Most parents recognize the importance of finding fellow parents who can relate when it comes to teething, toddlers, tantrums and beyond. But for author Helena Andrews-Dyer, being one of the only Black moms in the local parenting group meant she saw the world — and parenting — through different eyes. She and Dr. Angela Mattke examine the dynamics of race and class in parenting and talk about how to build resilient kids who can withstand (and hopefully, change) the society they live in.
We talked with:
- Helena Andrews-Dyer is an award-winning culture reporter for The Washington Post, covering the intersection of popular culture, race, politics and art. She’s the author of “Bitch is the New Black,” “Reclaiming Her Time,” and this episode’s focus: “The Mamas: What I Learned about Kids, Race, and Class from Moms Not Like Me.” She lives in D.C. with a husband whose laugh can be heard for miles and two carefree little brown girls.
- Angela Mattke, M.D., is a pediatrician in the Division of Community Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at Mayo Clinic Children’s Center in Rochester, Minnesota. Dr. Mattke is the medical editor of the “Mayo Clinic Guide to Raising a Healthy Child” and co-medical editor of the Parenting channel on the Mayo Clinic Press website. In her daily work, Dr. Mattke enjoys seeing her patients smile and helping families who are struggling with health challenges.
We talked about:
In this episode, Dr. Millstine and her guests discuss:
- The need for solidarity. Motherhood is a time when you reach for friends with kids so you can complain, compare and question what’s “normal.” These friendships can be a big help, but sometimes parenthood is all you have in common. Helena talks about how George Floyd’s murder highlighted the differences between the mothers, as she learned who she could trust as a Black mom.
- The need to talk about race. Our guests say that parents of every race need to talk to their kids about the role of race in society. But talking isn’t enough: You have to put your values into action. Your kids notice what you do and who your friends are.
- The need to build resilient kids. It’s important to help your kids learn how to express and cope with their emotions. You can’t protect your kids from every bad thing — including racism or more general bullying — but you can build their confidence and resiliency.
Can’t get enough?
- Purchase the Mayo Clinic Press book “Mayo Clinic Guide to Raising a Healthy Child.”
- Purchase Helena’s book “The Mamas: What I Learned about Kids, Race, and Class from Moms Not Like Me.”
- Want to read more on the topic? Check out our blog:
- If you’ve got ideas or book suggestions, email us at email@example.com.
- We invite you to complete the following survey as part of a research study at Mayo Clinic. Your responses are anonymous. Your participation in this survey as well as its completion are voluntary.
Read the transcript:
Dr. Denise Millstine: Welcome to the “Read. Talk. Grow.” podcast, where we explore women’s health topics through books. In the same way that books can transport us to a different time, place or culture, “Read. Talk. Grow.” demonstrates how books can also give a new appreciation for health experiences and provide a platform from which women’s health can be discussed. At “Read. Talk. Grow.,” we use books to learn about health conditions in the hopes that we can all lead happier, healthier lives.
I’m your host, Dr. Denise Millstine. I’m an assistant professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic in Arizona, where I practice women’s health, internal medicine and integrative medicine. I am always reading and I love discussing books with my patients, my professional colleagues, and now with you.
I am so excited about my guest today. Helena Andrews-Dyer is an award-winning culture reporter for The Washington Post, covering the intersection of popular culture, race, politics and art. She’s written three books, “Bitch Is the New Black,” “Reclaiming Her Time” and “The Mamas: What I Learned About Kids, Class and Race from Moms Not Like Me.” She lives in D.C. with a husband whose laugh can be heard for miles and two carefree little brown girls. Helena, welcome to the show.
Helena Andrews-Dyer: Thank you for having me. I’m excited.
Dr. Denise Millstine: My second guest is Dr. Angela Mattke, who’s a pediatrician in the Division of Community Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at Mayo Clinic Children’s Center in Rochester, Minnesota. Dr. Mattke is the medical editor of the “Mayo Clinic Guide to Raising a Healthy Child” and co-medical editor of the parenting channel on the Mayo Clinic Press website.
In her daily work. Dr. Mattke enjoys seeing her patients smile and helping families who are struggling with health challenges. She lives in Minnesota with her husband and two sons. Dr. Mattke, welcome to the show.
Dr. Angela Mattke: Thanks for having me so much.
