Boss Girl

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When I was pregnant with my daughter I knew exactly what she was going to be like, what she was going to eat and that she would not, I touted, be allowed to believe in princesses nor have a PlaySkool vacuum, if she wants a Barbie, Barbie better be a vet. There would be no Little Tikes kitchen, she would never don an apron and God forbid she have a babydoll.

Well, God apparently forbade my mother in law, who saw it as more of a challenge and threw in a stroller and a bottle. She rolled her eyes at me as my daughter held her baby and patted it’s back, “I mommy like you, mama!”

When my daughter played house during a play date in her friend’s plastic kitchen she cried out, “I making pasta like mommy!” My friend ceremoniously smirked, “She just wants to be like you.”

I scowled.

I finally gave up on my aspirations of a feminist toddler when I saw how enamored she was with Cinderella and the glitz, glam and goodness of her fairy godmother. She stood wide-eyed in front of the TV while one of my girlfriends and I nursed broken hearts on my couch. My friend had just found out her boyfriend cheated on her and I was turning marital memories into line items for a judge to review.

My friend looked forlorn as she nodded toward Liv, eyes puffy, as the “One Day My Prince Will Come” part came up. She wrapped her arms around her legs and sighed, “This is how it starts…” Then she started singing along.

“I know. Look at how happy she is though…”

I looked at my daughter with magic swirling around her, wispy fairy tales and Happily Ever Afters and resigned my desire to keep her chin above the dumb girls who only seek a Prince Charming, “You go ahead and believe in love, baby girl!”

My daughter has turned my expectations of mother/daughter on its well-highlighted head. I have had to come to grips with the fact that making a list of the exacts was going to be drawn through with crayon by a child who, at times, feels more like my teacher. I did not have a strong female role model growing up and once my belly started to nudge forward against the button of my jeans I realized that I’d had to become my own role model. I worried that I wouldn’t know how to be a mother so I handled it the way I do when I have a problem. I came up with a plan.

My plan looked like it came directly from a Boss Girl article in Glamour.

My plan did not at all take into consideration the example I could be without bullet points; the woman I am. So, I had to rip it up and rather than starting over, I accepted the fact that the lessons will bubble up around us as they may.

I’m learning too.

I recognized that I wrap myself up in dresses, beauty products, chop veggies and wear high heels with reckless aplomb, but don’t sit before a castle wringing my hands waiting for a man to rescue me. Instead the heels click clack toward boardrooms and Fly By lanes. I realized that my daughter’s viewpoint of femininity and love will be molded by the examples in her life as opposed to Disney and Hasbro.

The last time she wore my heels she did explain that she and Cinderella were heading to New York to close a deal, so I must be doing something right.

Melissa and I discussed this over drinks one night. I fell in love with her a little as she explained that her daughter already knew that Snow White became a dentist before the wedding and Sleeping Beauty went to Stanford. We agreed that we adore the new face of the Disney princesses. Elsa and Anna’s Act of True Love was between sisters; one defending the other against a certain beheading by the manipulative narcissist, Hans. Merida of Brave wanted to compete for her own hand in marriage and decimated the boys with her mad archery skills. Her father finally declared that rather than fighting for her hand they could fight for her heart.

Amen, brother.

Liv has asked me to reenact the new Cinderella movie several times this past week. She runs down the stairs with my shoes and flings one behind her so that I can pick it up. I call out to her and I better do it right because the Prince doesn’t know my name yet, mom. Don’t call me Cinderella! She waits for me on the couch while I fit my heel on her tiny little foot and then she says we can get married.

There is such a chasm of confusion surrounding women who try to live in a man’s world. We think we have to ditch the things that make us soft, strong, nurturing and true to nature. I did the whole “I’m a boss” kind of thing in my early thirties when I needed boys to know that I could smile and then eat their lunch. Now I recognize I can still be powerful in a room and maintain my femininity. I can be a mother with nurturing arms, an intelligent force with a voice and good God, shove the power suit into the corner because that is so last decade. I don’t have to be a version of what the world expects of a strong woman, but stand within the woman I am. I want my daughter to grow into womanhood knowing that she can wear heels and close deals and run marathons and be a chemist, an architect, a cowgirl, stagehand or Power Ranger and if she wants to do it with a hot lip color and bag in hand, do it, girl.

