it was an itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny bikini, that she wore for the first time today

Earlier this spring, Gwyneth Paltrow got much flack for posting bikinis for little girls on her you-wish-you-could-be-me website, Goop. While there is a burgeoning online industry dedicated to roundly mocking every single thing Gwyneth Paltrow does- an industry of which I am an avid consumer- I am also basically totally very very close with Gwyneth, as this parking lot encounter from 2008 will attest. (My son Connor stalked Apple with knock-knock jokes. One of my favorite blog posts ever. Go ahead, I’ll wait here.)

But while I enjoy a good Paltrow-da-fé as much as the next gal, I thought this particular criticism- that two-piece bathing suits for little girls represent “a dangerous sexualization of children”– was a little silly. Little girls don’t look sexy in two-piece suits, they look…the opposite of sexy. They look cute. Like little girls. (Unless they’re wearing the padded triangle top Abercrombie & Fitch was peddling to seven-year-olds a few years back, which approximately one hundred percent of those surveyed agreed: totally gross.)

I had never bought my five-year-old daughter a two-piece bathing suit, because her pale Irish skin needs more protection than that. But when she received a few bikinis as hand-me-downs from a very well-dressed friend, I let her wear them, and thought she looked adorable, and that was that.

Until last night, after bathtime, when I laid out what Maggie would wear to camp the next day.  T-shirt, shorts, and a two-piece bathing suit for underneath. Maggie regarded my choice warily.

MAGGIE: Mom. I like two-piece bathing suits? But I don’t like to wear them in, you know. Public places.

ME: What did you say?

MAGGIE: Public places. That’s places that a lot of people go. I’ll wear them, like, at home, but not where anyone can see me.

ME: Why, honey?

Maggie patted her stomach. Her perfect, round, little girl belly.

MAGGIE: Right here.

My daughter doesn’t want people to see her in two-piece bathing suits because she doesn’t like the way her body looks in them. Although her body looks EXACTLY THE WAY IT SHOULD.

I thought it was silly to suggest that bikinis for little girls made them look sexy. Now I understand that it’s a little bit more complicated: bikinis for little girls might suggest to them that they are supposed to look sexy, and do not. Why wait till puberty to start hating your body when you can get started in kindergarten?

I told Maggie her body was perfect the way it was. That someday she would have a stomach that looked like a grownup’s, but that wouldn’t happen for a long time. And that she could wear whatever she wanted.

But I’m left with a small pit in my stomach that won’t go away. My daughter is getting messages about her body image already, and they suck, and they’re wrong, and they will mess with her head from now on.

And she’s beautiful.

And she’s five.



But Mom! I’m…BORED!

stm508952d186f6820121025I flew Jet Blue with the kids this week. My kids are frequent Jet Blue flyers, and usually consider the time spent aboard munching animal crackers and gorging on the Cartoon Network at 30,000 feet at least as exciting as anything we ever do once we actually get where we are going. Sure, there is always that pause in programming when they push back from the gate and tell us how to fasten our seatbelts, but my kids have learned not to panic. Television shall return.

Until this flight. Ten minutes passed, then twenty. By the time the seatbelt sign went off, and the kids had started to ask me when the TVs would come on again approximately four times a minute, I noticed one flight attendant pushing a button on the ceiling, then running to check the TVs in the first row, then throwing up his hands, then doing it again. And again.

“We have attempted a manual restart of our DirectTV,” he finally announced over the loudspeaker. “And… we will attempt it again.”

The kids all looked at me, stricken.

“Did that man say no TV?” Maggie hissed.

“He said maybe no TV,” I admitted, stomach in shoes.

“But…” Maggie struggled with her words. “But Mom! I’m… BORED!”

My kids don’t know how to be bored. I don’t think any of our kids do. When there’s DVDs at the dentist, and in the back seat of the minivan, and a 3DS or seven at every sleepover, how are they supposed to know? My daughter gets a healthy dose of nothing-to-do every weekend at her brothers’ two 2-hour-plus Little League games (especially since she does not yet understand baseball). But after twenty minutes, tops, she weasels my smartphone out of my purse and sits on a park bench playing Toca Tailor. (Great app, by the way.)

There’s no moment that can’t be filled by a screen, and I’m no better at resisting its call. When I was at Maggie’s two-hour-plus tap recital two weeks ago- in which she appeared for all of ninety seconds with another girl standing directly in front of her-  I was just SO BORED sitting there that I became physically uncomfortable. When the Lollipop Guild launched into their third reprise, I sneaked out to “use the restroom,” which really meant checking Facebook in the lobby. With about twenty-five other parents doing the same thing.

But on Jet Blue this week, it was my kids’ unfamiliarity with boredom that struck me. It was less that they were scared of it- more like they had never had this strange sensation before and were not sure what would happen next. What did happen? Some Hangman, some coloring with Mom, some reading of actual paper books. My two boys played “Pokemon Uno,” and when I said, “I didn’t know that was a thing,” Connor said, “It wasn’t. Until just now.”

No one was more annoyed than I that Jet Blue jammed us with the broken TVs. But it was a reminder that boredom-coping is a skill, and if our modern age does not often ask it of our children, my own skills have become a little rusty as well.

Do you ever worry that your kids don’t know how to be bored?

can the end-of-year just end already?

This morning, my friend’s 8-year-old daughter told him that “I wish school would hurry up and end so I can move on with my life.”

Preach it, sister.

A fair part of me is dreading school’s end next Tuesday. (Really next Monday, since Tuesday’s “closing ceremonies” involve wrestling everyone into their Sunday best only to have them all home again by 10:30 a.m.) But the crush of year-end activities requiring our attendance is so great that at this point I am yearning for next week, with its three hot and bored children. It’s kind of like the 39th week of pregnancy: uncomfortable enough that you can’t wait to go into labor, because at least then you’ll be done.

Here are just a few of my children’s events I have attended in the last two weeks:

  • brass band concert
  • science fair
  • Little League game (4th grader)
  • Little League game (2nd grader)
  • first communion
  • tap recital
  • fleadh (Irish step dancing)
  • chorus concert
  • chorus concert awards ceremony, which was an another hour-long event separate from the concert itself. 60 minutes to hand out paper certificates to about forty children, which is impressive.  I wouldn’t have thought it was possible to make saying a kid’s name and handing her a piece of paper take more than a minute per child, but they did it.

I had new respect for my own mother after sitting through Maggie’s tap recital. Maggie was a monkey. Her class was eleventh.

Eleventh out of thirty-eight.

I never realized how mind-numbing a three-hour dance recital in which your daughter only appeared for ninety seconds (with someone standing directly in front of her) could be. Lucky me, now I know.

Today I face my personal Sophie’s choice: Maggie’s gymnastics “parents visiting day” and Seamus’ first piano recital, occurring at the same time this afternoon- one on 12th Avenue, one on 5th. During New York City rush hour. Three miles and infinity minutes apart. It is not possible for me to attend both of these events unless I can get Molly Weasley to lend me some of her floo powder. But the tears of both my children this morning mean that I shall, nay must, attempt it.

Is it summer yet?

How’s your year-end going?