Tuesday, 19 November 2013

On Raising A Daughter, Part V: Not Sure Where I Stand on the Princess Thing

If you've been following along, I've been doing a series of posts about things I think that Dan and I need to keep in mind as we parent our sweet LB through girlhood, the teenage years, and eventually into womanhood. For the record, I haven't compiled a list of every stereotypical issue that might be encountered, but rather I'm just writing a post here and there when an idea pops into my head. I've already done one post establishing why I think it's important to do this series of posts, another on how LB doesn't need to follow societal norms re: marriage and last name, one on how I hope she isn't so insecure that she is threatened by, therefore unkind towards, other girls/women by default of them being girls/women, and the last one on hoping to install in her a sense that her definition of beauty is hers alone and it's enough.

Nothing earth shattering, but all still ideas that I feel are important.

The next topic that has entered my radar is the princess debate. I could also encompass the pink debate into this topic, too, but maybe I'll leave that one for another entry. But in speaking with other moms and watching articles pop up here and there, the princess culture that saturates girlhood is something I'm interested in and to simplify things a bit I've boiled the debate into two camps, which are: (1) "Eh, who cares. Don't over think it."; and (2) "You ignoramus! You gullible fool who is easily ensnared by society's gender trappings. YOU MUST CARE ABOUT THE PRINCESSES otherwise you are setting your daughter up for a lifetime of romantic folly and gender entrapment. Do the world a favour and get spayed!"

Recently I've been reading Born Weird a novel by Andrew Kauffman, who's Canadian (woot-woot!) and the book centres on a group of fictional siblings who have all been "blursed" (blessing which is a curse = blurse) by their grandmother with attributes that should be beneficial but are actually damning: one sister is never lost, one always has hope, another forgives instantly, etc.. I found this amusing because I think my blurse might be that I can always--without fail--see other people's point of view. Sometimes I just don't want to, but I can see it, I try to understand it even if it frustrates me beyond measure, then I get really annoyed when speaking with someone who could care less about someone else's point of view if it doesn't jive with their own. When sitting in the audience watching the princess debate, I can see the point that both speakers are making, but it doesn't help me personally wade through the issue on my own.

I have a giant book of fables that is old, old, old, and there are 365 fables within the book so that parents can read their child one every night before bed. These are fairly original fables (think Brothers Grimm styling) in that some are violent, horrible fates befall the wicked, but also some are quite sweet. I've been weeding through them as I read to LB, but one thing I have noticed without fail is that in every single story the women are always described as beautiful.

And that's it.

The men in these stories have attributes like being handsome, clever, brave, or cunning, and they are princes, kings, farmers, blacksmiths, etc. The women are beautiful, they have no occupation other than sweet princess or wicked queen (also, why is the queen always wicked?) and they serve only as a figure for the men to rescue. This is where the princess debate begins for me: the damsel in distress.

The woman who can't save herself.

Who is only beautiful.

Who is passively waiting for her 'prince'.

Her true love.

These very, very, very old stories are the princess-lore foundation upon which Disney has built its commercialised kingdom, and this is where my objection lies: none of these 'princess' traits of beauty, helplessness, and pining for love are what I want LB to preternaturally and subconsciously build her female identity on, and as a result I can understand why many parents want to shun the Disney princesses altogether.  However, in the world of make-believe I also firmly believe that putting on the character of 'princess' can be quite harmless in and of itself as long as the child's imagination isn't stunted by what someone else has told them a princess should be. (See? Both sides.)

What about Elizabeth, our favourite paper bag princess? Not joking, it is one of LB's favourite stories. She constantly wants me to read it to her, and it's a good story. Clever Elizabeth outsmarts the dragon to rescue her prince, and then in very PG language tells Ronald to bugger off when he accuses her of not looking like a princess. The final page shows her gleefully skipping alone into the sunset.

It's a strong story and it's a strong character who happens to be a clever princess.

I also acknowledge that the stories of the paper bag princesses of the world are not told as often as those of the Disney princesses: Ariel gives up her voice so Prince Eric can see her, Belle has a serious case of Stockholm Syndrome in Beauty and the Beast, and Cinderella requires a man to get her out of the attic. So, yes, this is where the water gets murky for me because what the Disney princesses represent is also present in so many other areas of society, too. In one of our local department stores I was browsing the sale racks of their kids' clothes hoping to score something for LB to grow into for next summer, and I was horrified at the messages on the t-shirts. They were written in English, and most of them went along the lines of 'Mummy's shopping partner' and 'Daddy's angel' and 'Pretty princess'. Honestly it's repulsive because in a nutshell these messages are the fairly standard expectations of femaleness that we're literally supposed cloak our daughters in: women shop, we're sweet for the men in our lives, and we're pretty.

And that's the Disney princesses in a nutshell: they are sweet, beautiful, and pretty helpless.

Yes I know this is where I'm supposed to point to Merida, the wild-haired redhead who competes in the archery competition for her own hand in marriage, but the message gets lost when you look at the competitors: there's not a single stereotypical 'prince charming' in there; they are all exaggerated freak shows. Then the story carries on to her having a quarrel with her mother and turning her into a bear.

It's a start but it's not great, honestly.