The rest?

We’ll figure it out as it comes or as she guides me.

She, after all, is clearly the boss.

Co-Parenting: You Thought You Were A Grown Up

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All I ever wanted was my family – that cellular group that defined my role in life. I wanted the husband, the children and the ridiculous English Springer Spaniel that jumped in the tub with the kids after dinner. We would laugh while bubbles filled the air and my husband wrapped me up in his arms. Oddly enough I pictured this happening in a house somewhere in the Northeast with a Lexus in the driveway.

My idea of family was based on a scripted commercial and it smacked of Kay Jewelers and a luxury car brand.

I never thought the angelic being that finally came to me would look up at me with saucer-like blue eyes and ask, at three years old, if I liked her dad.

It was one question that sat atop a lot of other questions and worries that make my chest tight as she awaits my response:

Do you love my dad?

You and daddy keep getting new houses. I’m scared you are both going to get a new house and leave me in one of the old ones.

Do I have one dad? Will I always have one dad? Will I have two dads and two moms? How many parents am I going to get?

Like her mom, all my daughter has ever wanted was a family. Her father and I speak regularly so we can handle her questions and concerns as a united front and sometimes we deliver the message in the same room. It is important our daughter knows we are always here for her no matter the house.

I remember being in the same room with Liv’s father the moment our fertility doctor turned the screen to us and a little being full of light and energy and sparkles danced across the screen. Her dad said she looked like a seahorse. We talked about how our seahorse would be raised, the values we would instill, the lessons we would share, us both children of divorce. My husband and I talked fervently about raising a beautiful majestic little seahorse in a two-parent union where all we wanted was a family, which we very quickly got around to irrevocably imploding.

Our seahorse is now the only thread that holds us together.

The State of Nevada requires you to attend a three hour course prior to granting your divorce when children are involved. A social worker who came from a broken family stood before us and explained every little way you were breaking your child and how the damage wasn’t just a now thing, but a forever thing.

I cried for three straight hours.

I also realized the following year would be dedicated to making sure my daughter survived the damage in the healthiest way possible. There would be no relationships, no dates, no nothing. The State shared daunting statistics and it was clear that no relationships entered within the first year of divorce would remain intact after you got through the business of healing, vulnerability and grief. It was the first time I’ve ever been given permission to have what they referred to as Temporary Adult Relationships, I think the state just made booty calls sound like a bailout program.

We were told that you must die to the relationship you had and look at your new relationship as a business arrangement. No more squabbling over who did what, no more fighting, get over yourself. You are in the business of raising this child with this person and the State recommends joint custody, so figure it out.

The first time my daughter came home to tell me a woman I didn’t know painted her nails at daddy’s house it was extremely hard for me to die to the relationship and get over myself. Another woman was mothering my child with the man I had her with and I couldn’t help but feeling replaced. It took a full 24 hours to pull myself out of the emotion and recognize that my daughter would inevitably have other women in her life. The best thing I could do for her, my daughter, would be to forge good relationships with the women that become her village.

My daughter recently told me I was her old mom and she hopes to get a new mom at daddy’s house. We had to talk through her definitions and she finally explained, “You’ll always be my mom and you and daddy are my always family, but I’d like to have a mom at dad’s house too.”

I didn’t feel threatened this time. Rather than being hurt I recognized my child is a girl’s girl and she is drawn to the warmth and nurturing arms of women in her life. I couldn’t ask for a better end result than a well-adjusted woman surrounded by loving mother figures. She actually decided she wants to marry one of her little girlfriends the other day because, “I think a baby would like to have two moms.”

Of course she’d like to have a mom at dad’s house.

I hope she gets a great one.

I am shocked at how emotionally resilient we can be when we recognize our ability to make each situation better for our children, to think of their eventuality. It isn’t natural, but it is doable with intention. It requires that I leave behind ego, my own hurt and my pride. While some women might not be able to fathom such things I promise you that it gets easier over time and why fight something that is inevitable? Another woman will never take your place, but she can compliment the love your child feels from the collective of caregivers.

