Tuesday, 25 June 2013

On Raising A Daughter

I am going to do a series of posts about what sort of things I think that we (as in Dan and I) need to be conscious of, for raising our baby girl. I'm not going to pump these out, bang-bang-bang, but I will likely, here and there, have a post that will fall into this category.

I realise that not everyone believes there's still an equality gap between men and women, but I don't happen to be one of those people. Furthermore, I recognise that men also have social expectations placed on them that are difficult or impossible, but for now I'm  only raising a daughter so it's going to be the female side of this coin that I'm talking about.

Onwards.

Over the years I have heard many, many times (being one of three daughters) people tell my parents, 'Oh, poor you! Three girls!' to which my parents always replied, "Why poor us?" For some reason there is a prevalent belief that girls are more 'difficult' than boys.

Boys are easy, girls are challenging.

There's a million ways I could rip this comment to shreds but I'll stick with one counterpoint, which is that historically girls were always supposed to be 'proper little ladies'. Sure boys were expected to eventually become gentleman, but they were allowed to be rough around the edges up until some future--moving target--age where they would then magically put boyhood mischief behind them and fall into step with society. Girls were traditionally supposed to be ladies from the beginning: playing with dolls, having tea parties, sitting quietly and not making a raucous because ladies don't draw attention to themselves.  But is it realistic to expect someone to not want to run and shout, when out their window they see their brothers being allowed to do this?

It's not.

So maybe girls have been perceived as more challenging because they were expected to behave in a way that is like trying to force a square block in a round hole. They were challenging their parents because their parents (and society as a whole) put them in a challenging position to begin with.

I don't like this expected role.

Too bad.

Also, let's not forget that you shouldn't loosen the reigns too much because then your daughters will get pregnant. Obviously.

I don't think that LB is going to be challenging to raise by default of her being a girl. I think that raising a kid is challenging in general, but I do think that it's going to be our responsibility as parents to raise LB in such a way that all of the subtle messages about 'women's roles' will not lay any faulty foundations for her femaleness. That we will provide her with the tools to build her own strong foundation of female identity, so that she can stand fast against the bullshit that relentlessly whirls and attacks women.

And it can be subtle, Internet. So subtle.

Here's a recent example:

I like to read Hollywood gossip, and last week I was reading a popular celebrity magazine that had  an article comparing the names of the babies recently born to Channing Tatum and his wife Jenna, and Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. I'm not quoting the article verbatim but the general idea was, "Channing Tatum, the sexiest man in the world, gave his daughter a beautiful name! How could Kim Kardashian give her kid such an awful name?!"

So in this article Channing Tatum's wife is not credited for her input into giving their kid 'a beautiful name' and Channing gets all the credit. Kanye West isn't lambasted for participating in the naming of his kid, but rather Kim Kardashian is held solely responsible for choosing 'an awful name'.

That's subtle, and maybe you think it's too subtle to support my point. I'm reading too much into it.

I'm not, but here are some points that are less subtle:

(1) Women didn't get the vote in Switzerland until the 1970's, and one particular Canton didn't allow women to vote until 19-fucking-90 when the federal court had to step in and tell them to get-fucking-with-it. It was only in 2004 that paid maternity leave was approved. That's just Switzerland (in reference to the world), and that's just legislated equality. It doesn't even touch on the deep-rooted beliefs of what a woman's role should be.

(2) I've been told as recently as three years ago that I was 'smart for a girl'; I've been told men have no business doing housework: only women and 'gays' should do it; I've been in a room of teenage boys (when I was a teen), and they all made super inappropriate jokes about my breasts, as though I wasn't sitting there (and I wasn't, long after that); I've been told someone's craving a woman's touch...to bake them a pie.

(3) In high school, graduating year, I remember being in the math room getting some extra help and I started chatting with a peer (we weren't friend-friends) while the teacher looked over our worksheets. I asked her if she was going to university the following year, and she told me she wasn't allowed: she was getting married in two years so until then her parents told her she had to stay home and learn how to cook and keep house. That was 1999. In Canada.

