I wore the same dress everyday for 3 months and no one noticed, (and how that's related to parenting)
I recently completed the Wool& Hundred Day challenge. You wear a Wool& wool blend dress for 100 days in a row. It’s about sustainability (yes, I appreciate the irony that you have to buy a new dress to complete the challenge about sustainability) and longevity and simplifying. If you do the challenge for 100 days and send in photos, the company gives you a $100 gift certificate.
Because it’s a wool blend, it doesn’t absorb odors and you can wear it multiple times before washing. I was skeptical, but if there are two things I love it’s competitions and free things, so I was willing to try it. No, it wasn’t scratchy like I thought it would be. Yes, I really wore it every day. They recommend you wear it for a full 8 hours every day, but some days I didn't. I washed it about once a week and spot cleaned it as needed. No, it really didn’t smell. I have a sensitive nose, so I was surprised.
Yes, I took pictures most days. Some I’m at home, some I’m at my office, some I’m in the car. Many are at terrible angles with bad lighting. At least one includes me feeding chickens, one in a literal pig sty, and several I’m nearly asleep in bed. Some show my dirty mirror or piles of laundry in the background. I wore it plain. I added jackets. I added shirts. I wore it as a skirt. I wore it as a tank. I wore it under things and on top of things. I wore it with my Dolly Parton tees and my Dolly Parton leggings. I wore it with wedges and sneakers and boots and flats and sandals.
It’s not that no one noticed, but almost no one noticed. Even my husband who sees me get dressed every. single. day. didn’t notice until day 52. Fifty two! And all he said was “you in a black dress mood this week, hon?” This week? More like the past 6 weeks. None of my clients mentioned it. None of my colleagues noticed it. Two of my colleagues who knew I was doing it asked "is this the dress?" even though they'd already seen it day in and day out. My own mother asked when I was going to start the challenge when I'd been wearing it daily for a week already. A client at my office said with embarrassment "Oh, I ran into you last night and today I'm wearing the same thing because I didn't think I'd see anyone who I saw yesterday!" I hadn't noticed, and she of course didn't notice I was in the same thing either. It was a great reminder that people just generally don't notice or care what other people are wearing. Or doing.
The phenomena that causes us to have an exaggerated view of our own significance to the people around us is called The Spotlight Effect. (Interesting fact- early experiments of this concept had college students in the 90s wearing an embarrassing Vanilla Ice t-shirt, and they almost always thought strangers noticed it more than they really did.) Just like my dress experiment, most parents feel as though they are being watched, judged, or critiqued for their parenting skills more than they actually are. In the therapy world we call these cognitive distortions, and this one specifically is an egocentric bias. It means we value our own perspective, and we assume others agree with it. So if we are embarrassed or ashamed about something (a Vanilla Ice t-shirt or reacting in anger to our kid) we assume others will find it embarrassing or shameful as well.
Back to the dress- there were days I was slouchy, there were days I looked nice. There were days I was exhausted and phoning it in, there were days I was pretty close to killing it. By week two I was getting kind of tired of it and had to really be creative to stay interested. I don't get any additional prize if I have one hundred pictures and 97 of them look great. I will submit these photos to wool&, and I will get the gift certificate just for completing the challenge. And the same is true for parenting. There are days we are exhausted, there are days we're doing really well. There are days we feel excited and energized about parenting, and there are days we feel over it. There are some days we are merely surviving. We may feel as though other parents are judging our parenting, but honestly they are too exhausted and worried to even notice what we're doing. And there is no prize for looking really good while doing it. It's nice to be appreciated. Sometimes moms complain that no one notices all the things we do. If that is true, the good news is that no one notices all the things we do poorly either.
If I had been determined for each of these pictures to look good, I never would have completed the challenge. I probably wouldn't have made it past day two. And I fought the urge to make them all look good, even though it was irrelevant. Perfectionism keeps us from enjoying things that are good enough, from celebrating the little wins, from being present.
