can’t quite yet make out what those words say.

I see you bubbling up with excitement as you share the day’s stories full of friendship and wonder.

You, my beautiful one, are such an encourager.

It’s you that exclaims, “Mommy you look BEAUTIFUL!” when I come out in a suit early in the morning for a big meeting.

It’s you that throws your hands around my neck and says, “Mommy, you’re my BEST friend!” when I most need to hear the words.

It’s you that cuddles in with me at bedtime and shares, “I love you so much!” and then hugs for dear life.

You are an encourager.  You are my heartbeat.

Could I offer encouragement back?

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I know that you love others with wild abandon and sometimes that can lead to you heartaches.  Please keep on loving.

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I know that you embrace life with a bold sense of adventure and sometimes that can lead to skinned knees and plans all akimbo.  Please continue the adventure.

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I know that you seek art and beauty in the world around you and sometimes that can lead to seeing counterfeit or errors.  Please keep seeking the art, you artist.

On the days when it’s hard to be an encourager, when it’s hard to offer unbridled passion, when your heart is broken, or your soul has been let down, keep the faith.  You are beautiful.  You are my best friend.  You are loved.

Trust that even in the moments when you feel most discouraged, we have a God who gives us endurance to run the race and the encouragement to get through the hard seasons.

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.  May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify God.  Romans 15

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Linking up today with Holley Gerth’s Coffee for Your Heart community of encouragers.

Holding Hands

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The gravel crunched beneath our mud boots as he reached up to take hold of my hand.  His hand, ever growing, resting gently inside my clasp.  We took hold of one another for no reason other than being closer.

There’s something about holding hands with these little ones.  Holding hands in moments when holding hands is not necessary.  There are not streets to cross.  No parking lots to dart through.  No crowds to fight.  Holding hands then is a necessary evil.  A requirement which they buck against because “I’m a big kid now mommy.”  It’s clutching and tensely clinging.

Oh, but in these quiet moments.  Walking past the barn.  Closing in on the bayou.  Mud puddles frequently delaying our route.  No schedule.  No crowds.  No danger to guard against.

It’s in these moments when he CHOSE to reach up.  To take hold of my hand swinging loosely at my side as we wander down the path.  I darting the puddles and he jumping in with wild abandon.  Yet returning to take hold of my hand as we swing in time and approach the farmhouse.

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His hand so different now.  I know it will be even more different in the years to come.  Those years ago when it was ever so small and he’d clutch my thumb as we fed and tiny fingers were smooth and soft.  No cuts or bitten nails or mudcrusted fingers.  The perfect little grasp still figuring out what lay beyond his reach.

Now, so confidently, he reaches up.  Takes hold of me.   Smiles blindly up in this moment with no rushing or requirements or chastisements.  A moment together after the rain.

This living in the moment is all anyone talks about now but the doing of it is far harder than the recommending.

But it’s in these mud-filled silent clutches that I understood a little bit more about God. How the reaching up to grab your parent’s hand is so much more fulfilling than the parent grabbing the child’s.  That the volunteering to walk hand in hand toward home makes the breath catch in your chest and the moment slows.  That hand reaching out to clasp yours fills the sky with unseen fireworks and makes a momma’s (or papa’s) heart explode.