(4) When I was trying to focus on a career direction, and was enamoured with veterinary medicine, I started working in a vet clinic under the supervision of a male vet. One day as he was neutering a standard white poodle he told me point blank, "People don't like female vets. They have a tendency to get pregnant."

A tendency to get pregnant, Internet. Like it's that fucking easy. Oh damn, touched that guy's hand as I gave him his change back. Shit, guess I'm pregnant again.

I walked out of there immediately and in a couple of weeks started working with a female vet who did, I assure you, have a very healthy practice despite being, you know, a woman.

(5) This year I learnt of an acquaintance who is my age and highly educated, but her parents have not allowed her to practice in her field until she gets married. She's been working for the family business since graduating.

So, yes, Internet, I happen to believe that the role of women in society is still a hot topic and if you feel squirmy that I'm talking about it...good. There are definitely going to be times in her life when LB is going to be made to feel inferior, confused, ashamed, afloat, simply because she's a girl. It would be nice to put on my rose coloured glass and say, "Nay, it will be different by then", but come the fuck on. People are people are people. As recently as this week a high profile celebrity said that 'of course' she's used racial slurs; parents out there are still shunning their kids when they tell them they're gay; women in some countries and cultures are still being killed by their own families because they've 'dishonoured' them, somehow.

I can't change the world, but I can make a difference to how capably my daughter walks through it.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Vanity Sizing

Dudes, I totally think that vanity sizing is applicable to baby clothing.

Check it:

It has come to my attention that some people are very proud of having a child that is taller than other kids its age. As you'll recall in my 'Close Encounter With An Asshole' post, I did note that LB is currently a touch taller than other babies her age. She's a bit taller, but not a lot. Don't get the wrong idea that I'm mothering an exceptionally tall ten month old. I want to be very clear on this. Are we clear? Cool.

Alright, so one of my favourite things to do when I hear random conversations in English is to eavesdrop on them. I am an eavesdropper and proud of it! Okay, maybe I'm not proud of it but by god when I hear people speaking English I like to turn up the volume on my satellite hearing and listen to what they're talking about. The other day at Starbucks I overheard two moms talking about their littles. These woman didn't know each other (I'm assuming): I think they struck up a conversation in the coffee line because they were both talking to their kid in English and, 'Hey! You speak English! Let's talk to each other even though we don't know each other and it won't be weird!"

One mom asked the other how old her kid was and she replied, "She's seven months."

"Oh, I have such a hard time judging how old babies are because my guy was so tall," the other mom replied with exceptional pride. "My go-to guess for other babies is always four months."

Then she laughed while the other mom sort of didn't, they both picked up their coffees and I lost interest as I started pondering how proud this woman was of having a tall child. I have learnt, since becoming a mom, that people are really proud if their kid is in the 90th percentile for height and weight, and I've interpreted a dichotomy about this pride: She's really tall so naturally that means she's super smart and already an exceptional go-getter! She's growing above average!

Of course there's also relief in this too, in that 'Awesome, my kid is meeting their milestones for physical development. Phew.'

But here's my take on it when people tell me their kid is taller than average: unless that kid walks up to me and looks me in the eye and you say 'I'd like you to meet my six year old', then I don't think your kid is tall. They are still a Shorty McShorty in my book.

Another instance of a parent being very prideful about their kids' physicality is an instance I remember from way back when. It was in class, and the professor was telling us all--with a Cheshire cat grin on her face--how her daughters were 'the most deliciously fat babies, but today when I dropped them off at school and watched them play with their friends I noticed that they are definitely the tallest and slightest girls amongst their friends.'

Barf.

That statement was straight up vanity if you ask me and here's what she really meant to say:

I had "deliciously" fat babies because babies are supposed to be roly-poly round little dough balls but now that they're tweens they are tall and thin because even though I'm teaching a feminist class I am still an incredibly vain woman who's hung up on looks and everyone knows that tall, thin girls are more applauded than short, round ones.

