Category Archives: Raising Girls

Lipsticks, High Kicks, Not Hicks– The Positive Influence of the Kilgore Rangerettes

                                    
                            (photo of “The K Girl” on the side of the Rangerette Gym, taken by me)

Anyone who’s read this blog since the beginning knows that me, a Midwestern transplant, and Texas “cowboy culture” don’t get along very well.  I cringe at the fascination with bull roping, tobacco spitting and Toby Keith music, and to me, nothing symbolizes it better than the cowboy hat.  Those hats might as well have the words REDNECK and HICK painted right on the brim.  So you can imagine what I thought when I first saw the 70-plus members of the Kilgore College Rangerettes marching toward me one year at the Cotton Bowl parade, each in a white, wide-brimmed western hat.  But I’ve decided there’s a very big difference in meaning between a cowboy hat and a cowgirl hat.  Especially when they’re worn by a drill team.

 

On Wednesday, I and a handful of other moms accompanied Allison’s high school drill team on a 2 ½-hour bus ride to The Birthplace of Drill– Kilgore College in the tiny town of Kilgore, Texas.  It’s the home of the Rangerettes, America’s first and most famous drill team.  For those not familiar with them, they dress western-style in red, white and blue, including white boots and the afore-mentioned white hat, and are known for their jump splits and so-high-they-can-kiss-their-knees kicks.  They’ve been in the Macy’s parades, on TV, at the White House, on magazine covers, etc., etc. since the 40’s (they’re currently celebrating their 70th anniversary) and countless high school drill teams, especially in Texas, copy their style.  We were there to tour the Rangerette Museum, the Rangerette Gym, the Rangerette Residence Hall, and watch their annual show, called Revels.  For many of our girls, it was the first time they’d been in a college dorm, let alone on a college campus, and they were very excited. “Ooooh!” they gushed as they walked through the pretty and comfortable dorm (who thought those two words could ever be associated with such a structure…)  “Look at their cool patio! They have their own BBQ grill!”  Calm down, I thought.  It’s just a two-year college, in a po-dunk town. And cutthroat competitive.  An elderly man in the gift shop told me many of these girls hire personal trainers and nutritionists, just so they can make the team.  That didn’t surprise me.  Even though I was once on a drill team in 9th grade, it was nothing as “big” as what I’ve seen at high schools down here, and I’ve always been a bit skeptical, especially of anyone who pursues it past high school.  When Allison’s drill team director, a former Rangerette captain, got all choked up and teary-eyed at the new parent meeting a couple months ago when talking about what drill team has meant to her life, I thought, “Is she serious?”

 

But after viewing the museum movie, looking at the exhibits, watching the show, reading the program, and spending time on the bus, I have newfound respect for drill teams and the people that work with them.  Because in addition to providing teenage girls with a great workout and dance skills that can last a lifetime, sometimes translating into careers like teacher, coach, dance studio owner, and even Broadway dancer, the teams that mimic the Rangerettes’ style (like my daughter’s) also often mimic their code of respect and discipline. How cool was it to hear our busload of teenage girls say not just “yes” whenever they answered their director, but “Yes, Ma’aam!” Among other similarities, our girls have to keep their grades up in order to perform at games and shows, and they’re required to be on time for all events (they earn demerits if they’re even a minute late) so they’re encouraged to be 10-15 minutes early everywhere they go.

 

I doubt I’ll ever hear Allison say “Yes, Ma’aam!” to me, but if being on a drill team makes her a more respectful, more punctual person, I, too, will get teary-eyed someday when talking about it. Already I’ve seen the upcoming spring show motivate her to bring up her grades.  Makes me want to kick up my heels…

um, on second thought, maybe I better not do that, but I promise I won’t make fun of those cowgirl hats ever again.

 

When Mom Dresses Like A Teen

I once bought jeans a few years ago from Limited, Too– for myself! No, I’m not a size zero.  Just a busy mom who never has time to shop for herself, yet gets dragged to the mall on numerous occasions by her oldest daughter so that she can shop. So there I was one day, bored, waiting while my then pre-teen daughter was trying on clothes (and I kept waiting….. and waiting…..) and sick of listening to the pounding pop beats played nonstop in that store, and I started thinking “outside the box”.  Hmmm, I wonder if I might find some jeans on the clearance rack in a size 16 plus-plus or 18 that would fit me? (Ahem– keep in mind these are GIRLS sizes) And sure enough, I found some.  I took a few pairs into the dressing room next to my daughter’s. 