What I find astounding is that I truly believe it helped me grieve and heal in a very healthy way. I now have more of a detached friendship with her father because we’ve had to build it per her request. The way her eyes shine and how she hums and sings and laughs and loves when her mom and her dad are present with her as her family forgives the how or the why.

After all, we have a seahorse to raise.

Hey Shorty

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I’m regularly mistaken for a tall person. Twice in the past few weeks I’ve had a sales lady say, “Well, you’re tall, so…” A record screeches, flood lights come on and immediately I’m suspicious, what are you trying to sell, sister? In their defense both women were shorter (I totally sized them up), but simply because I was teetering over them in very high heels.

I have been climbing on top of counters to reach things since I started walking. When I had a top loading washer I had to bend at the waist, one leg braced against a wall as I lowered myself into the basin to get the sock at the bottom. My yoga pants drag sticks and when it rains they become soaked. You will find most of my jeans are either “crop” or they are cuffed at the bottom.

Oh, you thought I was just super stylish?

That’s sweet. 

On the rare occasions I’ve worn flats to work every single man in the office has looked at me as if seeing me for the first time and announced, “You are short.” Its like they’re throwing the word at me. I narrow my eyes because I can tell they’ve puffed their chests out a little and they all get this little smirky face because I no longer have five to six inch weapons strapped to my feet. This is where I remind them they should still be afraid of me. I work in a male dominated industry and typically have to establish where I fit in the pecking order early and often. No one questions my leadership.

Until it is time to sit on the hump in the backseat.

They also make me crawl to the back row of whatever car we’ve rented for work trips. One time I was asked if I’d sit in a car seat since the driver didn’t feel like reinstalling it.

I get it. I’m a mom, car seats are the devil, but come on, man.

I’ve come to accept the fact that I have monkey arms which must be what makes people think I am long legged as well. I give the impression of length, but the moment my shoes come off the step down is treated almost like a noticeable descent from heaven to the depths of hades.

When I date tall men I feel as if I’m sprinting to match one of their long, lusty strides, so arrogant. Just yesterday I had to tell my business partners to slow their roll because I was becoming breathless trying to talk and keep up with them at the same time. We were also on very slick tile floors and the shoes that keep me eye level also require sturdy ankles and calves that are rocks by end of day.

While I wear flats on the weekend, the last thing I want someone in a work or dating setting to think when they see me is any variation of the words petite, cute or short. I need to amass more space, enter the situation a level contender as opposed to woodland sprite. For the most part this has worked well and these guys have no idea.

Well, until they see me jumping and nudging something off a shelf or climbing up a filing cabinet. Again, the chests puff out, “Need some help, shorty?”

Depending on their tone I either accept and thank the gentleman or narrow the eyes, unbuckle my stilettos and start scaling some office furniture.

Whatevs.

#pinterestfail

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Confession time.

I hate Pinterest. HATE IT. I just flat out didn’t get it for years and this is saying something for someone with as healthy a social media addiction as the next gal. I couldn’t understand why people posted pictures of clothes they don’t own, recipes they have never attempted and exotic beaches they have never seen with their own eyes.

When did the entire female population start pinning onto one giant mood board, what is this?

Then this nonsense started popping up at parties…

Wow, this cheesy butter ranch dip baked into a bread bowl is amazing! Where did you find this? Pinterest. Oh my gosh those little pink owl beeswax candle party favors are adorable, where did you find them? Oh I made them, got a little DIY inspiration from Pinterest.

Ugh. Sorry I asked.

When did we start pouring over lifestyle blogger pins to throw the perfect potluck? I mean yeah, that mango mint julep in my perfectly poured and garnished cornflower blue mason jar is delicious, but do I really need to operate at this level?

I was scared. I am not organized. I procrastinate. I hyperventilate just stepping into a Michael’s craft store. DIY and meticulous party planning has never been my strong suit. My mantra for social gatherings has always come down to two things: pay attention to the music playlist and keep the booze flowing.

With Pinterest fever in full force, my confidence was shaken but curiosity piqued. I finally kicked my animosity down a notch to see what the fuss was about. I set up my page and started out like most women do – pinning clothes, jewelry and shoes.