Dr. Denise Millstine: Today, the topic is going to be motherhood, with a focus on navigating the world of mom friends, as well as that intersection with race, class and other important topics. Our main book is “The Mamas: What I Learned About Kids, Class and Race from Moms Not Like Me.” In addition, we have the “Mayo Clinic Guide toR a Healthy Child,” focused on children from ages 3 to 11.
Helena, I feel like everybody wants to share their early childhood mother stories with you after reading your book, which I found fabulous. It really resonated with me because I live in Scottsdale, Arizona, and am from the East Coast, so, total culture shift, I moved here pregnant with twins, and I got involved in prenatal yoga. I connected with these beautiful, amazing women who were so different from me in so many ways.
I really learned a lot from them in terms of being a new mom and all the questions you have from “What stroller?” to “Is it okay that my baby won’t roll over?” so when you were drawing the picture of cyberstalking these mom groups and then trying to find the way in that felt comfortable with you, it just felt very familiar. But tell us a bit about that time in your life.
Helena Andrews-Dyer: Definitely. I think when you are a new mom, especially in this era, I believe, of parenthood, where so many of us who live in urban locales, live very far away from their family. My mother lives in the Virgin Islands and all my aunts, I have four amazing aunts who I would love to drop a baby off with, they all live in Los Angeles, where I’m from originally, and we live in Washington, D.C. and my husband is from Kansas.
We’re nowhere near, not an arm’s length of any of the people that I think could help navigate me through this process. I knew going into motherhood that I wanted to find a tribe, and what’s funny, a lot of people point out this line in the book where I say, “Your friends with kids aren’t necessarily your mom friends,” because we had friends who had children and they were great, but I needed to have someone who, literally like: “I had my baby on Monday at 5 p.m. and you had your baby on Tuesday at 6 a.m.,” like we need to be in the exact same lane.
I was able to find that through this large Facebook group that was based in our neighborhood, and it was just this whole different world that I knew nothing about, and as soon as I was telling people that I was pregnant, one of my coworkers was like, “Oh, you have to join the Facebook group.” And I’m like, “What are you talking about?”
Then she invites me to this group and I’m just like, “Oh, here’s all of the stuff that I’ve been obsessing about. Here’s a spreadsheet about daycares. Here’s what it costs for a nanny share, because I have no idea. Here’s the stroller, everyone.” And by everyone, I mean every one of this slice of D.C. socioeconomic pocket.
For me it was this explosion of information, and also felt like I was almost like graduating to a new identity and trying to figure out where I fit in in all that, and so race and class and culture, all of that came crashing down in a way I never really had to think hard about before.
It was so clearly in my face when I joined this group, this group that I really wanted to join because I knew I needed the support. But at the same time you’re wondering, “Well, what do we have in common beyond the fact that we’re all trying to struggle through the same thing together?” And sometimes that’s enough. That is enough at least for the initial sort of pairing.
Then from there, I think you start to pare down, “Okay, is this mom like I’m a mom?” Because you don’t even know what kind of mom you are. You have no idea. You know, you’ve just met this little baby. So that whole process, I think, was so complicated and even just an emotional way that I didn’t know it would be. I thought it would be so easy and it was much harder than I thought.
Dr. Denise Millstine: Angela, you talk about in your book the importance of having support around you. I know you’re a pediatrician, but for a good portion of early childhood life, the mom is very much your patient as well. Talk a little bit about that.
Dr. Angela Mattke: Yeah, I feel like in those first couple of years, the mom, the dad, both dads, both moms, whatever their family looks like, they’re just as much a part of my patient. And it’s not necessarily what I was trained in. I was trained in pediatric pathophysiology to be able to help and treat the family.
But you really are treating the whole family. I can’t believe what a different pediatrician I was before and after I had kids. And I’m not saying all pediatricians need to have kids, but some of the advice that I was giving before I had kids, I look back and I shudder to think about what I was actually telling these families to do because this is what I was reading in books and this is what the evidence shows.
But then you become a parent and you realize, “Oh my gosh! That is not realistic. That is the farthest thing that’s going to help the family in this situation, because I’ve been through it myself and I know that this is just unrealistic advice.”
