parenting olympians

My girls rocking their 2012 London Games onesies nearly two years ago.
My girls rocking their 2012 London Games onesies nearly two years ago.

I am unabashedly obsessed with the Olympics. Winter or Summer, it doesn’t matter. I love watching people achieve their dreams, compete for their countries, and doing their parents, always featured in NBC’s heart-wrenching human interest stories, proud. The summer after the girls were born, pinned to a couch under sleeping or eating babies, I watched a lot of the London Summer Games. This year, my only couch time is after those babies are in bed, but I’ve been watching quite a bit of the evening coverage as well. (If you’re also into watching the Olympics, follow me on twitter and join in on the live tweet action after 7 pm– just make sure to use a hashtag so your friends who are less obsessed can filter your Olympic tweets from their streams.)

One thing that stands out about the Olympics are the ads. Pretty much every spot you see that isn’t for a car or truck features an Olympian of some kind. Proctor and Gamble have been running a series of ads called “Because of Mom” in which athletes thank their mothers for helping them achieve their Olympic dreams. I have no real beef with people celebrating their mothers or motherhood. Motherhood is great! It’s just that…you bet your sweet bippy that if my girls ever make it to the Olympics (I’m thinking 2 man bobsled, maybe?), they’ll have their dad to thank as much as their mom. Because they are blessed to have an amazing dad, and I am blessed to have an amazing coparent. My husband and I are both blessed with amazing and involved dads, too.

I mean, it’s really no wonder I grew up to marry a man who turns out to be an amazing dad, because involved parenting is just what I expected based on what I grew up with. My dad, a doctor, but also a scientist, came into my science classes with a little red wagon full of props and gave talks worthy of Bill Nye. He worked odd shifts, so he drove a lot of carpools. He created elaborate treasure hunts for us with riddle clues. He got me into nerdy stuff like Star Trek and the Civilization computer games. He got me through high school math and science, both of which were hard for me, with intense, one-on-one homework help, complete with antics like “the ribosome dance,” which I will never forget, ever.

I’m willing to bet at least a few Olympians had dads like my dad and my husband. Unfortunately, P&G isn’t talking about them. I say unfortunately, because just as I mentioned in my “inspiration” post, kids need to see normal, everyday people as role models– how can people who may not have amazing dads in their life grow up to be or expect to co-parent with amazing dads if we don’t see dads being normal and amazing in our lives?

I do want to shout out a company getting it right. I loved this Frosted Flakes ad featuring one of our women ski jumpers (first year in the Olympics for their sport after decades of fighting for equality!), Sarah Hendrickson and her dad:  Sarah clearly has a dad like mine. They even have the same taste in names for their daughters!

Meanwhile, if you go looking for a P&G ad featuring a dad, you’ll find this, from Tide: 

DADMOM? REALLY? A dad who stays home with the kids and takes care of the house isn’t Mr. Mom. He’s not a dadmom. He’s just a dad. He’s parenting. He’s caretaking. He’s not stepping outside his gender or being anything less than a man– a man who has and cares for a family. It’s like when I hear people say a dad is babysitting his own children. Nope. That’s parenting, folks. People of all gender identities and expressions can do it.

P&G claims to be a “proud sponsor of moms.” Well, sponsors usually pay people, rather than expecting to be paid, P&G. And I’m not buying the gendered view of parenthood that you’re selling.

I also have similar issues with their vision of disability: 

While on the one hand, I love that they’re running ads featuring athletes with disabilities that showcase them as athletes, using the same visual style and soundtrack as the able-bodied athletes, they lost me at the final tagline. I’m not one of the world’s toughest moms just because my daughter has a disability. As I said on twitter when I first saw the ad, I think most people are as tough as their circumstances require them to be. We all rise to the occasion. If you “don’t know how I do it,” it’s just because it hasn’t been required of you (yet). Just as it doesn’t take a special person to love someone with special needs (because they are no more inherently easy or difficult to love than any other person), it doesn’t take a tough parent to parent a child with a disability. Because you just parent them, because they’re your child.

If someday Claire is a Paralympian, she’ll be thanking both of her parents. And she certainly won’t be calling us any tougher than anyone else.

real beauty is a revolution, not an ad, man

Last night I posted this to Facebook:

Screen shot 2013-04-19 at 7.26.47 AMIt was in response to the latest Dove video, which you can see here:

And look, here I am writing about it anyway! (Just as I have before about earlier Dove ads.)

As far as the video goes, I absolutely agree with the seeming diagnosis that many women have a kind of body dysmorphia. They focus on the qualities they hate rather than the qualities they like, and this causes them to perceive themselves as vastly less attractive than they are perceived by others. However, I think this video suggests the wrong treatment for their diagnosis. They suggest that beauty, physical beauty, “couldn’t be more critical to happiness.” And they suggest focusing on the things you do like about yourself, and, presumably, buying Dove products to help you mitigate and feel better about the stuff you don’t like, like your armpits, for example.

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I literally can’t get my mind around “beautiful underarms” as a concept. Underarms are just underarms. If someone is scrutinizing yours, the problem is THEM.

Like I said, I absolutely agree that there is an epidemic of low self esteem in our culture. I would say, however, that the underlying cause is not that we don’t value our physical beauty enough, but that we put too much stock in it altogether– that we make it “absolutely critical” to our happiness.

