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I’m raising girls who are ‘includers’ instead of ‘mean girls’

I remember walking into the cafeteria of my new school and it was like someone punched me in the stomach. I was in sixth grade. My family had just moved from Virginia to Ohio. At first, I attended the local Catholic school. Within the first two months, I was begging my parents to go to the public school because the girls were so mean. And when I look back, wow, they were cruel.


My maiden name is Ackerman. They’d call me “Lisa Acneman” as sixth grade brought with it oily skin and some breakouts. When my parents discerned that I would change schools, I felt relieved. I won’t even tell you about the last day at school there when all the girls knew I was leaving.

Off to public school I went. But soon I was to find out that it didn’t matter whether I went to parochial or public school.

Instantly a group of girls took me in.

They invited me to sit at their lunch table. Little did I know that they had kicked another girl off the table so I could sit with them. I was so grateful to have friends. I was a bit naïve. Maybe that’s because I grew up in a home where we were all out for each other and my assumption going “out into the world” was that everyone was like that, too.

Then one day, I walked into the cafeteria.

I nearly dropped my brown paper lunch bag. I looked at the table where I had been sitting for the last week. My first week at school. I counted the number of girls at the table—eight. Eight was the maximum number of people who could sit at one table. The two girls who were the “leaders” looked at me, whispered to the other girls at the table, and everyone turned around to laugh at me.

My heart sank. I actually went up to the table and feebly asked, “Is there space for me here?” Hoping maybe I was wrong, that it wasn’t as it seemed. I couldn’t feel my feet beneath me. I felt dizzy. I swear my heart was going to jump out of my chest.

I can’t remember what they said, but I must have gotten the picture because I turned and I quickly looked around for a place to sit. It was a small cafeteria and soon someone would notice me. I didn’t want anyone to look at me. My ears were ringing, my hands were clammy, my heart was beating so fast. I felt the eight girls’ snickering whispers like daggers in my back. There was no “physical fight” or blow up so the teachers on lunch duty were none the wiser. I saw a table with no one at it. So I sat down. I wanted to cry. But I didn’t.

This is where I sat for two months. Alone. By myself.

Once, a male teacher came up to me after whispering to another teacher, with a sympathetic, pleading look on his face and asked me something I can’t remember now. But I didn’t see him as a resource.

I know that eventually I sat somewhere with some group. For the next two years that we lived in Ohio, I had some good experiences. I still have a friend from there who is one of my best friends. But the two girls continued to be bullies. Yes, that’s what I can call it now as I understand as a psychotherapist and adult what was really going on. They were the kind of “friend” who would invite you over and you’d feel like “Oh good! We are friends again!” Only to have them talk about you or put you down.

We have all had experiences like this where other girls have been mean to us.

Just the other day, another mom friend of mine told me that she waved to two moms talking and they looked at her and laughed. It happens in childhood. It can happen between adult women.

As a psychotherapist, I intimately know that when someone hurts others it’s because they are hurting. I have counseled both the bully and the one being bullied.

I know, too, from counseling parents how, when our children’s lives eclipse our own, we remember (consciously or unconsciously in our body’s cellular memory) our own experiences of hurt, rejection and betrayal. And those old experiences, though healed, come back up and make us tender.

I had an “opportunity” this last week to feel such tenderness. I’ll share that story in a moment.

But first, I want to share this—the “triumph.” What came out of my experiences with “mean girls”?

I can look back and see how I became an “includer.”

I became someone who sees the outsider and looks to include people. I became someone who is good at bringing people in, making them feel a part of things.

I also became an “includer” with my own inner world of feelings and experiences.

I learned through years and years of mindfulness and compassion practices how to create space to “include everything” and how to abide with whatever is arising. Even the nasty, hard-to-look-at, shameful parts. I practiced forgiveness. Those two bullies? I forgave them (they didn’t ask for my forgiveness.) Other people who have hurt me? Other people I have hurt? I’m working on receiving forgiveness and extending forgiveness to others. Nothing excluded from forgiveness. Everything included.

I became an “includer” in my work.

How I go about being a psychotherapist and coach with individuals and groups. I can hold space for someone to include it all—to hold the parts of them they might have abandoned, ignored, tried to keep quiet, kicked to the curb. I can abide with a client as they learn that excluding anything creates more suffering and including facilitates healing and integration. True freedom.

I became an “includer” in my family.

As parents, Brian and I are about modeling compassion and empathy to our children. We try and create “abiding space” for our children to mindfully name and express whatever is happening within them. On the good days, I can say, “I’ll abide with you. I’ll be with you in this.” And of course there are days when I am short and I snap at them. And then we begin again. We come back together and include even THAT in our human and imperfect way of being family.

And our family has become “includers.”

We are about community and creating space for people—in our home, in our lives, in our hearts—for adults and children to feel loved and included just as they are.

Through gentleness, compassion and mindful attention, these early experiences of rejection, betrayal and hurt transformed me. Through loving attention, through learning to include it all with mindfulness and compassion, I and lots of grace transformed these hurtful experiences and others into compassionate, inclusive arms to hold, words to speak, hands to give and presence to offer.