So I think I changed a lot and became much more of a pragmatic sort of pediatrician meeting families where they’re at and trying to really help them in a way that’s going to help the whole family, not just the child, not just dad, not just mom, but I’m trying to come to some common ground, so we’re still practicing safe practices for our babies and we’re still trying to use evidence-based practices in preventive medicine. But coming at it from a whole different angle, I think is really, really important.
Dr. Denise Millstine: Having these people that you can lean on is so important. But Helena, you talk a lot about at first when you’re on this Facebook group, you’re thinking, “Oh, these people are not like me. They might live in the same zip code or on the same block and be in the same parenting phase as me,” but you have a line in your intro that said, “This is the story of what it’s like being the only one in a Polly Pocket world of post-racial parenting that primarily concerns itself with baby music class and not class divides.” So while you’re navigating these relationships, you’re coming face to face with some very serious issues as well.
Helena Andrews-Dyer: Absolutely. I think that’s the thing that they don’t tell you about in all your prenatal appointments. That you will need this support group, but at the same time, what you all value and what your background is, you bring into your parenting and that could be aligned with people who don’t look anything like you, or completely misaligned.
I think, especially in new motherhood, it’s just like, “Oh, we’re all moms! We’re all in this together!” My book, obviously, in any sort of parent or family structure, as Angela mentioned. But my book is about moms because primarily that’s who was on maternity leave together. That’s who was going to the baby yoga class at six weeks because we were like, “Well, we got to do something with these kids.” That’s who’s going to the music class. That’s who’s meeting up in the park, and I think when I looked around and I felt like the only one and yet we’ve got so many other things in common; I’m highly educated, probably too educated. I am a professional person. I’ve got this quote unquote, traditional family structure, all of those things and yet for me, as a Black woman, as a Black mother, there’s something that I know that is so intrinsic to my parenting, which is that I am raising two Black children.
So race is at the forefront of my mind all the time. I always walk around in this body. My children always walk around in their body, in their skin, and that’s something that wasn’t at the forefront of these women’s minds for a long time. I recognized it on my first — I call it tour of duty — my first maternity leave with my older daughter, and I recognized it, I saw it and I just kind of filed it away.
I was like, “Listen, it’s just five months — I was privileged to have a five month long maternity leave — and we can just be friends, and this’ll be great,” and I wouldn’t really have to worry about it. That’s why I call it like moonlighting as a woman who didn’t have to worry about those things, but when the world did not necessarily change, but went under a microscope, especially in America because of the pandemic, and after George Floyd’s murder, this stuff and by stuff, I mean racial politics, became so much more at the forefront of what everyone was talking about.
Even though it was something that I was always thinking about, it became clearer who — I don’t want to say who your friends were — but who you could trust. Who was parenting, truly parenting in the same way that I was and who was valuing the same things that I was valuing. That was really eye-opening. That was truly, truly eye-opening for me.
Dr. Denise Millstine: Well, and I think it was so authentic and honest how you wrote about those conversations. And for a lot of them, you sort of hung back and just let these other women sort through a topic that they hadn’t, maybe so clearly or transparently, thought about or spoken to each other about. Meanwhile, you’re thinking, “I’m in the room and this has been my life.”
You have a pretty stinging jab that says, “Who knew that racism could be solved with a spreadsheet?” Probably not directly quoting you, right? But that group’s approach to “Let’s collect all of these resources” instead of, like you said, kind of talking and looking at, you know, how am I contributing to systemic racism or unintentional bias? Angela I’m sure that you navigate these really challenging conversations with your patients not infrequently.
Dr. Angela Mattke: Absolutely. But I come from a place of privilege as a white woman, never having lived the experience of what it’s like to be a Black woman with Black children in America. It’s definitely something like you said: post-racial, George Floyd really brought to light in ways that people weren’t thinking about or having conversations beforehand.
Before this even happened, there was a wonderful policy statement that was way past due for the American Academy of Pediatrics, and it looked at the effects of racism on children. Not only just on their emotional experiences, their lived experience in life, but also on their physical health and their outcomes throughout life.
That came out in 2016 and it was fantastic. Or maybe it came out in 2018. I don’t remember the exact year, but it was, I think, groundbreaking for a lot of people who worked in pediatrics, who hadn’t stopped to think about how their privilege had given them different advantages, not only in other aspects of life, but in their health.
