musings, life lessons & poetry from Theresa Jarosz Alberti

Tag: daughter

Me and Jada Pinkett Smith

I never really thought me and Jada Pinkett Smith had much in common, outside of us both being married to funny, charming, smart and good-looking guys (lucky us!).  But recently, I came across articles about her 12 year old daughter Willow getting a colorful buzz cut and the reaction the media was having towards the haircut, but also their reaction towards Jada-as-Mom, in essence:  “how could you let your daughter do that to herself?”

Here was Jada’s response:

“The question why I would LET Willow cut her hair. First the LET must be challenged. This is a world where women, girls are constantly reminded that they don’t belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power or self-determination. I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit and her mind are HER domain.

“Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair. It’s also a statement that claims that even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother’s deepest insecurities, hopes and desires. Even little girls should not be a slave to the preconceived ideas of what a culture believes a little girl should be.”

WOW.  That one hit me right in the heart.  An audience inside me started clapping and stomping and shouting “yeah!”  I have not always been so strong, but it was apparent to me that me and Jada had something very deep in common.

As parents of young kids, it doesn’t take long to be confronted with the concept that your child is an individual unto themselves.  Sure, as babies they almost seem to be an extension of ourselves, doughy bodies that have basic needs and could really care less whether you dress them in Baby Dior or garage sale hand-me-downs.  They can be just as happy with a pot and a wooden spoon as with some fancy plastic toy.  They don’t have real preferences outside of physical and emotional comfort.

But sometime as they near the two-year mark, they begin to get it themselves. The “hey! I’m a person, and I want that!”-notion that heralds the phase known as the Terrible Twos.  The kids get it long before the tired parents do.  It’s not terribly convenient when your child starts expressing themself.  Aw, why can’t you just go along with what I say… I’m older and I know better, and it’ll be faster and go more smoothly…  But no go, sorry!  Remember, your toddler’s favorite new word is NO.

I had my own Jada-moment when my daughter was 2 or 3 years old.  She started wanting to dress herself, and we’d be getting ready for pre-school and I’d see her come out dressed in some eclectic ensemble—her pretty purple flowered dress with plaid pants and a red-and-white striped headband and dirty canvas shoes.  Oh dear, I’d think.  I don’t remember if I got it right away, or if I tried to coax her into choosing something different, like “Your pink tights would look so pretty with that dress, are you sure you don’t want to change?”

What I do remember is that fairly quickly, I realized I had a choice to make:  I could try to force my daughter to wear what I wanted her to wear, by using shame or my authority to make her do it.  Or I could let go and let her wear what made her happy, to have her own self-expression.  What were my values here?

Sure, some part of me wanted to bring my pretty little girl out into the world in a pretty little outfit.  As Jada put it, making her a slave to her mother’s deepest insecurities, hopes and desires.  That part was all about me, and how I wanted the world to see my daughter, and see me as her mother.  But stronger than that was my deep desire that she have “the power to always know that her body, spirit and her mind are HER domain.”

I wanted her to be MORE than my own petty wish to have her be pretty.  I wanted her to be MORE than how the culture tells us girls need to look and act and be.   I wanted the same for my boys, too—for them to know that it’s okay to be themselves, no matter how they choose to be.  But I identified with my daughter more, having an urge to make her be seen how I wanted her to be seen.

My daughter is now 21, and she’s grown to be a young woman with a strong sense of self.  I can’t say I was perfect in mothering her and keeping my issues from butting in—she is usually pretty good about pointing it out when I’ve crossed boundaries.  Just as I know she’s learned a lot from me, I’ve learned a lot from her too.  I’m so glad we’ve managed to push away a lot of the cultural messages about girls and women, or to have more awareness about them when we do get bogged down.

I applaud Jada Pinkett Smith for standing up for her daughter, and stating so clearly the pitfalls of how we and society handle our daughters.  She’s had to live out her parenting choices on the world’s stage—I just hope the world can listen and hear this truth.  For the sake of ourselves, our daughters, and all the girls to come.



Dancing Like a Fool

Dance Central 2 for Xbox Kinect

I’ve surprised myself.  If you would have asked me 10 years ago, I doubt I would’ve considered myself a dancer.  But today I do–  certainly not a professional dancer, but just a person who loves to dance.

I’m an unlikely dancer.  I still have well over triple-digits to lose, and somewhere along the line in my 30’s and having kids, I totally lost touch with my body (hey, I think those 2 things just might be connected).  But even then, whenever we’d go to a wedding dance or a place with a dance floor, there was this little urge inside me, wanting to get up and groove.  But oh, fear and shame came up, and I squelched that urge.

Five or so years ago, I did start getting back in touch with my body– I felt so awful physically and emotionally I just had to do something.  I started going to the YWCA regularly, doing a little at a time, lost some weight, started feeling MUCH better.  After awhile, I got a trainer, who pushed me harder… and the best thing was, I got her to help me start going to exercise classes (which I’d been afraid to do before).

After a cautious beginning, I started trying out different classes, discovered Zumba– a Latin-based cardio dance workout.  You shake your hips a lot!  I decided early on that I was going to let go of caring how I looked– because of course there are huge mirrors all around in the class studio.  I was going to go for it, just dance like it was no one’s business and have fun.  And amazingly, exercise became fun!

Since then, I’ve gone on to take some hip-hop classes, different Zumba classes, got my husband to take some ballroom dance lessons with me, and found a new favorite class called Flash Mob, which is hip-hop and pop and world music, with a very fun teacher… it’s like a dance party.  And my daughter and I have discovered Dance Central on our Xbox Kinect.  She doesn’t like to exercise but will eagerly join me in the basement to sweat and dance.

I did take 5 years of tap, ballet and jazz as a youngster, and I taught myself to disco dance from a book back in the 70s, when “Saturday Night Fever” was popular.  Maybe the urge was always inside me, dormant for many years, but I’m glad to say it’s thriving now.  All I know is I’m having fun, dancing at last.

Just Like Starting Over…

Well, well, well!  Back to blogging after quite a hiatus.  I had started my old site, The Sapphire Pen, back in 2002… my daughter was 11, and it boggles my mind to think of it now, but she taught me how to build a website.  We were using rocks and sticks and pieces of flint– something like that, and I honestly can’t even remember how we did it.  Thanks to her, that site kept me flying and blogging for several years until something crashed and I could no longer edit pages.  Ah well… I knew I needed a new site anyway, using more modern tools, with a more professional look (I’m still working on that).  Thanks to the help of a wonderful friend who took a class on website creation, I’ve got this site now, coming together.  It’s exciting for me, a step forward and put myself out there as a writer.

It feels a little like getting up on new legs, a bit wobbly, but I’ll get in the swing of things soon.  I want to blog about a bunch of stuff, and maybe a pattern will eventually emerge, but for now I’m thinking or writing about my interests, in the hopes that some of it will interest others out there– like writing, cooking, life transformation, health & fitness, parenting, gardening, and we’ll see what else.

And now to see if I’ve figured out how to put up an entry!

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