Truth.

So you know what, Internet, I think that clothing manufacturers have picked up on parents' feelings of satisfaction of having an 'above-average' kid and they are vanity sizing baby clothes. THEY ARE. LB is wearing clothes for a 12 month old and she is NOT tall enough to be mistaken for a one year old. Sure she's a bit taller than other kids her age, but not so much that she should be wearing clothing that is a full three months 'older' than her calendar age.

I think this because most of the kids in the tot group I go to are wearing clothes for an age that is older than their calendar age, and I find it very hard to believe that this should be happening to so many kids. I'm convinced that some study must have found that if parents realise that they're buying clothing that is meant to fit older babies, then they get these happy 'my kid is amazing' endorphins and buy more.

I'm convinced.

(And my Baby H&M bill from last night has nothing to do with causing me to ponder this post. Nope.)
 

Friday, 14 June 2013

Feel Free To Pin This*

I was talking with some moms last week about what their littles' favourite toys were, when they were around LB's age. Mostly out of curiosity, and also because oh man the toy stores around here rock so hard and it's all I can do from running in there and cleaning them out. I already have a list of things I want to get her for her birthday and Christmas, plus another list of things I just want to buy now and keep in a closet until she's old enough to play with them.

Trust me, I know it's both fiscally and imaginatively imprudent to get her too much stuff but it still doesn't stop me from having fun day dreaming about the cool Haba blocks I want to get her for Christmas, and the Haba dolls, and the rocking horse. Okay, we're totally getting her the rocking horse for her birthday. We are both crazy stoked about this! And there's a four wheel ladybug that kids can sit on and push themselves around on, and there's a certain little ladybug in our house who has a 99.9% chance of finding this under the Christmas tree.

Toys are so fun!

But anyhow, back to my original point (which I kinda sorta negated), which is we are going to be careful not to inundate her with too much. Too much, while temporarily fun, has no worth. Also, right now LB's favourite toy is a book.

So there's that...

And also, yes, she's so our kid!

Specifically she's crazy about a board book that my sister bought her for Christmas. That timeless classic Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

 
Lillian's Family Book Lillian's Family Book Lillian's Family Book Lillian's Family Book

Her favourite thing to do with the book is to flip the pages, bend it backwards in half (which actually physically pains Dan, since he is one of those people who reads a book in such a way that the spine won't crease), and chew on it. She has, in fact, consumed quite a bit of Brown Bear, Brown Bear as you can see.

So back to chatting with moms.

One mom mentioned that her daughter's favourite toy was a buggy book (a book that attaches to the stroller) that had different cartoon faces in it. Her kid was gaga over this.

It gave me an idea.

Why not create my very own book of faces, using family pictures?

So I did.  I went through all my photographs to find close-up pictures of all our family, I printed them out, put them on pieces of card stock, taped over the card stock with clear packing tape (to avoid the aforementioned gnawing and consuming of book), attached everything together with a binder ring, and voila, LB's very first face book (not to be confused with FaceBook).

 
Lillian's Family Book Lillian's Family Book Lillian's Family Book Lillian's Family Book Lillian's Family Book Lillian's Family Book Lillian's Family Book

All of her grandparents are in here, both her uncles, all of her aunts, and even all the family pets (except for Jax and Chaz...sorry Meg, I had no photos of them! But the photo of Uncle Ryan is really good!).

And that is your kiddy craft of the day.

I will accept all applause...now.

*I am not crafty. Pinterest often leaves me feeling confused. Why are there pictures of decadent desserts pinned right next to pictures of faceless people's ripped abdominal muscles? And why are all kids' birthday parties themed, with cutesy food? Where's the giant bag of Doritos emptied into a relic of an old plastic bowl, with everyone outside getting dirty and just playing? Why is there an urge to make everything be pretty and staged, now? Though full disclosure, I'm totally going to hang some paper pom-poms for LB's birthday.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Close Encounter With An Asshole

For every one super lovely and amazing encounter I have with a stranger, I have about ten not so-awesome encounters.