I think it opened conversations. We’re starting to talk about, with our patients, the effects of racism on their health in the office, which I think is important for us to recognize for our patients. That we understand that this may be happening to them and having an open space for them to talk about it and also having spaces in our practice to start talking about this as a people and thinking about how systemic racism has really detrimental health effects on people across the spectrum, not just in pediatrics.
Dr. Denise Millstine: Helena, in your book, you talk a bit about a lot of the data that’s out there about racism in areas such as school choice, how schools are clustered, and you would like to think that they’re clustered by people who have the best intentions for their children and want the best schooling for their children, but in fact, there is a sectioning off of schools by race. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Helena Andrews-Dyer: Yeah, what I think was so fascinating, especially about what Angela said, it’s just this idea that I think what changed for me and what changed, I think for a lot of parents, not just parents of color, is this idea that race and thinking about race is not something separate from your parenting.
I talk about the mom groups and parenting groups in the book a lot, and so many were imploded under the weight of folks wanting to talk about George Floyd. Folks wanting to talk about the so-called racial reckoning and how it was impacting them and their children and other people being like, “Oh, we’re not here for that. We’re just here for diaper rash cream advice,” and it is like, no, these are one in the same.
They’re always one in the same for me, and they should be for you. Because while I am very clear in the fact that I’m raising Black children, I think too often white parents are not clear in the fact that they are raising white children. They are raising children that could be contributing, will be contributing to the system that we all agree should be dismantled. Because it is affecting our physical health, it’s affecting our emotional health.
In that chapter that you’re talking about when we were talking about school choice. In D.C., we have universal preschool. I’m talking about 3-year-olds, and because I’m a nut, I’m a type-A mom; I’m going on the school tours, and I’m going to the Ed Fest, and I’m talking to principals just like all my other friends, creating Excel spreadsheets about which school had this, and: “Oh, this one had a French class after school” for 3-year-olds, right?
We’re talking about all of that, but I’m also talking about something different with some of my Black mom friends, because we’re also talking and we’re asking about disciplinary action in how are you disciplining kids of color? How many teachers of color do you have in this school? How many male teachers of color do you have in this school? That’s really important to me, and it should also be important to other parents. It should not just be important to me because what we model, not just what we say to our children, but what we model for them, that is what changes their world.
That is what changes their perspective, because you’re showing them not just saying, “Oh, we don’t see color,” which is ridiculous. Or, “In this house we value X, Y, and Z.” Well, you don’t have any other type of friends. You are literally plopping your children down in these very homogenous situations and then wondering when they say something racist, a five-year-old, to my child, and people get shocked and they’re like, “Oh, I don’t know what she gets it from.” Well, she gets it from you. She gets it from what you’re showing her. It’s so funny, just the other day, my daughter Sally asked me if we could be Jewish, and I said, “Well, we could be. But we’re not. Why are you asking me that?” And it’s because she wants to celebrate Hanukkah. Because she wants eight crazy nights of gifts as opposed to our just one day. We had this conversation about what that means. There’s so many parents where that would just freak them out, if your child came and said: “Oh, I want to celebrate Kwanzaa.”
You’d scream and just run away from the conversation, thinking they don’t understand it, but she gets these concepts. She’s five and she understands these concepts. She understands racial difference. That’s why I talk about in that chapter too. We think kids don’t understand race, which is a construct, but they do. They get it. They see what’s going on around them.
I have a great quote in the book from a researcher, and she says, “We know kids don’t understand calculus, but that doesn’t mean we don’t teach them math. That doesn’t mean we don’t teach them one plus one,” and I think when we’re talking about race and we’re talking about class in this society, we have to start that. We have to not be so uncomfortable with having those conversations with our kids.
Dr. Angela Mattke: I’m so glad that you brought that research into your book when I read that, because it’s something that I try and talk about with my families and I had seen before I had children and my husband and I have been trying to have these conscious conversations from very early childhood. From one years on, and going forward and talking about the beauty of differences and loving and looking at valuing people for their differences and their color and where they come from, but also understanding what their experiences are.
When you put that in your book, one I’m not sure who your audience is for the book, but for all of the white women that are reading this book, I just kept thinking, “Yes, this is so good that you’re including this research in this and all of the social researchers and all the other people that you included in the book. Because, to me, when you’re really bringing research into it I feel like, “Yes, people are finally going to listen!” But I guess the pandemic has also taught me that people don’t listen to research as well. So, it’s somewhat of a struggle.