“MOM?” she called out in a shocked voice.  Not sure how she knew it was me, other than maybe she recognized my heavy breathing, as I was attempting to try everything on as fast as I could so no one would notice…  Much to her chagrin, she found nothing that fit, and I did– a pair of bell-bottomed jeans embellished on the top 1/4 of one leg with charms and painted-on chains.  They were really cute, and ever since I purchased them I’ve received numerous compliments, mostly from adults. 
I made sure to wear them with an “adult” looking sweater and jewelry, however, because I hate it when adults look like they’re trying hard to look younger. I remember I once did a double-take while watching a mom coming out of a movie theatre with her kids–it was hard to figure out who were the kids and who was the adult– she was wearing tight, skinny jeans, flipping her bleach-blonde pony tail and smacking her gum with the rest of them. Sick and weird, I thought.  But then again, in the area of fashion, what choices do moms have, especially moms in their 30’s and 40’s? I’m petite, so most of what’s offered up to me in department stores looks like something my 85-year-old mother would wear.  The other choices look like, well, close to something my now-teenaged daughter would wear.  So that’s what I buy. And now that she’s grown into a beautiful girl with fantastic fashion sense (who has quit shopping at Limited Too), I find myself asking her for advice. We sometimes even…gulp… share jewelry and shoes, or should I say, we “borrow” eachother’s jewelry and shoes when the other’s not looking…



So I have recently come to wonder, have I become one of those moms who looks like she’s trying hard to look younger? I really don’t want to.  I’m proud of my age and the fact that I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, not the 90’s. I’m proud that I have some gray hairs, laugh lines, spider veins, breasts that nursed two children and a scar on my belly from a C-section. Yet I also don’t want to buy clip-on earrings and double-knit pantsuits in colors like aqua and salmon.

What’s a middle-aged mom to do? Hmmm…maybe check out magazines to see what celebrities who are close to my age are wearing… Let’s see, there’s Valerie Bertinelli (just saw that Jenny Craig bikini layout, so no, that won’t be me); Ellen DeGeneres (I don’t like pants that much); Demi Moore (didn’t she marry a teenager?) and Marie Osmond (a little bit too many layers).  Maybe I ought to get a subscription to MORE magazine for fashion advice– but is that even being published anymore?

In the meantime, my younger daughter has discovered fashion, so after a brief hiatus, I found myself back in Limited Too again a couple weeks ago.  Only now it’s changed its name to Justice. (Yeah, that’s what I want after shopping there…only kidding!)  Same colors, same music, same too-cute stuff.  This time, I found myself in a similar situation.  Bored while she was trying on clothes and realizing I wasn’t going to get to do any of my shopping, I found something in the store that was on my list– sunglasses.  And sunglasses on sale, no less. And with UV 400 protection! I found a cute pair that I liked and that fit, and realized I wasn’t going to find a deal that good even at Target, so I bought them.

Only I have to be careful when I wear them when my teenager’s around, because she is totally, completely, bent-out-of-shape embarrassed with having a mom who wears black sunglasses with Cheetah print on the sides. ###


(updated and adapted from a post I once wrote for the Blogher network)

Lend Me Your (Double-Pierced?) Ear

With parenting, the wrestling never stops.  Wrestling with what to allow and when.  When your children are younger, you ponder and discuss with other moms such gut-wrenching questions like, “Is it time for potty training?” and “At what age should they be allowed to go to a slumber party?” Last week, I got to wrestle with the questions, “Should I let my 14-year-old get her upper ear lobe pierced?” and “Should I let my 10-year-old read Twilight?” 

They were begging me.  I said yes to both, after much thought and investigation.  For the ear question, I said yes thinking it would probably happen sometime in the future, when she’d saved enough money and gotten up the courage (this is a kid who greatly hates getting shots, by the way), so I figured by the time it could happen, she’d lose interest. But, never underestimate a strong-willed child.  Lucky for her, she found an old bank under the mess of STUFF she calls her room and had enough money to get it done. And fear went out the window in favor of fashion. So not only was she ready, she wanted to go get it done NOW.  “And you have to be there,” she told me, “because it requires parental consent.”  Not being one to drop everything and change plans at the whims of a teenager, I used one of my favorite phrases of all time,  “Go ask your father.” I figured that tactic would buy at least a couple weeks.  But, never underestimate a “fun” Dad (I forgot he once pierced his own ear in the punk 80’s, with ice and a needle…) He not only took her, he drove several miles back home from the mall to get a copy of her birth certificate and drive back (he says they required it to prove he was her Dad, not a boyfriend– HAH! HAH!)  So now she has a tiny new hole on the top edge of her left ear (which she says I need to refer to as “cartilege”–but that sounds too much like being at a meat counter, or in an operating room, for me…).

