Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Girl Power: Because Music Helps

My daughter and I have spent a lot of one-on-one time together the last few weeks. Outside events and physical ailments and injuries prevented her from skiing on the weekends with her dad and brother and caused her to miss a couple days of school.

Unfortunately, we didn't create many good memories during this time. Her series of mysterious physical ailments and a badly sprained ankle meant that we spent much of that time together at doctors' offices or up late at night. We were overtired. She was sick, and I was worried.

Despite significant probing--both overt and subtle--by the doctor and me, she insisted that nothing was upsetting her. That meant that all the physical symptoms pointed to an unidentified physical cause. Everything my brain settled upon in the middle of the night was horrible.

Then she faked being sick. Really obviously faked it. And said, "So I can't go to school tomorrow, right?"

From the child who loves school so much that she dislikes school holidays, this was shocking.

Hours of late night talking later, we finally got to the bottom of things. I never thought I could be relieved that my child was "only" being hurt on the playground, but that's the nutshell. I suspect that most of her physical ailments were caused by being upset and anxious. Since she told me, she hasn't had a single symptom. Knowing that the adults at home and school are taking care of her seems to have alleviated her stress, and we are now on two weeks of spring break.

Things are slowly getting back to normal, but she and I are home alone together again while our boys are skiing out of town. Sensing we needed a project that would interest both of us, I suggested we download some songs to a make a new playlist. My daughter plays my husband's old iPod through a portable speaker and spends a lot of her time listening to and making up gymnastics routines to her music.

Given the recent events, I decided it was time for a Girl Power playlist.

I had a few ideas, but I asked for your suggestions on the Flotsam of the Mind Facebook page and searched the Internet for inspiration. Our requirements were as follows:  Songs should (i) have a positive message for women, (ii) make you want to sing along, and (iii) remain PG.

My daughter and I spent much of yesterday afternoon searching for titles and sampling them on iTunes. After the above criteria, the only requirement was that we both liked a song. We omitted a couple songs with good messages because they didn't seem to fit the pace of the rest. We also left off a couple catchy songs that were about surviving a break-up because, well, my daughter is eight.

Our final playlist (still open to suggestions) is:

1. Roar - Katy Perry
2. Brave - Sara Bareilles
3. Beautiful - Christina Aguilera
4. Firework - Katy Perry
5. Respect - Aretha Franklin
6. Girl on Fire - Alicia Keys
7. Proud - Heather Small
8. Perfect (clean version) - P!nk
9. Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield
10. Try - Colbie Caillat
11. Who I Am - Jessica Andrews
12. Mean - Taylor Swift
13. I Am Woman - Helen Reddy (the original girl power song!)
14. I Will Survive - Gloria Gaynor (breaking the break-up rule, because we love it)

We had a great time putting this together, and my daughter has been playing it constantly since we completed it. I'm certain I will grow tired of each of these songs in very short order, but it was a worthy project.

A few songs won't change the way she feels about things on the playground, but messages about being strong, loving yourself, and feeling proud are the kind I want my child to hear. I know that, a few years down the road, she'll no longer roll her eyes at the idea of making herself pretty to appeal to someone else. That's normal. I hope that what she learns at home--with a little help from some female singers--helps her keep perspective when hormones and complicated social dynamics kick into high gear.

Until then, at least you can dance to it.

If you're looking for similar music, A Mighty Girl has an entire section of suggested songs. 

Have a suggestion for a great song we missed? Please leave it in the comments here or on Facebook. Thank you to all of you who made suggestions yesterday!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Finding the Good in the Bad

I date myself with this reference, but I've had The Facts of Life theme song stuck in my head the last couple days.

"You take the good,
You take the bad,
You take them both and there you have
the facts of life."

(apologies for the ear worm)

It's been that sort of week around here. In the last few days, my kids have experienced some of their highest highs and some of their lowest lows. I've felt pride and exhilaration, but I've also experienced fear and anxiety.

Sunday night was one of the bad ones. After a very late and stressful Saturday night, the kids and I both needed sleep. Three hours after the first bedtime, all three of us were still awake at 10:30 p.m. dealing with some pretty upsetting stuff.

My son found me standing in the kitchen eating toast, because I'd forgotten to eat dinner. My daughter had requested crackers. So my son grabbed a Luna bar, and we all had a snack during what felt like the middle of the night. No amount of talking or being awake was going to solve our problems; what we needed more than anything was sleep.

After our snack, I pulled a desperate move. I suggested that all three of us climb into my king-size bed and try to fall asleep (my husband was out of town).

Co-sleeping may not sound like a desperate move to you, but we have never let the kids sleep in our bed. Sleep is too precious a commodity to disturb with tiny elbows in your nose. Exhausted and out of better ideas, I thought the novelty and togetherness of sharing a bed might do the trick.

Each kid came to my room armed with blankets and stuffed animals. Knowing there was no way I'd be able to sleep in a crowded bed, but hopeful that the kids would, I took the middle to separate them. Flanked by both kids, I lay flat on my back with one kid's backside against my back and the other's legs kicking mine.

Over the next several minutes, the most magical thing happened. I felt them each gradually relax and fall into sleep. The very proximity that made the arrangement uncomfortable also afforded me this rare glimpse of the past. I had forgotten what it felt like to experience my child's falling asleep.

When they were babies, I held them in my arms, looking downward at the angle of their eyelashes to see if their eyes were closed. When they were stubborn toddlers who didn't want to nap, I could watch exhaustion overcome their will in the backseat of the moving car. But they are big kids now, and I send them back to their rooms to fall asleep on their own.

At at moment when I felt most vulnerable, feeling their not-so-tiny bodies slow down, relax, and gradually fall into sleep was one of the nicest gifts I could have been given. As they relaxed, I did too. We all fell asleep together in one uncomfortable but very comforting jumble.