Somewhere between casual perusing and occasional pinning the unthinkable happened. I started believing that I should make my own deodorant and laundry detergent, that essential oils would cure every ailment and I could cut my grocery bill in half if only I planted a vegetable garden. I was becoming what I despised – a Pinterest addict. And it didn’t feel good. It was like a constant web page dedicated to all of the good intentions, wishes and wants I had, but never attempted. If I did they never quite came out the way I envisioned. The expectation that I could “pin” the life I wanted came into focus around my daughter’s 7th birthday a year ago.

Our general family rule has been to have a birthday party every other year for our kids. We do something fun with just the family one year and a birthday party with friends the next. It was C’s year for a party and she was excited about 7. This is the age I had gotten my ears pierced and she wanted the same and she REALLY wanted the party. I don’t know why, but something about 7 felt like a big deal. I decided I would make it a big deal and I turned to Pinterest.

Stupid.

I went with an Alice in Wonderland theme and went to work throwing a tea party for a gaggle of first graders. Invitations requested “tea party attire,” I bought glass tea sets and tea cups at local antique stores, set a menu of both parent pleasing healthy lunch items and pizza to keep the kids happy. I invited the moms and set two tables; one with perfectly prepared charcuterie boards and chilled champagne for the moms, the other decked with proper table settings, tea and pettifors, glitter, butcher paper, crayons and flowers for the girls. Flowers were everywhere; snipped and meticulously arranged. I dragged C’s massive doll house into the living room with lovingly arranged dolls for the girls to play with after they were tired of tea partying.

The kicker? I did something like this to my dining room ceiling. Thanks to Pinterest.
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I ran all over town to find the perfect colors of toile and paper poufy things. It took a few hours and a few misplaced holes in our ceiling, but I did it and it was glorious.

The girls all came and they were adorable. They ate, they colored, they oohed and aahed at the decorations and flowers and marveled at their glass tea cups. The moms noshed on the cheese I couldn’t pronounce and sucked down the champagne. The icing on the figurative cake was literally the cake – an elaborately decorated Alice in Wonderland cake with seven glowing candles that went dark with one poof of my little birthday girl’s breath.

It was over.

And then it happened. As our guests were leaving one of the moms who I did not know very well said to me. “Everything was perfect. This party, your house, looked like something right out of Pinterest.”

I pulled it off… and then I immediately changed into my sweat pants and cried.

I was exhausted. With the sugar rush waning and C’s big brother home, I was left with nothing but a Pinterest trashed house and two screaming kids. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to have a sweet birthday party for my daughter and her friends at our home and take the time and care to make it special.

But, when you look at it – did she really notice? Did she care? And why did it matter so much if anyone did?

I did it for me. Maybe it was mom guilt or self-imposed Pinterest pressure. For the amount of buildup and work that little tea party took, we ended up throwing away half of the uneaten Wonderland cake. I don’t even have a picture from that day.

Fast forward a year later to C’s 8th birthday. There was no party this year and no complaints. She just wanted to paint pottery with one friend and we decided to have the family over for dinner. I baked the birthday cake myself (chocolate, C is a total chocolate junkie like her mother) the night before the festivities and am pretty proud of the pink confetti frosting I found to use as the filling. I even busted out my little frosting writing cap to finish the cake off with a “Happy Birthday.” The cap was, of course, the wrong size and did not fit the frosting tube. Frosting oozed everywhere. While I tried to write a beautiful cursive note to my girl it ended up reading something like, “Happy Birthday Carginoisnum….”

It looked ridiculous.

It looked hilarious.

It looked not Pinterest-worthy at all. My Huz took one look at it and laughed out loud.

I did too.

The night of C’s birthday we ate grilled steaks and baked potatoes that were undercooked and a little too tough. No one cared. We drank a ton of wine, turned the music up loud and let the kids stay up way past their bed times drinking root beer, the good kind in the brown bottles. C blew out her 8 candles from the #pinterestfail cake and asked for the biggest piece, because homemade chocolate cake is her favorite.

It was perfect.

I was living life out loud with my friends and family.

Instead of pinning it.