Let me share the most recent one.

The worst part about having such a cute and charming and friendly baby (see what I did there?!) is that people want to talk to her all the time. Then they talk to me. Then I sweat profusely because, oh damn: I have to speak German now. (Side note: Since LB's birth I have met some amazing moms. Who all speak English. It's the best. Ever.)

Today we were at the bus stop and this very elderly lady slowly approached, walking with a cane. Then she stopped at LB's buggy and LB flashed her a huge smile and reached her arm straight up into the air as if to say: "I'm superhero cute! Notice and interact with me!"

Damn that kid.

That trick works every time.

Every time.

Old Lady With A Cane (henceforth known as OL) was not exempt from my baby's trickery and then she said, in a booming voice that I never would have imagined could come out of such a small and bent frame, "HOW OLD IS SHE?"

"She's nine months old, ten months next week."

***

Here's where I'll interject to say that LB is currently taller than other babies her age, and she gets this from her Dad.

I am just scrapping in at 5'5, so while I'm not short I am decidedly average.

Let's continue

***

"TEN MONTHS OLD?!"

"Yes, that's right."

"SHE'S SO TALL. AND MOMMY IS SO BIG."

What. The. Fuck.

Whatthefuckityfuckfuck!!!!

Then OL cackled with laughter while everyone else at the bus stop looked away in horror, because
whatthefuckityfuckfuck!!!! I wanted to kick out her cane. For realz. Super hard, too.

Damn, people can be so rude. Especially the ones with canes. Like did they just get to a certain point when they thought, "I'm old. I don't have to be considerate anymore. I'll just say any damn thing that comes to mind and I could give two shits if it hurts someone's feelings or not. It's my god given right as an OL."

Meanwhile my pride was smarting and I wanted to shout at her, in the same tone deaf voice, I'M WEARING A BILLOWY TOP, ASSHOLE.

 

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Just Imagine

Okay, so you remember how babies put EVERYTHING into their mouths? Like, how they taste test every little thing from a cat's tail to the toilet brush (please don't ask me how I know the latter because it might cause me to pass out again, and I've only just now recovered--seven days later).

Imagine people never grew out of this taste testing phase?!

Like OMG can you even imagine it!!!

Scenario 1:

You're strolling through Ikea and you like the look of their apartment modular that's been kitted out to look like people really can live in a space that's nine feet by nine feet.

I like the look of this wallpaper. I will lick it, but first wait for this man in front of me to finish sampling it.

That mirror is nice. I will try and stick the corner in my mouth.

I like this chair. I will try and force my mouth around the arm.

Hold-up. That woman is wearing some bitchin' shoes. Don't mind if I do, but I'll just lick them.

Do I like the spatula that's on display in this model kitchen? Only one to tell: I'll taste it.

Scenario 2:

You have A Very Important Job in a Very Tall Building. You are hosting a Very Big Meeting in the Very Grand Conference Room. It's time to meet people.

I like your tie. I am going to lick it.

Before we shake hands, first I will put your finger in my mouth.

You have a nice computer. I will taste it.

Your hair is shiny. I will yank it hard, then eat it.

Love your necklace. Gold tastes nice.

Your investing proposal sounds good, but I will only make my final decision after I've chewed on the paper it's printed on.

Scenario 3:

Grocery shopping.

Should I buy this apple? Lick. No. Put back. This one? Lick. No. Put back. This one? Lick. No. Put back.

***

I mean guys, basically in this hypothetical world people would wander around like zombies tasting everything.

Imagine a street view where to your left is someone licking the lamppost; straight ahead someone else is eating their bus ticket, while their friend tastes the money in his wallet; over there is a guy yanking up grass and shoving it in his mouth; further down the road is a person with a mouth full of rocks; the woman who just drove past you has her mouth over the steering wheel, while her passenger is busy sucking on the seat belt.

I had to share this with you because I've been imagining it for hours and it makes me laugh.