So God Made a Mother Collection ➔

I was driving Ruby, who is 7, to school on her own yesterday and she asked me out of the blue, “Do I look pretty?”

And there it was. That thing that comes up for girls from the time they are toddlers. The thing that, as a mother, I want to oppose from the ground up. “Do I look pretty?”

From the time girls are born and they grow, people remark on their looks. “You are SO CUTE! You are pretty!” They mean it as a kindness, a way of connecting. Boys get that kind of commentary less often once they are out of baby and toddler-land and as they grow, it drops off precipitously. The comments that Noah gets about being cute at age 8 I can count on one hand. He does get “handsome” but what he receives most often is, “Look at you, you are getting so BIG! You are tall! You are a strong guy!”

Very different messages.

When Ruby was 4, she still had a delightful little kid belly that I adored. She had not yet moved into her “girl” look she has now. For me, it represented holding onto a tiny bit of her toddlerhood. One day she asked me, “Am I fat, Momma? My tummy looks fat.” My heart cracked as I told her she was beautiful and would always be beautiful, just as she was. That “fat” was a word we didn’t use because it usually was meant to be mean. That a person’s size was never how we judged them.

She was 4.

SO back to the “pretty” question. I looked at her and said, “Why do you want to be pretty?” and she honestly said, “I don’t know.”

And I said this: “Pretty is not an achievement. Pretty is just a word that people use to describe people they think look nice or someone who looks in a way that is familiar to them. It doesn’t mean anything. It is someone’s opinion of someone else’s outside.”

I continued, “To me, what is important is what is on the INSIDE of us. I think things like this are important: I am kind. I am smart. I am strong.”

And then we just started chanting: “KIND!!! SMART!!! STRONG!!! KIND!!! SMART!!! STRONG!!!! KIND!!! SMART!!! STRONG!!!” as we made our way to school.

It is in these moments I realize that parenting well, doing our best to create a foundation of confidence and love and kindness in our children, is one of the most important types of activism in which we can engage.

It is long view activism. It is planning for a better future by what we create together in this moment, who we allow our children to become.

This piece was originally published at Becoming Undomesticated 

Lea Ann Mallett

Lea Ann Mallett is a wild woman, midlife mama, activist, writer and joy warrior. After sixteen years of life as executive director of two nonprofits, she stepped out of that world to spend more time with her kids and with her writing. She writes about the beauty of family life in the wilds of suburbia in her blog Becoming Undomesticated. She is currently writing a book on the evolution of her activism over her thirty years in the environmental and social justice movements.

As My Children Grow, I Miss It All—Even the Sick Days

In: Kids, Motherhood
Toddler on mom's shoulder

I whisk my daughter through the doors of urgent care and cradle her head as I stand behind three other mamas clinging to their babies. We’re each rocking in different ways but moving nonetheless. The silent, comforting rhythm of motherhood. I see sad, sick eyes from the babies with their heads nestled into the necks of their mama. I’m tired from the sleepless night, and I shift from foot to foot. There is hushing and humming and back-patting. A pacifier drops to the floor. All of a sudden my daughter feels heavy. A vague sinking feeling comes over me, like...

Keep Reading

Life with Autism Is Full of Ticking Time Bombs

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother, father, teen daughter, color photo

Many of us who live with autism are familiar with the comings and goings of the ticking time bomb—one that disappears for periods of time, so much so that we might forget about it. Then, suddenly, this bomb drops at our doorstep in the form of a returning or new obstacle, so intense that it causes us to pause our lives, alter our plans, maybe even change our current paths. For our family, the new challenge has been sudden, piercing, sporadic screams. Not constant, not even often, thankfully, but jolting nonetheless. So here we were, in the midst of our...

Keep Reading

Youth Sports Build Strong Kids

In: Kids
Young girl with gymnastics medal, color photo

My kids are heavily involved in sports. My son plays for an elite basketball team and my daughter competes on an Xcel gymnastics team. It takes up a lot of our time and a lot of our money. Even though prioritizing youth sports seems to be an American norm, we still sometimes receive criticism and judgment as to why we would spend so much of our time and resources on it. (“Don’t you know the chances of your child going pro is less than 1%?”) As I sat at my daughter’s gymnastics meet, listening to the parents cheer so excitedly...