And…they still make me tender. And that’s good, even holy. Because they open me to see the hurt in others and be tender with them.

It makes me realllllllllllly tender when it’s about my own daughter. It challenges, brings up and offers an opportunity for deepening my practice of mindfulness and compassion—for opening my heart even wider.

Like this week, when my daughter came home from pre-k and told me yet again about an experience at school with a little girl.

“It starts early,” a friend said to me.

“This is how we heal the ‘mean girls’ culture: we hold, we include, we love, we empower, and we regard our girls. And we model this in how we treat other women.”

And my heart breaks. My daughter is four. The details aren’t mine to share. But my heart was breaking. I talked with a few other moms. God, am I grateful to be alongside other moms who are “includers”—in our circle of moms and in the lives of our children. I talked with my husband. And, most importantly, I talked with my daughter. My dear, four year old daughter.

The details are my daughter’s to share someday. When my daughter—your daughter—is looking back on her childhood, she will tell her own story and it’ll be one of how we walked alongside our girls. How we empowered them.

I hope all our girls will someday share stories like:

“My mom would listen to me as she stroked my hair, as she lingered with me and I shared what was happening and how I felt.”

“My mom wouldn’t jump in and try to fix it. She wouldn’t freak out and panic out of her own fears and hurts and unconscious stuff she was holding. She would sit with me and ask me for my ideas and what I needed. She would wait and listen—listen to what’s said and unsaid, creating safe space for me to navigate the inner landscape of my own feelings and heart so that the right actions for me to take would arise from within me.”

“My parents would advocate for and alongside me in situations that required adult intervention. They wouldn’t act out of fear or anger. They would wait and discern and pray and watch.”

“My mom wasn’t about ‘sweeping me up and saving me.’ She was about empowering me. She knew when to step in front of me and be the mama bear, protecting me. And she knew when to sit behind me or alongside me, abiding with me.”

“I learned to say, “THAT’S NOT OK!” and “Stop” and “I am walking away now.”

“I learned how to see clearly. I learned to not think there was something wrong with ME. I learned to not turn on myself but rather have regard for myself.”

“I learned to name with compassion—for myself and others—what is happening. I learned to name it, state it and own my response.”

“I learned ways of working through difficulties with other girls and women in ways that honor and regard each girl and woman’s body, feelings, experiences and needs.”

“I learned to find my tribe of women. I learned to ask for help. I learned to be with others who uplift and honor each other.”

“I learned to speak up. I learned to speak up for myself and for others in the face of injustice – on the playground, in the hallways between classes in middle school, or in international peace negotiations.”

“I learned to be an includer. I learned to mindfully abide with whatever I am experiencing within my own inner landscape. And from such a place of inclusion, I learned to include and walk beside others.”

“In my experience of meditation, compassion, and mindfulness, nothing can be excluded. Exclusion creates suffering. Inclusion facilitates healing. It’s the path to true freedom.”

This is what I am modeling to my daughter.

This is the space I am creating for my daughter. Not perfectly. But, my God, as best as I can. I know other moms who believe the same thing. I am blessed to be around other moms who want this for our community. They want this for our world. They want this for our daughters and their daughters.

I know you want to model this to your daughter, too. YOU are this sacred space for your daughter. And I know you are doing it the best you can.

Because this is how we heal the ‘mean girls’ culture—we hold, we include, we love, we empower and we regard our girls. And we model this in how we treat other women.

***

If you are a parent to a daughter, no matter the age, can you imagine your daughter telling such a story? Can you imagine creating the space for her to share, to abide with her, and to empower her? Can you imagine raising girls who “include”?

Can you imagine we ALL model being an “includer,” and resolving conflicts or hurts or insecurities with regard and compassion?

Can you imagine how this would impact our world if we raise daughters who know how to name what is happening within them and a situation, who know how to speak up in the face of injustice, who believe in their innate goodness and who INCLUDE rather than exclude because they have an inner confidence and have been raised to listen to the wisdom of their inner voice?

We HAVE to imagine it and create it—for all of us women, for our daughters, and for our world.


So many of you have asked for practices to empower and uplift our daughters. I have listened! Check out this 21-day online course: Regarding Our Girls: Feminine Embodiment Practices to Empower, Uplift and Connect with Our Daughters. It’s a beautiful course that nourishes both you and your daughter with 16 mindfulness-based, body-centered lessons.


A version of this article was originally published at LisaMcCrohan.com.


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When you become a parent for the first time, there is an undeniably steep learning curve. Add to that the struggle of sorting through fact and fiction when it comes to advice and—whew—it's enough to make you more tired than you already are with that newborn in the house.

Just like those childhood games of telephone when one statement would get twisted by the time it was told a dozen times, there are many parenting misconceptions that still tend to get traction. This is especially true with myths about bottle-feeding—something that the majority of parents will do during their baby's infancy, either exclusively or occasionally.

Here's what you really need to know about bottle-feeding facts versus fiction.

