nodding & smiling

ceci n'est pas un bébé lala

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Leaving Tweens Home Alone

The Glamourous Life. Kate's mischievous beginnings

The Glamourous Life. Kate’s mischievous beginnings

My younger daughter Katherine is 10 years old. For some kids, that’s old enough to stay home alone. For Katherine, I wasn’t quite sure.

She is after all the same child who convinced a fellow-preschooler to lay down on the couch frame while she put the couch cushion over his face AND SAT ON IT. Who decorated her walls with greasy hand-cream. She’s also the same child who, as a toddler, filled every floor register with clothes, toys, money. The same child who made fist-sized paper mache spitballs and tossed them up onto the bathroom ceiling to harden. Who wrote on every surface of my house. Who stuck gum to the wall. I can go on, and on…

Wanting to allow her some independence as she enters her tween years, when she was 9 years old I sent Katherine on a full-day course put on by The Babysitter’s Course that taught “home alone and first aid” fundamentals. What to do if you’re home alone and get hungry, hurt, if the phone rings, if there’s a knock at the door, etc. After the day-long course, Katherine had earned her certificate.

I began to ask her hypothetical “what-if” questions, to ensure she had understood the risks and knew what to do. I began to let her cook simple things on her own… fried eggs, soup.  I began letting her walk to school, the park, her friend’s house by herself.

I was still nervous, but I knew that with the increase in responsibilities and the faith I was showing in her, Katherine was going to develop self-confidence, which is so important as she heads into the teen years. So I took the leap and let her stay home alone – started out small, just when I would go get the mail or head out to pick her sister up from the arena, and then increased to full shopping trips or lunches out.

The house did not burn down and my child did well. Helicopter Mom did a happy dance!

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Tween Self-Expression

Pin Curls

Pin Curls

For my girls, grade 5 seems to have represented the stage in which they wanted to really self-express through hair and clothing choices.

My younger daughter Katherine came home from her cousin’s house this summer with the ends of her hair dip-dyed bright red (they used Kool-Aid!) and just loved it. Lately, she’s taken to sleeping with her hair braided in order to benefit from the kink that undoing the braids will leave behind when removed in the morning.

This week, we tried pin curls. They turned out so nicely – although Katherine wasn’t bold enough to enjoy the curls full-bounce, I managed a picture of it up in a ponytail.

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Short Shorts

Short shorts circa 1983 (me) & 2014 (my 10yo who thinks these shorts are “way too long”)

A recurring argument in my house revolves around clothing. With two girls who love to express themselves through clothing (and then leave the discarded outfits on the floor for Mama to pick up), it’s a topic that comes up a lot.

My eldest grew up loving the Spice Girls and their crop tops, and there were always stores ready to satisfy that “want”. But this mama said no way. Next came sweats with text on the bum. I put my foot down there, too. “I can’t, with good conscience, send you off to school at 13 years old knowing that men, on their commutes to work, will be reading your bum.”

Fast-forward to 2014. My younger daughter already looks older than she is (10), and she sees her older sister’s and friends’ style and wants to mimic. But they are 18. It’s challenging for me to give a good reason why I don’t want her wearing shorts with a 1.5″ inseam without sounding judgy, and when that’s all that seems to available for teens these days are short shorts. My 10 year-old has long outgrown kids’ sizes. So for now, I say no, and my reason is “because I’m your mom and I said so.” I wonder how long that will satisfy. (Look how short my high-waisted velour babies were in the eighties! Adding insult to injury, my 10yo asked why I was wearing a “diaper”.)

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Beauties on the beach, 2011

Beauties on the beach, 2011

I started puberty early, as did my girls. Mean boys called me “Wonderbra” in grade 5, even though I spent the better part of my time trying to conceal the fact that I was wearing a bra.

When it came time to have the talk with my elder daughter, I thought I handled it pretty well: Years later I learned that I left out a VERY IMPORTANT DETAIL: I never told her that her period would end. That’s right: I didn’t say, “don’t worry – it only lasts 3-5 days”.  The poor kid thought she’d bleed forever from that day on! No wonder she was devastated.


So with my second daughter, I had an opportunity to redeem myself. Had the same talk, presented the same useful books, and was super-clear about the fact that her period would both begin, and end, monthly. She asked questions, wasn’t embarrassed, and has practically worn out the books since then.

The problem?

My younger daughter was SO open and comfortable with the subject that she decided to impart her newly-acquired knowledge to her (very religious) friends.

“Hello [mother of friend 1], this is Natalie, Katherine’s mother? Yes. I’d like to apologize for her impromptu sex-ed tutorial at yesterday’s playdate. I understand that you’re pretty upset…”


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My Tall Girl

My tall girl in nursery school and again in grade 3

My tall girl in nursery school and again in grade 3

My younger daughter likes to try different things, and so she’s enrolled in a number of different camps and activities throughout the summer.

The one I’m most excited for her to do is volleyball. My younger daughter is very tall and is self-conscious about it. Like me at her age, she wishes she were of “average” height. Something she will very likely never be.

23.5″ at birth, she is now 5’2″ in grade 4 and wears ladies’ sizes in both clothes and shoes. She got her height from females on both sides of the family – my sister, cousins and I are all tall (averaging 5’9″) and my husband’s sister is 6′ tall.

I know my lovely girl will continue to tower over her peers, and my only hope for her with respect to it is that she will soon feel proud and confident about her height and its beauty. Crossing my fingers that introducing sports that celebrate height (volleyball, basketball) will help accelerate her journey towards positive body image.