We are the only parents in her circle of friends who are currently allowing it.  I honestly don’t see what the big deal is– it’s one ear, one tiny hole, and all she wants to put into it is a tiny faux diamond. Not a hoop.  Not a claw.  Not a skull and crossbones with the words “Anarchy Rules”, for goodness sakes.  And, she paid for it.  But you’d think I let her pierce her belly button or tongue (both, by the way, which I would not allow).  It’s like when I let her dye her hair.  We’re not talking pink here. It was a just a darker shade of her already natural red. And it turned out beautifully. (And again– she paid for it with her own money!) But jaws dropped and phone lines heated up…

I just think parents need to pick their battles carefully, and these were two battles that didn’t need to be fought. Do parents think if you give an inch it will open the floodgates to tattoos, mohawks, sex, drinking and drugs? I think it’s quite the opposite.  I will never forget someone I knew who was forbidden to watch the insipid TV show “Love,  American Style” while growing up in the 70’s and restricted in many other ways.  She ended up pregnant before her senior year in high school, almost losing her life in childbirth.  And remember all those wild PK’s (preacher’s kids)?!  Parents need to look around and realize that the kids who are restricted the most usually rebel and try to express themselves in ways their parents would have never imagined possible.  In ways the kids themselves sometimes don’t even like– they’re just doing it as a reaction to their parents. (Or, they keep it all inside and eventually turn out psycho.) Giving teens some freedom is honoring their brains, their individuality, their decision-making. The unspoken message is, “I trust you enough to do so and so,” or “I know you’re smart enough to handle this,” or “Your fashion sense is different than mine but that’s okay” rather than “You’re stupid, untrustworthy, and don’t have a clue what to do so I’m going to control everything.”  What a gift to give your child!  Soon, my daughter will be driving a car, and In four short years will be graduating and leaving home (hopefully!), out of my sight far more than she’s ever been before.  The “ties” need to be given more and more slack each year until then, the freedoms need to be granted whenever safely and sanely possible, so that she’ll be ready, self-confident, capable.  Sure, the “what ifs” can be painful and worrisome with each new freedom granted, but I think it’s a necessary side effect of that kind of true love– non-possessive.  Was it hard to let a 13-year-old fly off to Costa Rica with her church youth group last summer to do volunteer work? Absolutely. But at the same time, I knew that the odds were in her favor to come back in one piece, a better person for having taken the trip. I was right.

At the same time, I’m not a nonstop Yes-Mom.  Remember, I’m uncool.  If a privilege is granted and then misused, there are consequences, and the privilege might not get granted again.  And if you read this blog, you’ll see plenty of things to which I say no.  But teens actually want that, as well.  The Dallas Morning News sometimes convenes a group of teens from across the North Texas area to talk about what’s on their minds and then a story is printed about what when on– every time, a lot of the teens speak about (no joke) wishing their parents would set limits for them, follow through with consequences when they do set limits, and give them jobs to do around the house (c’mon over to my house, kids!! )

So I think good parenting is a balance between giving freedoms and setting limits. Wonder what will try to tip the scales next week…

Little Miss Sunshine is Alive and Well

Just got back from spending almost my entire weekend at a dance convention in a nearby suburban hotel. My older daughter has been taking dance lessons since she was three, and attending dance conventions with her dance studio has been an annual ritual for awhile. For the uninitiated, here’s what a dance convention is in a nutshell: Hip faculty featuring top dancers from across the country travel to dance conventions each weekend, teaching classes to both dance students and teachers for two days, with one or two evenings devoted to competitions, where afore-mentioned hip faculty are the judges.  Trophies are given out, and scholarships to future dance conventions and Hollywood classes are awarded on the last day. Usually the faculty performs in a grand finale on the last day as well as the competition dances deemed “Judges Choice”.  Even a ragtag bunch of parents performs at the finale, thanks to groovy hip-hop moves they learn in a “parents class” earlier in the day (I’ve done that before– what a hoot!).  Dancewear and professional photos snapped just about every minute of the convention are on sale in the hallways.  It’s pretty much the same drill at every convention, dubbed LA Dance Force, Company Dance, and Dance Olympus, to name a few.  In the Dallas area alone, there are hotel conventions and other dance competitions (at high school gyms, civic auditoriums) going on all over the city each weekend, sometimes two in one weekend (and some dance studios try to take their students to as many as they can!). The hotel ones are a lot of fun, albeit expensive, and the faculty is always top-notch and friendly.  It’s good mother-daughter time for Allison and me.  We both love dance, and we get to see some outstanding, creative dances. 

What I dread at these things is what I call the “hootchie mama” contingency.

This past weekend, I saw more pelvic thrusts than at a Tom Jones concert, and enough fast butt shaking going on that I was thinking, “You could strap on a Martini mixer to each of their behinds and serve drinks to the whole crowd.”  Seriously.  In a number called “Shake Your Shimmy”, one group of over-rouged girls danced just like the women in the old 2 Live Crew music videos (didn’t that group get arrested back in the day for lewd behavior??)  And these dancers weren’t women– they were nine years old.  In fact, after the convention was over, I realized that the most overtly sexual moves in the whole competition came from the Petite and Junior divisions, not from the Teens and Seniors. 

