The Clap

No…this is not a blog post on venereal disease. I’m talking about clapping. The act of moving your hands back and forth together in a production of noise. There’s the golf clap, the slow clap, the Friends theme song clap, even the ironic clap. You can clap with gusto and enthusiasm or half-heartedly give an obligatory clap because everyone else is doing it. A non-verbal indicator of praise and satisfaction, there are several varieties of claps, and I’m a fan of most.

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I use the clap in my classroom quite often. After students share anything they’ve written– be it an essay or journal– we clap. Sometimes when several students are sharing similar responses, we save up for one big ‘community clap’ at the end. Sometimes a student will start a clap early, resulting in a whole-class, feel-good chuckle. It’s always amusing to see that one kid with his arms poised, hands a half-foot apart, eagerly awaiting the moment the last sentence is read so he can be the first one to begin the clap.

I remember fondly when people used to clap at the end of movies. While it still happens from time to time (in children’s films mostly) it isn’t often I’ve heard ‘the clap’ at the end of other films. My husband knows, if we’ve just seen a particularly good blockbuster, that I will be that person who tries to start ‘the clap.’ He always watches in a mix of amusement and embarrassment, waiting to see if, like VD, it will spread.

Another place where I get to experience ‘the clap’ is in yoga. At the end of every yoga class, there is ‘the clap.’ Even the yoga teacher will clap, which does cause some confusion. I thought we were clapping for her. But apparently she’s also clapping for us, or maybe she’s clapping for herself too, but that seems a little too narcissistic for a yogi…At any rate, we all clap, and I love that.

Probably one of my favorite claps, is “the airplane just safely landed” clap, especially if there was a lot of turbulence during the flight. It’s as if all the passengers are simultaneously celebrating being alive. How awesome is that? For one moment, every single person on that aircraft shares a moment of thanks. Yet the last time I flew, there were very few people participating in the airplane clap, and I was disappointed. My husband desperately tried to get me to not be the clapper. “Just wait and see if anyone else claps first,” he begged of me. But I am not a lemming, and clap I did.

He tried to argue that one should only clap if the flight was particularly rough. “Landing the plane is their job. You don’t clap just because someone did their job.” But that logic fails when you consider that people clap at the end of a concert, a comedy show, a ballet. Those entertainers were just doing their jobs too, yet we clap for them. Why shouldn’t we clap for our mechanic or our hairdresser? My gynecologist might be a little startled if I started clapping at the commencement of my annual exam, but I don’t doubt for a minute that it wouldn’t spice up her workday to hear a hearty round of applause as she removed her gloves.

After all, a clap is just a way of showing your appreciation, your approval, your acknowledgement of a job well done. And that always feels good. So why don’t we clap more often? Why do we shy away from giving others that recognition?

We clap for our children, especially when they are young. Even before they can speak, they understand a clap means they did something right, and they seek to repeat the behavior that resulted in them getting that praise. We clap when they have gone potty on the toilet. We clap when they successfully build a tower out of blocks. We clap when they perform an impromptu dance in the living room. But as they grow, we clap less and less.

On social media, we have no problem liking someone’s photo or post. When we are behind a screen, we’re more inclined to show our approval (and disapproval); when we are face-to-face, this act becomes harder to do. Yet it’s those face-to-face interactions that leave an impact, that we remember.

How many times have I thought to myself something complimentary about someone else, yet never opened my mouth to communicate it with them?

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Standing at a road-side food truck, having just come from a swim and still in my bathing suit, the proprietor said to me, “If I looked like you, I would walk around in a bikini too.” She was a heavy-set woman with nothing to gain from her comment. It took me by surprise, and it offered a much-needed boost to my esteem.

Exercising at the gym, I watched two women prepare for a body-building competition. They wore lucite heels and teeny sparkly bikinis. As they practiced their poses, my eyes fell on their long, tanned legs and strong muscles. As I was leaving, I stopped to tell them, “You girls look great.” I could have just walked out like so many others, but I didn’t. Perhaps my comment fell on deaf ears, or perhaps it gave them the extra confidence to rock that stage. I’ll never know, but I do know that I felt good having told them. Praise works both ways, which is an added bonus of bestowing it.

In a world where there is so much negativity and hatred, I think we all need to spend more time spreading positivity, whether it be verbal or non-verbal in its form.

So the next time you think I really like that woman’s shoes, tell her. The next time your spouse does something you appreciate, let him or her know. The next time your spin class ends, clap your hands. I promise you, it won’t hurt a bit.

 

Something Stinks

For those of you who have read my past blogs, you will know about the trip to Hawaii my husband and I were taking for our ten-year wedding anniversary. We spent a sun-drenched week in Maui with equal parts romance and adventure. It was one of the best vacations of my life, but by the week’s end, I was ready to return home. Each day that we spent in Maui, I was keenly aware of the children around us and I was looking forward to the first morning back when my girls would climb into our bed before the sun had fully risen. I wanted to snuggle them and hold their warm bodies next to mine, give them ten thousand kisses and breathe them in.

And that’s exactly what I did.