Dr. Denise Millstine: Let’s talk about assumptions that people make. So you live in D.C., you’ve already said that. You were at this park one day and there’s a boy that’s behaving badly. So you are, you know, upper middle-class, well-dressed family who happens to be Black, and here is this boy who has nothing to do with your family, but you’re engaging with him to try to redirect him. And this, you call them the Band Dad, comes up to you with some really truly insulting advice for how you can manage this other child better, assuming he’s related to you.
Helena Andrews-Dyer: Oh, gosh. That incident was so devastating in a way, but devastating for two reasons. Because, one, I wanted to explore in the book because I don’t think we explore class enough in America, because we don’t think we have class structures in America. We think just everyone is middle-class. I think that that is like our view of ourselves, and not truly looking in the mirror.
In this particular situation, and I have a whole chapter in the book about gentrification. That’s a separate chapter, but I explain that in the book because I wanted these third places to have more of an impact when you read about them, because this playground in particular, one, it’s completely new and it sits on the graveyard of an old elementary school that was shut down and then torn down when there was all this white fight from the neighborhood and nobody goes to that elementary school. They tore it down. We built this beautiful park. Across the street is public housing. Right next to that is like an $8 million dollar flipped row house or something. All of this stuff we’re literally shoulder to shoulder right up against one another and we’re at this playground and this boy was behaving badly. This little black boy who we did not know. He was there without his parents and he was harassing this little girl about her bike in a way that was beyond just like kids playing.
He was really bothering her. As she and her father were leaving, because we were trying to mitigate the situation for about 15 minutes, her and her dad leave and before they walk out, he sort of like conspiratorially puts his arm around my husband’s shoulder and is like, “Hey, you know, there are all these programs in the city. If you give me your information, I could send them to you and he could get a free bike.”
It took us a minute and we’re looking at this man. We’re like,“Wait, do you think this is our child?” And I responded completely because I have very little filter. I was like, “This isn’t our effing kid!”
And of course my husband is so much more gracious, I shall say. And he was like, “No, this isn‘t our child. We were just trying to help you.” And the dad, I think, then he finally sees us, sees my husband and I, sees that we just came from brunch. My mother, who was living with us at the time, she just came from church like, you know, looks at us and it looks at this little boy and realizes, “Oh, these two things. These two people are not alike. These two groups are not alike, even though they are all Black.
He is obviously horrified and he just runs away, and he leaves my husband and I there alone to sit with this interaction. I’m upset because you didn’t see us. You didn’t see my bank account and my Ivy League degrees. Raaaarh! I get mad about that.
But then I think to myself, like, what do I care? Why should I care that this white man that I don’t know and have no connection to, sees me for quote unquote, my success or achievements? That shouldn’t have a bearing on my life. Then I also think to myself, why am I trying to separate myself from this little boy who, all told after the situation is de-escalated, is very sweet.
It was just this very awkward, icky situation for me as a Black woman to think of my own class divides, the intra-racial class divides. Then this little boy, my mother becomes friends with him and she took him to church once. It was like all this thing. But deeper into that chapter, I also tell a story that’s just Black folks at that same playground.
Me and some of my bougie Black friends and then some other folks who were from across the street, which we called the condos and them going through something and one of their sons was acting up and a friend of mine, and we’re all Black, walks him out of the playground. Then this woman, his mother, comes back to me and she says: “Well, what did he do?” And I was like: “Oh, well, you know, he’s just acting up a little bit. I think he needs a break.” And she’s like: “Well, this is a public — And what she was telling me was exactly right — She’s like, “This is a public space.” She’s like: “And I would expect that of them and not of us.” And it’s just that statement hit me to my core because I’m like, well, who is the “them” and who is the “us?” Who has power in any given situation? Who’s the gatekeeper in any situation? And that can be fluid and it cannot have to do with race. It could have to do with class.
I move through those spheres somewhat fluidly in my life. I’m not prescriptive in any way, but I think just pointing that situation out and shining a light on it because we assume that our roles are set … always, and they aren’t. Someone could see me as the person who’s excluding, even though I can see the next person as excluding me.