Keep Reading

Don’t Let Anyone Rush You, Mama

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother with two kids at home relaxing

From the moment our children are born, other people make it challenging to stay in the present moment—they start asking questions that look forward instead of at the now we are in. Can you believe how big she’s getting, where did your newborn go? Oh my goodness, he’ll be walking any day now! Are you thinking about preschool? What will you do when they’re both in school? What will you do when your baby goes to college? While these questions may come with good intentions, they’re not helpful at all. We moms need to be allowed to be fully in...

Keep Reading

Dear Child, God Sees All of You—And So Do I

In: Faith, Kids, Motherhood
Mom and young son painting together

Math has always come easily to him. Even from the beginning stages when we counted wooden blocks on the living room floor, the numbers just came to him. “How many blocks are there?” I asked him, pointing to the scattered row of blocks. I expected him to count them. He was only three or four years old. “Six,” he answered promptly. “Yes . . . but how did you know that?” I asked hesitantly. He had not taken the time necessary to have counted them. “Three and three are six,” he replied. And on it went. The math came easily,...

Keep Reading

Kids Crave Your Time, Not Fancy Things

In: Kids, Motherhood
Dad and daughter with basketball smiling

I have four kids, and like most parents, I’m doing my best to give them a happy childhood, but we’re not really an activity family. Don’t get me wrong, we love a good day trip to the local water park or a night out at the movies, but with several different ages and a tight budget, activities or outings are rare for us. Sometimes I end up feeling bad about it, like our kids are missing out, but then I take a deep breath and realize that some of the best moments come from the simplest of things. Lucky for...

Keep Reading

Dear Kindergarten Graduate—Wherever Life Takes You, I’ll Always Be Your Safe Place To Land

In: Kids, Motherhood

I cried on your first day of kindergarten. Did you know that? I held it together through the getting ready and the goodbyes—but once I had waved one last time and was pulling out of the parking lot, the lump in my throat poured out as hot tears down my cheeks.  How could you be starting kindergarten? You, my precious firstborn baby. We had some growing pains as we adjusted to a new routine. The school days were so long. I spent my days missing you and you spent yours missing me. We were apart from each other more than...

Keep Reading

The Secret to Slowing Down Time Is to Notice the Moments You’re Living In

In: Kids, Motherhood

Dear current self, You’ve heard a lot of mothers admonish you to slow down and enjoy every moment with your children. They’ve warned you with phrases like “before you know it,”  “in the blink of an eye,” and other cliché’s that haven’t really hit you, but they will. Soon, they will. I am writing you now because I’ve seen you trying to wrap your mind around the how-to—as if holding time in your hand is a skill anyone has successfully mastered. I’ll save you the suspense. It can’t be done. It is inevitable. Your kids are going to grow up....

Keep Reading

You Don’t Have to Celebrate a Holiday Just Because It’s On the Calendar

In: Kids, Living

I switched on the computer, adjusted my chair, then quickly swiveled back around again toward my husband, “Are you sure? You don’t mind?” “Me?” he made a swift waving motion as if swatting a fly. “Psht. Yeah, I’m fine with it. You?” He lifted his head and locked our eyes a little more securely, “Are you sure?” “Yes,” I said firmly, without hesitation. “OK, good,” my man turned back to his phone, “Love you.” “Good,” I confirmed. A rush of relief swept through me as muscles I didn’t even know were tense suddenly relaxed. A bubbling surge of energy had...

Keep Reading

I’m Raising Wild Boys

In: Kids, Motherhood
Young boy and toddler smiling at each other, color photo

Yesterday my boys (two and eight) were playing outside in our cul-de-sac—running, yelling, tackling each other . . . all the normal stuff. One of the neighbor moms was out as well, looking on as her son joined the fray.  “I need to send him over to your house for a week or two,” she joked, “so he can get more in touch with his boyness.”  “No, you don’t want to do that. My boys are wild things,” I quickly replied. And I wasn’t joking. My sons are rough, tough, primal beings.  Moments before this conversation, my oldest was ramming...

Keep Reading

 5 Secrets to Connect with Your Kids


Proven techniques to build REAL connections