If the strangers in that video thought the women they met were more beautiful than the women saw themselves, how much more beautiful are those women to the people who know and love them? Think about the people whom you love most in the world. They’re gorgeous to you, right? There are moments with them that simply take your breath away. And it’s because the truest beauty we see and love in others, the kind we need to see in ourselves, comes from love. When you look at people through the eyes of love, they become beautiful to you, a beauty that is pervasive and total and has nothing to do with the shape of their jaw and everything to do with the shape of their heart.

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I just loved this vow from mooshinindy, seen on Instagram. It’s part of what kicked off my thinking about seeing my babies and myself through the eyes of love.

One of the most mind-exploding aspects of becoming a mother has been the way it has utterly changed how I feel about beauty. Into my life have come these two absolutely gorgeous, utterly and totally beloved little creatures. They take my breath away. Daily, their beauty brings tears to my eyes and a pang to my chest. There is not a bit of them, not even their underarms, that needs to be made more beautiful.

And here’s the truly mind-bending part: I came into this world the same way. I took my parents’ breath away. To them, I am heart-stoppingly beautiful. And I am that way to others who love me as well. And even crazier, bigger, more mind bending? I am beginning to see that I am that beautiful to the One who created me as well. And if that isn’t enough to revolutionize our thinking, what is?

The Beatles say, “You’re talkin bout a revolution, well, you know, you oughta free your mind instead.” The Bible says, “Do not be conformed to the ways of this world, but be transformed, by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Freeing and renewing our minds can’t be done when we accept consumerist culture’s premise that beauty is external. It can’t be accomplished by cheerleading brands for ever-so-slightly widening the cultural beauty standard. It can only be done by trying to get our heads around just how deeply we are loved, and seeing ourselves and others through the eyes of Love.

Now, I know this is a much more difficult premise than simply obsessing over parts of ourselves that we like, or buying a cream. Learning to love yourself is tough stuff. But it doesn’t happen if we’re simply focusing on another aspect of our physical appearance. It can only come from the amazing, crazy, transformative power of an encounter with Love. For me, that’s the Love of God. For you, it may be simply meditating on the way you deeply love someone in your life, and trying to see yourself through those same eyes. But this is the revolution folks. You gotta free your mind.

halftime show isn’t the only thing stuck in the past

Watching last night’s Super Bowl, with the exception of the actual football being played, was like getting a blast from the past.  And I’m not just talking about the geezers who played at halftime, though seriously, seeing Pete Townshend’s midriff multiple times was at least as traumatic as Janet Jackson’s nip slip ever was.  I’m also talking about the fairly disturbing ad content. Continue reading “halftime show isn’t the only thing stuck in the past”

ta tas, boobies, WHAT?

I'm fine with saving the ta-tas, if possible, but I'd rather focus on saving the women attached to them.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s just around the corner.  Which means pink be-ribboned items are popping up everywhere and everyone is looking for donations for their Relay for Life teams.  I don’t have anything against that.  But last night, walking through the academic building where I have class, I saw all sorts of flyers stuck on every classroom door imploring me to SAVE THE BOOBIES!  This immediately struck me the wrong way.  “Save the boobies?  I thought we were trying to save women’s lives.” I said to a classmate as we both noticed the signs. “Ugh, have you seen the save the ta-tas bumper stickers?” she asked, “Usually they’re on cars driven by women!”

Whatever happened to, y’know, saving WOMEN?  Sometimes, in the great big battle against the evil that is cancer, breasts are a casualty, but WOMEN can be saved.  And aren’t they more important than the sum of two of their body parts?

I got home and ranted about this weird ad campaign to my husband, and later hopped online to find out that the ever-awesome Kate Harding had just written about the exact same thing on Jezebel.  She put it quite clearly and succinctly:

Dead human beings of the female persuasion = meh. Lost tits = crisis!

I have watched family members and friends suffer the ravages of breast cancer. And as they braved chemo and radiation and surgery, I can tell ya, they weren’t just fighting for their boobs, they were fighting for their LIVES. Sometimes, mastectomies took their breasts, but they kept on fighting. And when we try to get others to join the fight against breast cancer, we shouldn’t trivialize their struggles and pain and losses by making it all about boobies. Breasts are nice and all, but WOMEN are the ones we’re fighting to save.

what if “what women want” isn’t what we want?

Much has been said about a recent study (.pdf) that shows that womens’ happiness is actually trending downward,

I think Mrs. Marge Sutton, Ideal Housewife, makes a great illustration for this post.  Via the Google LIFE archive.
I think Mrs. Marge Sutton, Ideal Housewife, makes a great illustration for this post. Via the Google LIFE archive.

rather than upward as time, and presumably society, progresses.  To conservatives, it’s proof that feminism and liberation are contrary to nature and naturally lead to unhappiness.  To progressives, it’s proof that feminism hasn’t gone far enough.  To environmentalists, it’s proof that consumerism just makes us less happy.

I’ve been wondering about a different angle.  I’ve mentioned that we recently got rid of cable, and are now relying on the internet and Netflix (both DVDs via mail and streaming via our Xbox 360) for our televised entertainment.  And while I’m not generally one to blame problems on the ominous “The Media,” I “can’t help but wonder” (to pull a Carrie Bradshaw) if maybe it isn’t all our media connectedness that is making us unhappy.  Continue reading “what if “what women want” isn’t what we want?”