But each time I inhaled–expecting to be greeted by that soft perfume of youthful skin and freshly shampooed hair–I smelled something else.

I smelled…B.O.

At first, I assumed it was me. After all, I had just flown on a couple of planes and traveled for half a day; arriving home after midnight, we went straight to bed. It wouldn’t be unusual if I had, say, developed a little stank in the night. I can be quite the Sweaty Betty despite wearing the strongest deodorant available without a prescription.

So I checked myself. It wasn’t the Mary Katherine Gallagher method; I just gave myself a good head tilt, lifted the ole’ arm and inhaled. I was shocked to find out that I actually smelt rather pleasant. (Superstar!)

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Yet the odor persisted. It was definitely B.O. and it definitely wasn’t me (I checked a few more times just to be sure.) And then I did the unthinkable. I smelled my daughter’s armpits … It was her!

How can an 8-year old have B.O.? B.O. was the first sign of puberty, wasn’t it? My daughter cannot be starting puberty at the same time she starts the third grade.

I mean, I buy ORGANIC MILK for crying out loud!

How is it possible that I went away for one week and suddenly my daughter is starting a whole new phase of her life, just like that?

I went through all the stages of grief in the course of that first day home: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. OK, maybe I skipped over anger, but I made up for it with a double-dose of denial.

As I have mentioned before, it takes a village to raise a child. My village mostly consists of my best friends, my mom, my husband, and the internet. That day, they were all addressed in that order.

First, I texted my friend whose children are the same ages as mine. As an experienced second and fifth grade teacher, I figured she could give me fairly sound information regarding when kids start to stink. However, when she told me her son had been wearing deodorant for a year already, I found little comfort in it. I started thinking back to articles I’d read that claimed there were links between wearing deodorant and breast cancer and worry flooded me.

Then I thought, maybe I could make my own, all-natural deodorant for her. It couldn’t be that hard, right? I’m sure there would be a recipe on Pinterest. She might end up smelling like a hippie, but she wouldn’t smell like B.O. and hopefully I wouldn’t be dooming her to a future mastectomy all because I made her wear anti-perspirant before she hit her double-digits.

Yet I had to do something. As a teacher who has spent many a painful hour only breathing through my mouth in a windowless classroom, the odor pooling around that one teenager who wears the same sweatshirt every single day even when it’s 90 degrees outside, I refuse to let my child be the smelly kid.

Meanwhile, I was still in the denial stage. I made her take a shower, hoping it was some kind of fluke.

“Wash your armpits really good…With SOAP,” I yelled to her through the shower door.

When she got out, I asked her again, “Did you wash your armpits?”

“I washed here, here, here, and here.” She pointed to her pits, the insides of her elbows, behind her knees, and her hip flexors. “All my joints!” she told me with a smile so big I could still see the two teeth she’d recently lost.

How is this happening? This is not the voice of a pre-pubescent.

Lost in denial, I tried to continue my day but I couldn’t put it out of my mind. Throwing in a load of laundry, I sniffed the pajamas that she had been wearing that morning. Yup, still there. I wasn’t imagining this, but only time would truly tell.

So after bike-riding, after lunch, and after karate, I asked my daughter to let me smell her. Lifting her arm, I took a whiff.

There it was again.

“Miss, you’re going to have to come with me.”

We marched to the bathroom and I gave her a roll-on deodorant I happened to have hanging around the back of the medicine cabinet. It was the kind that smells like baby powder.

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“You’re going to have to start wearing this,” I told her. Then, after she curiously sniffed it, I lifted up her arm and started putting it on her to show her how it’s done. She stood there wiggling and giggling, telling me how much it tickled.

She’s only eight! I was silently bargaining with God or whomever could reverse this curse, knowing full-well how futile it would be.

Later that night, after the kids were in bed and I was trying to catch up with the episodes of Housewives I had missed while on vacation, I found myself pausing the show to turn to the other part of my village: Google.

If I had to do my wedding all over again, I’d ask Google to be my Maid of Honor. When neither my husband or I could remember how close my contractions should be before heading to the hospital, I yelled to him between pained breaths “GOOGLE IT!” When I needed to decide what baby formula to buy after I stopped breastfeeding, I asked Google. Wanted to read reviews on forward-facing car seats? Google. Strange rash? Google. Even when my daughter lost her first tooth, I turned to Google. She’s only four and a half…Is that normal? Yes, Google reassured me. Yes, it is.

And there, on the internet, is where I started to find acceptance…and an all-natural, kids deodorant on Amazon.

Thanks to Google, I stopped panicking that Santa would be bringing training bras and a copy of Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret for Christmas this year. It wasn’t time…yet. Kids start to get stinky around this age and that’s just a part of life.

But my baby is growing up, whether I accept it or not. And I don’t want to be angry or depressed about it. I want to rejoice in the beautiful young lady she is becoming. I can’t slow time. For each day that passes, she grows, she learns, and she matures into the stunning girl I see before me now. I just have to reassure myself that no matter how old she gets, she’s always going to be my baby…even if it’s just a slightly smellier version.