So all of us should be having these conversations within ourselves. I think the thing about good memoir, and I’ll stop talking in a minute, is that it’s not about me pointing the finger. We talk about the chapter the effing girls, it’s not me always saying: “Well, white folks do this and white folks do that.” Because I’m looking at it and I’m like, “Oh, I’m doing the same thing to someone else.” And I think that that, I would hope, Angela asked about the audience for the book. I wrote this book for moms like me because I want us to feel validated in all these crazy experiences that we have, but also moms completely unlike me, because I want them to have a peek into the types of things that are running through our heads all the time.
Let’s call it the invisible diaper bag. A play off of the invisible knapsack, because we’re all coming into these situations with so much baggage and so many things. Once we recognize that, I think we will be able to communicate better and actually find community if we’re talking about the mom groups and trusting mom friends, which I think is so, so important as we’re talking about health.
My mental health, even all the anxiety that some of these groups have caused me, I think the net is positive when it comes to my mental health because they have been a great support group. But I think a huge part of that is trusting each other. And I think a huge part of trusting each other is seeing our difference, recognizing it, celebrating it, and understanding it.
Dr. Denise Millstine: That’s how I felt when I was reading the book. It is very much to me a call to recognize how much more you gain by surrounding yourself with people who maybe don’t live or look exactly like you and how that makes us all better. I really appreciated in your book that you were vulnerable in that way to not say or portray that you always did it exactly right or took the higher road. I mean, you got into a fight with a kindergartner.
Helena Andrews-Dyer: I did get into a fight with a kindergartner. I did. She’s okay, though. I actually see that little girl. She goes to the same school that my daughters go to.
Dr. Denise Millstine: So a question for you, Angela, is about bullying, which I would say often comes from power differentials and often from people not understanding how they treat others who are in a different situation than they are. Can you talk about that from a pediatrician perspective?
Dr. Angela Mattke: Yeah, I think we’re all pretty aware that bullying is not the same as it was when we were growing up as girls. It’s invasive, it comes into your home, it’s coming into your bedroom, through social media and it’s 360. You don’t have a safe place at home where kids could go home and have some respite from whatever their bully or perpetrator was doing to them in a school setting, or an after-school setting, or maybe a neighborhood setting.
It’s all around them now. Obviously growing up in a very different world than what we expected and what we did before. The way I address it is just at all of my well-child visits and actually just any kind of visit when kids are old enough to start talking. I start asking about feelings, emotions, how they’re doing.
I also think it’s really important to kind of normalize that it’s OK to not always feel good. By starting those conversations about how they’re doing. How are you handling your big feelings? Who are you talking to? What are your coping skills? It opens up those conversations where kids maybe will feel the ability to disclose. There’s so much education in schools now, really, really young about bullying, but bullying doesn’t really happen as much in elementary school as it pathologically does in middle school.
Middle school is the worst time for all kids. And I just want to fast forward it for all of them, because they are all just struggling. They are really, really struggling. Elementary schools are always really good about telling anybody when they’re not bullying because they’re really into that. The academy of good and bad and bullying is bad and not bullying is good and stuff.
But in middle school, it’s just omnipresent. Starting to have conversations, having open conversations with your kids about anything. The conversations like we talked about with race start early, but those conversations about emotions and feelings and developing a positive coping toolkit for children, start early. I feel like I’m really killing this part as a parent, but I’m not either.
My kids certainly struggle on their own days and stuff, but I think it’s just we just have to start building resiliency up in our children because sometimes you can’t protect them from what they are going to hear, what they are going to face, but making sure they understand the importance of who they are and how they are valuable and why they are important and why they are loved can really help build that resiliency up for children so they can bounce back from some of those 360 attacks that can happen on social media and other areas.
Dr. Denise Millstine: I’m really hoping that Helena decides to write a second book for those middle school years.
Helena Andrews-Dyer: Oh, my gosh!
Dr. Angela Mattke: How old are your girls?
Helena Andrews-Dyer: That that time just really terrifies me. So my oldest is 5 and my younger daughter is 3 and it’s funny you talk about the elementary school years, but I am also hearing from my friends with older kids, like, let’s say like 9, 10-year-olds, and they’re like, “Ooh, the mean girlness is starting, and I hate that –
Dr. Angela Mattke: Fourth grade.
