I keep thinking that perhaps I will have something profound to say, and defer writing until that moment. Of course, we all know that brilliance doesn't happen on demand. And if my colleagues are all off writing books and monographs, the least I can do is see if I still have readers.
We're winding down the school year here, making the transition from school to summer camp. My daughter now dresses in her bathing suit in the mornings, and we have the pleasure of slathering her (or spraying her if she doesn't move fast enough) with sunscreen before she leaves. My son will join her in the ritualistic anointing on Monday morning, and I can say with some authority that we're not looking forward to sunscreening two kids in the morning. If I could make an extra lunch, or do extra laundry, to avoid this, I think I'd be willing. (Parents' collective, anyone?)
My daughter, who has long cared a lot about her clothes (despite the fact that her closet is stocked with hand-me-downs), had taken caring to new heights. She refuses to dress in shorts (opting almost exclusively for dresses), is in love with her pink jelly flip-flop-sandals (wants nothing to do with the more sensible sneakers and water shoes), and had a complete meltdown the other morning about wearing a particular mismatched not-skirty-enough bathing suit. That particular scene was accompanied by screams so bloodcurdling we're still shocked that DYFS didn't come knocking that morning. I feel like I spend such an inordinate amount of time trying to talk N. out of attaching importance to her clothes, and that I might as well be tilting at windmills, but what's a parent of an image-conscious young girl to do, when it feels like these are the opportunities for foundational lessons in self-confidence? Why do I need to tell her, in response to her demands for clothing compliments, that she is always beautiful, even when she's naked? Am I unnecessarily overthinking my messaging?
That same morning, my son informed me that he needed a pink shirt to wear to before-and-after-care, because all of the classes had been assigned a color of the rainbow for spirit day. I had known vaguely about this, but was wilfully ignoring it because a) he's there for barely three hours during the day, and b) ... pink? I tried to talk him out of it, find a shirt that was multicolored; he was nonplussed.
Battling one child over clothing (we literally had to hold her upside down to get a bathing suit on her, and don't even ask me how we applied the sunscreen) left me feeling pummelled, and I caved, assuring him that if we could get out the door early, and if he promised the he would wear it again after today, I would take him to Walmart and look for a pink Tshirt.
My mother would have told me to go jump in a lake, I thought.
"Pink is my second favorite color," he assured me, confidently.
I was surprised by how easy it was to find a pink shirt in the boys' section. He grabbed it triumphantly.
At the checkout, I found myself worried that he'd be teased at school, and tried to think of something preemptively constructive to say. I had nothing.
In the car, I told him to stick his blue shirt in the bottom of his backback, since we weren't going back hom. I didn't tell him that his friends might tease him (because maybe they wouldn't). Instead, I looked in the rearview mirror. "You look good in pink," I said. Because he does.
"Of course," he replied. "Because it's my second favorite color."
I have been thinking a lot about gender conventions, given the impending changes to Title IX policy at universities, the recent shooting in Santa Barbara, the federal government's monitoring of the way universities are responding to sexual assault. I think about how much there is to teach my kids about being in the world in a way that is kind and nonjudgmental while also helping them to protect themselves against people who didn't learn those things, and I know that it's going to be a lot harder than trying to get a bathing suit onto a trenchant preschooler.
Do you find yourself overthinking these lessons? Or am I the only one?
Chopped Thai Salad
We make this kind of salad on hot days when we're running late, we're mentally tapped out,, and it's too much work to do anything else. The variations are endless: Greek, Italian, Thai, Japanese ... the only rule is that everything has to be small enough so that a representative biteful fits well on your fork.
1/3 c. canola oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 T. low sodium soy sauce
2 T. white distilled vinegar
2 T. honey
2 t. sesame oil
2 T. lime juice
1 t. grated lime peel 5-6 cups baby kale
3 large carrots
2 bell peppers (1 red, 1 yellow)
1 c. cilantro leaves
3 green onions
3/4 c. roasted cashews, minced
Whisk together ingredients from oil through lime peel in a measuring cup or small bowl. Taste and adjust to fit your preferences.
Chop the kale, carrots, peppers, cilantro leaves, and green onions. If you have a Cuisinart, toss the carrots and peppers in there with the "shred" disc, and save yourself some chopping time.
Toss the vegetables with cashews in a large bowl until well combined. Drizzle with the dressing, toss gently a few times, and serve immediately.