Our kids would rather we show up for them in our imperfection than not at all. Maybe we have pb&js for dinner three times this week, but we get to snuggle a little longer because there's no clean up. So what that the kids sleep in tomorrow's clothes if it makes mornings easier? Yes, we had more than an ideal amount of screen time, but we also sat together and laughed together and shared the experience. So the next time you are juggling a screaming toddler on the toy aisle at Target or your tween is telling you that you're the worst because "everyone else has a phone", remember this- others aren't noticing what you've got going on as much as you feel like they are, and perfection is the enemy of perfectly adequate. So carry that child out of the store with pride, and tell that kid he's never getting a phone, because you, mama, are a perfectly adequate parent.
I sometimes get questions from parents who are concerned that their elementary school child has a boyfriend or girlfriend. They rightfully don't want their child to grow up too fast or be too focused on romantic relationships while they are young. They may want their child to wait until he or she is older and can better understand the dynamics of these relationships and can enter into healthy relationships. Some parents feel "dating" is not age appropriate for young kids. I understand those concerns. I also know that many, many children whose parents forbid them from having a boyfriend or girlfriend have said to me as their therapist "I have a boyfriend. Don't tell my parents!"
Forbidding dating relationships for young kids doesn't guarantee they won't happen, but it nearly guarantees they won't talk with you about them. This can be a missed opportunity to talk about lots of important relationship dynamics, from consent to kindness to communication. It's sort of like how we help guide our kids when they're first learning to ride a bike. We stay close beside them, giving them pointers and helping them balance before we send them out to navigate on their own. Perhaps the most important benefit; starting these conversations young helps kids feel more confident and prepared for teen relationships, and more comfortable talking with parents about them.
Some questions I ask parents when deciding if they want to forbid dating relationships for their kids:
Some questions parents might want to ask their kids before deciding if they will allow boyfriends or girlfriends:
Of course I am not suggesting that we push our children into romantic relationships if they aren't interested in them. If kids feel pressured by parents to be in a relationship, it can send confusing messages about why we enter into relationships and who can provide consent for them. On the other hand, I'm not suggesting we give up on rules and boundaries and allow kids to do whatever they want. However, if kids are naturally interested in a romantic relationship with a peer, it can be an age-appropriate opportunity to help them practice the relational skills they're developing with your support and supervision.
We've all been there at one time or another- we've raised our voice, we've lost our patience, or we've responded to our kids in a way we wish we hadn't. Some people are regular yellers and for some it only happens occasionally, but none of us are immune to the pressures of parenting. Of course there are no perfect parents, but there's a fine line in pressuring ourselves to be perfect versus working to improve our relationships.
On April 24th I'll formally launch my new e-course Positive Parenting for Behavior Change. To celebrate this launch, I'm doing a free One Week To Less Yelling group that will have FREE resources in it every morning, with a free live Q&A every evening! This will all happen in a facebook group called One Week To Less Yelling With The Inherent Parent. Just join the group and hang tight until April 19-23rd, when we will do the official challenge!
PLUS, I'll be giving away a 60 minute consultation to one lucky group member. Invite a friend to join and you'll both be entered to win!
Sometimes my kids get so hangry that I am desperate for them to eat something. One of my kids is particularly picky, so I try to get some protein in him when I can, not knowing when or what he will eat next since his diet is 75% cheez-its. Here are some things we've found with some sneaky protein. His flavor recommendation is in parenthesis.
LaLa Smoothies, 5g (mango)
Clif Builder's Bars, 20g (mint chocolate chip)
Van's Protein Waffles, 11g and Kodiak Power Waffles, 12g (original)
Clif Kidz Bars, 5g (chocolate chip)
He doesn't like any type of cheese or lunch meat or any foods that touch each other, so we don't do sandwiches or casseroles, but we do try to incorporate
When I do intakes with parents to get more information about how their child is doing, I ask "Are there any signs of depression or anxiety that you're concerned about?" Often parents say "what would that look like in a child?" The answer is that they have the same symptoms as adults, but they may show up differently. Look for:
I recently had a parent share with me that learning sight words was a real struggle at home. I tend to lean more toward the don't-stress-out-about-academics for young kids, but if you want some fun ways to incorporate sight words, I've got some ideas.