Helena Andrews-Dyer: I just can’t believe it, and I hate the fact that me thinking about the girls. I’m like, “Oh, well, girls can be so mean.” It’s like, yes, human beings can be really mean. But I think for me, what was my saving grace as a kid was that I was a dancer and that built up a lot of self-confidence about me in my body.
That’s where we’re pushing the girls into that right now. But I think what’s so different about my daughters and I don’t even know if it’s just me modeling, I’m trying to, is that they are very aware and in touch with their feelings in a way that I don’t believe I was as a child or even have, and I was raised by a hippie, pot-smoking, lesbian woman.
I don’t even know if I was that honest. Sally will tell me, “That hurt my feelings. I did not like it. I did not like it when you did that.” I’m just like, “Where are you getting this from?” As much as it can frustrate me throughout the day, I am very, very heartened by the fact that it seems like as you said, they’re doing a really great job in her school, especially them talking about conscious discipline, they talk about emotions, they talk about their feelings from preschool.
I’m really seeing the fruits of that now, and I feel like it’s just my job to continue it and blow it up and just talk to her about the fact that it’s OK. I was just talking to a friend of mine. We were talking about how the girls will be so mad at us now and they’re only 5. And her daughter said something like, “Well, I’m not happy with you because you did X, Y, and Z.” All of us are just like having coffee, talking about this, and the rest of the moms are waiting with bated breath like, “Well, what did you say to her?”
She said, “I’m happy that you share your feelings with me.” We were just all like… It’s so different from how we were raised and it can feel as if it’s like, “Oh, are we not disciplining them enough? Are we not doing this the right way?” But I think all I want is for the girls to know that their feelings are valid and that they can come to me with them.
And so when you’re coming to me with them at 8:15, and it’s time for us to get into the car, and I don’t want to hear about this, it can be frustrating, but I think we’re trying to sit in that place where feelings, all feelings are good and I want to hear about them. That’s the biggest thing.
Because when they do become pre-teens, I want them to feel like they can trust me to come to me with their feelings, good or bad.
Dr. Angela Mattke: It sounds like you’re killing it. Your daughter can already do “I” statements: “I don’t like this thing,” “You made me feel” and all. Oh my gosh. Yeah. I think it’s fantastic. I love how you said, like, “I want her to feel validated.” The worst thing when someone invalidates their feelings and makes us feel crazy, or gaslights us for the feelings that we are having and makes us think that they’re all in our head, or the situation’s not real, so that’s fantastic. Your mic-drop moment just happened and you can throw in the rest of the parenting.
Helena Andrews-Dyer: Right. I’m done. I’m done.
Dr. Denise Millstine: Well, I want to thank you both for having this great conversation with me. We mentioned a couple times about who the audience is for “The Mamas,” and I think it’s really for all parents to explore and to just read this really remarkable and beautiful memoir. I also want to re-mention Dr. Mattke’s book, “Raising a Healthy Child,” which gets into a lot of the nitty-gritty advice about specifics with health-related issues as well. It’s been just an honor to talk to both of you and explore parenthood and its messiness and its many facets. I just really want to thank you for being part of “Read. Talk. Grow.”
Helena Andrews-Dyer: Thank you. This was amazing, and I’m absolutely getting Angela’s book. I cannot wait.
Dr. Angela Mattke: I loved your book. I’m so glad that you invited me to be on this. I can’t show it because of my stuff, but it was so it was so good. I think I’m going to read it again. I think to incorporate everything, I think I just need to really go through it again. Make sure it all soaks in and I can apply it and start using some of the knowledge I feel like I’ve learned from it. And thank you, Denise for having me as well.
Dr. Denise Millstine: Thank you for joining us to talk books and health today on “Read. Talk. Grow.” To continue the conversation and send comments, visit the show notes or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Read. Talk. Grow.” is a production of Mayo Clinic Press. Our producer is Lisa Speckhard Pasque and our recording engineer is Rick Andresen.
The podcast is for informational purposes only and is not designed to replace a physician’s medical assessment in judgment. Information presented is not intended as medical advice. Please contact a healthcare professional for medical assistance with specific questions pertaining to your own health if needed. Keep reading everyone.
Mayo Clinic Guide to Raising a Healthy Child
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