JV Mom: Enduring Southern Truisms

Raising a 21st Century Southern Child

“Red nail polish belongs on your toes, not your fingers.” I said that to my 8-year old daughter. In fact, at the time, I thought I was being quite open-minded to let her have red nail polish anywhere on her body. Then I looked around the dinner table filled with neighbors and friends and realized: I sound crazy.

When Fall rolls around, I become more aware of the subtle, but powerful gravitational pull of my Southern upbringing in Alabama. Maybe, it’s the start of college football. Or, it may be the first day of school photos that remind me of growing up in the Alabama and the “fundamental” truths that I learned growing up female in the South. Even though I decided to take the powder on being a Varsity Mother, I still feel duty bound to teach my NOT Southern daughter some of these important life lessons that still have relevance north of the Mason Dixon line.

Truth #1: We are born beautiful. In other words, growing up that meant: don’t let anyone know how much you have to work at how you look. This goes along with “It’s not right to sweat in public.” I have a feeling that this sentiment played a major role in why I hate to exercise and dread my children being involved in organized sports. However, we are all born beautiful. Today, it’s encouraging how many more role models of different shapes and shades we now have on TV and in the movies. The impact of seeing an all-Asian cast in Crazy Rich Asians this summer made an indelible mark on my daughter. However, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) still found that the creators of new shows in the 2017-18 season were 91% white and 84% male – we have room for improvement.

Truth #2: We live in a fishbowl. Growing up in a small town provides a level of accountability near impossible to mimic in an urban setting. Back then, when I would sneak out to a fraternity party on a Friday night, inevitably someone’s brother would call their mother who would call my friend’s mother who would then ground my friend which would end up tipping off my parents. Busted! But, even if today in an urban setting it doesn’t quite happen the same way, with social media, we all live in a small town. According to the website, Growing Wireless, nearly half of teens say they have posted something online that they later regretted and 8% of people ages 16-34 have been turned down for a job because of their social media profile.

Truth #3: Be kind. He/She is someone’s son/daughter. We likely all have examples of interactions we have on a day-to-day basis that are less about engaging with your fellow human and more transacting to get through the day. When I go home to the South, I have to remind myself to slow down, be a little more patient, and be a little kinder. Living in a big city, it’s easy to write off an interaction as a one-time event where there is little chance of ever seeing that cab driver, cashier, etc. There are days when I am seduced into thinking that it doesn’t matter that I didn’t say “Please” or “Thank you.” Even worse, when I don’t stop and acknowledge that there may be a good reason that someone else may be having a bad day and need to be given a break.  

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