1. Myth: Babies are fine taking any bottle

Not all bottles are created equally. Many parents experience anxiety when it seems their infant rejects all bottles, which is especially nerve wracking if a breastfeeding mom is preparing to return to work. However, it's often a matter of giving the baby some time to warm up to the new feeding method, says Katie Ferraro, a registered dietician, infant feeding specialist and associate professor of nutrition at the University of California San Francisco graduate School of Nursing.

"For mothers returning to work, if you're breastfeeding but trying to transition to bottle[s], try to give yourself a two- to four-week trial window to experiment with bottle feeding," says Ferraro.

2. Myth: You either use breast milk or formula

So often, the question of whether a parent is using formula or breastfeeding is presented exclusively as one or the other. In reality, many babies are combo-fed—meaning they have formula sometimes, breast milk other times.

The advantage with mixed feeding is the babies still get the benefits of breast milk while parents can ensure the overall nutritional and caloric needs are met through formula, says Ferraro.

3. Myth: Cleaning bottles is a lot of work

For parents looking for simplification in their lives (meaning, all of us), cleaning bottles day after day can sound daunting. But, really, it doesn't require much more effort than you are already used to doing with the dishes each night: With bottles that are safe for the top rack of the dishwasher, cleaning them is as easy as letting the machine work for you.

For added confidence in the sanitization, Dr. Brown's offers an incredibly helpful microwavable steam sterilizer that effectively kills all household bacteria on up to four bottles at a time. (Not to mention it can also be used on pacifiers, sippy cups and more.)

4. Myth: Bottle-feeding causes colic

One of the leading theories on what causes colic is indigestion, which can be caused by baby getting air bubbles while bottle feeding. However, Dr. Brown's bottles are the only bottles in the market that are actually clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to an ingenious internal vent system that eliminates negative pressure and air bubbles.

5. Myth: Bottles are all you can use for the first year

By the time your baby is six months old (way to go!), they may be ready to begin using a sippy cup. Explains Ferraro, "Even though they don't need water or additional liquids at this point, it is a feeding milestone that helps promote independent eating and even speech development."

With a complete line of products to see you from newborn feeding to solo sippy cups, Dr. Brown's does its part to make these new transitions less daunting. And, for new parents, that truly is priceless.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Jessica Simpson celebrated her baby shower this weekend (after getting a cupping treatment for her very swollen pregnancy feet) and her theme and IG captions have fans thinking this was not just a shower, but a baby name announcement as well.

Simpson (who is expecting her third child with former NFL player Eric Johnson) captioned two photos of her shower as "💚 Birdie's Nest 💚". The photographs show Simpson and her family standing under a neon sign spelling out the same thing.

While Simpson didn't explicitly state that she was naming her child Birdie, the numerous references to the name in her shower photos and IG stories have the internet convinced that she's picking the same name Busy Philips chose for her now 10-year-old daughter.

The name Birdie isn't in the top 1000 baby names according to the Social Security Administration, but It has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to name nerds and trend watchers.

"Birdie feels like a sassy but sweet, down-to-earth yet unusual name," Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry told Town and Country back in 2017. "It's also just old enough to be right on time."

Simpson's older kids are called Maxwell and Ace, which both have a vintage feel, so if Birdie really is her choice, the three old-school names make a nice sibling set.

Whether Birdie is the official name or just a cute nickname Simpson is playing around with, we get the appeal and bet she can't wait for her little one to arrive (and her feet to go back to normal!)

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Right now, if you spend $100 on select diapers, wipes, formula, you'll get a $20 gift card with pickup or Target Restock. Other purchases will get you $5 gift cards during this promotion:

  • $20 gift card when you spend $100 or more on select diapers, wipes, formula, and food items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select beauty care items
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select household essentials items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select Iams, Pedigree, Crave & Nutro dog and cat food or Fresh Step cat litter items using in store Order Pickup
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select feminine care items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock

All of these promotions will only run through 11:59 pm PT on Saturday, January 19, 2019 so make sure to stock up before they're gone!

Because the deals only apply to select products and certain colors, just be sure to read the fine print before checking out.

Target's website notes the "offer is valid using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock when available".

The gift cards will be delivered after you have picked up your order or your Target Restock order has shipped.

We won't tell anyone if you use those gift cards exclusively for yourself. 😉 So, get to shopping, mama!

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Here are some fellow mamas-to-be expecting in 2019:

Alexa and Carlos PenaVega 

The Spy Kids actress and mom to 2-year-old Ocean will soon have to get herself a double stroller because PenaVega and her husband Carlos are expecting again.

"Holy Moly!!! Guys!!! We are having another baby!!!!" captioned an Instagram post. "Do we wake Ocean up and tell him??!! Beyond blessed and excited to continue growing this family!!! Get ready for a whole new set of adventures!!!"

Over on Carlos' IG the proud dad made a good point: " This year we will officially be able to say we have 'kids!' Our minds are blown," he write.

Jessa Duggar and Ben Seewald

In January Counting On Jessa Seewald (formerly Jessa Duggar) announced via Instagram that she is pregnant with her third child with husband Ben Seewald.

We love that she was able to make the announcement in her own time, not worrying about speculation about her midsection. She's been over that for a while.

[Update: January 18, added PenaVega]

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