What’s wrong with this picture? Am I too much of a prude? As the little hootchie mamas kept winning top award after top award, I seriously began to wonder– then I heard a total stranger next to me say, in disgust, “That was that hootchie studio.”  Ahhh- a kindred spirit! Upon striking up a conversation with her, I learned that even more of her thoughts echoed mine exactly.  “They might as well just put a pole up there and let them have at it,” she added.  I suddenly flashed back to a past convention where I watched girls, who couldn’t even fill out a training bra, dance to “Lady Marmalade” dressed like hookers. (Remember– that song means “Will you F—- Me” in French.)

In this already sex-saturated culture, where girls use drugs and die of eating disorders because they feel they can’t live up to the stereotypes and pressures put on them– why do some dance teachers, most of them women themselves, feed the fire by putting very young girls in this position?  And, the girls are not only being given the message that sex sells, but also that it’s okay, when you’re age 6 or 7 or 8 or 9, to act sexy in front of men.  The audience at competitions and recitals is not made up of just moms.  It’s also Dads, grandfathers, little brothers, big brothers, uncles, and that teenage boy I saw this weekend with a T-shirt emblazoned on the front with the words “Amateur Porn Star”. All these dudes are getting a big dose of come-ons by lipsticked pre-pubescents.   (I half expected Chris Hanson from MSNBC’s “To Catch a Predator” to come strolling in with his camera crew.)  Again, there is something wrong with this picture…

Our studio owner, who abhors sleazy dancing and costumes, told me she thinks the tendency to teach and perform in that way is a  “small town thing”– if that’s the case, I couldn’t help but think that most of the small-town hootchie dancers probably come from very conservative religious backgrounds….  so it’s okay to grab your crotch in a performance on Saturday night in the dance show, as long as you’re grabbin’ your Bible come Sunday morning. 

I’m proud our tiny, traditional dance studio won some nice awards without wearing sequined midriff-baring bra tops and hip-hugging “booty shorts”, without perfect Barbie shapes, spray-on tans, diamond earrings and matching, perfectly pinned-up hair with a “poof” on top, and without bumping and grinding. Our girls looked like real girls up there on stage, some with braces, some with acne, some big boned, others stick skinny.  They may not have gotten the Judges’ Choice award, but I think they’re going to be big winners in the long run, in the more important dance of life.   I just hope that they can see that, too.

The Ten Commandments of Teenage Girls

I recently did a quick scan of the book, “Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul”: 101 Stories to Open the Hearts and Rekindle the Spirits of Mothers and all I have to say is, they don’t have a clue about what it’s like to be the mother of a teenage daughter (which makes sense, considering the two main editors are men and that contributors include Barbara Bush and Joan Rivers– when you have servants to help you out, I don’t think you go through the same thing as the average American mom.) It’s going to take heartier soup than that to rekindle this mother’s spirit.  And pretty much every mother that I run into lately who, like me, happens to be the mother of a teenage girl, could use some “re-kindling”, since they are either pulling their hair out on a daily basis or quietly seething on the inside at the pariah they’ve become in their daughter’s eyes.  I know, I know, it’s supposed to be a developmental phase that they eventually grow out of, but while we’re there, it’s not fun, and it’s hard to stay upbeat when that teenager is continually trying to rain on your parade.  With that, I offer my own “Fried Chicken Soup for the Souls of Mothers of Teenage Girls”:
 
The Ten Commandments of Teenage Girls
1.) Thou Shalt Not Talk to Me if at all possible.
2.) If I speak to you, don’t answer with anything I might find weird or embarrassing.
3.) Thou Shalt Not Talk to My Friends, but if you do, pleeeeese don’t try to say anything humorous.
4.) Thou Shalt Not Wear Anything I Don’t Approve Of, and my fashion preferences can change on a daily– no make that hourly– basis.
5.) Always remember that you grew up in the Dark Ages, so you know nothing about anything.
6.) Thou Shalt Not Sing, Dance, or Basically Do Anything That Reveals That You Are a Real Human Being With Emotions–  and God help you if you cry for any reason.
7.) Thou Shalt Not Ask Me to Dress for the Weather- remember: I’d rather freeze to death than compromise my fashion sense with something practical like a coat or gloves, unless they happen to have designer labels that everyone can see.
8.) Thou Shalt Not Suggest Any “Good Books” or Movies– if you liked them, they must be awful.
9.) Thou Shalt Not Expect Me To Like Anything You Cook.  Even if I do, I won’t tell you.
10.) In spite of my attitude, Thou Shalt Make My Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner, Buy My Clothes, Pay For All My Lessons And Activities, Drive Me To All Those Activities, And Be There To Pick Me Up When They’re Over.  Oh, and don’t be late.

I modeled after God in choosing ten, but please feel free to reply with more (after all, teenage daughters can be more demanding than God!)