I don't want to limit LB's imagination for play and I also don't want a subconscious message that's dazzlingly packaged to influence her, either.

I guess my plan at this point is to muddle through it, without being too strong-armed. Will we let LB watch a Disney princess movie? Yes, most likely. I'm not leaning towards the 'create a limited exposure bubble' tactic on this issue. I'm leaning towards the idea that I'll watch the movies with her and make a comment here or there about how the story seems a bit silly and maybe ask her to imagine what she would have done.

Honestly, not sure.

Anyone have their own thoughts on the princess debate?


Monday, 11 November 2013

I Gave Birth To A Kleptomaniac

Before I started taking LB to various playgroups and music classes, I wasn't really familiar with the fact that children have a very strong THIS IS MINE YOU DIRTBAG, BACK OFF possessiveness about anything they can get their paws on.

Yo, that baby over there is playing with a toy I didn't even know existed until right this very second. IT'S MINE AND I WILL FIGHT TO THE DEATH FOR IT.  ROOOOOAAAAARRRR.

It was all a little alarming, to be honest.

But now I'm used to it, though Dan isn't. Dan doesn't, in fact, spend time with any children except for LB, so when we were out and about this weekend LB was toddling around with some bread and another child decided they wanted it and ripped it from her hands. LB was basically all *shrug*, "If you want my saliva soaked bread, go for it. I've got fresh stuff back at the table. I'm going to climb now." She does enough stealing from other kids that maybe this was a circle-of-life moment and she knew she'd get something later on. Or maybe the bread really sucked and she was glad to be rid of it. Who knows. She wasn't bothered though, is what I'm saying.

Dan was.

He leaned over and said, "That little bastard just stole [LB's] bread! What a prick, I'm going to get it back!"

Then I had to gently remind him that the 'little prick' he was referring to was a human that had been on the plant for maybe sixteen months, tops, and we too have a child who not only steals from other kids...but also from stores.

Yes, that's right, our blue-eyed babe likes to steal and does so with the cutest smile on her face.

So here's the deal: I was shopping at Coop the other day and parked LB so I could get my fruit and vegetables. Later on she started to fuss a bit in a her stroller and it looked like she was a bit hung-up in her Mucki sack (which is a big down-filled baby-sleeping bag that attaches to strollers so kids can stay snuggled up and toasty warm while their parental slaves push them hither and yon through all sorts of shit weather). I unzipped the Mucki sack to get her legs straightened out when behold: it was full of oranges.

I mean absolutely loaded with clementine oranges. About ten in total, all rolling around the bottom of her Mucki sack.

Oh, the horror.

I flushed pink.

It doesn't end there.

Last Wednesday I got home to discover that she was sitting on hair barrettes she'd pulled off a shelf without me realising, and today it was winter gloves.


So not only has she stolen these items and hidden them into the deepest reaches of her Mucki sack, but when I take them from her she looks at me with a fierce look on her darling face that clearly says: WOMAN, THESE ARE MINE. Step. Back.

So in case you're wondering, this afternoon I have to try and slink back into a store and replace the gloves my baby stole whilst hoping something else doesn't catch her eye. Like, say, that gold chain necklace from H&M she tried to make away with on Friday.


Thursday, 7 November 2013

Getting My Groove Back

For those of you who tune in regularly, I took a bit of an unintentional hiatus from blogging because quite frankly, I couldn't be bothered. Our LB is a walking a machine and has been since this post. She took her first independent steps the day after I hit publish on that, was a bit cautious for about the following week, then realised how fast she could go and hasn't looked back since.

It's been amazing; my heart feels blown open every time she looks at me with such evident pride on her face that SHE. IS. WALKING., meanwhile I've essentially been running to keep up with her. And, as those who are part of my inner circle know, I haven't been able to run for a long time. I can barely walk some days.

So these past few weeks have been joyous, but physically very hard for me.

This year has been hard. There's been amazing moments, yes, and of course there's always LB and Dan, but when I look back 2013 isn't going to be a year I want to remember. Actually, come to think of it, I rarely look back--too busy looking forward, which isn't necessarily better--but I definitely will not be looking back on 2013, and I realise it's not even over.

I posted here ages ago that my arthritis flared up about six weeks or so after LB was born, and it's been in a state of flare ever since. Arthritis is a tricky thing to talk about with people because it's generally assumed to be something that only effects people once they're in their golden years and their joints have had years of wear and tear. Yes, of course, that is one form of arthritis. There's the other forms though that are auto-immune, meaning your body is attacking your joints and sometimes tendons, and I have one of those forms. I say it's tricky to talk to people about because unless you've experienced it, you can't quite comprehend what it means to be in constant, debilitating pain. Yes you can imagine it can be hard, but you just don't get it. And I hope everyone reading never has to get it, because it fucking sucks. And that's been my past thirteen months.

You know that line in one of Taylor Swift's songs that goes, "We're happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time." Well, I've been tired, sore, angry and anxious at the same time. For a whole year.

The past few months got to the point where my jaw was locked shut every morning, I dreaded the first half hour of the day because I could hardly walk, and I was not able to keep up with LB.

I have cried a lot this year, but I cried a lot these past months.

A lot.

Out of frustration, anger, exhaustion, and fear. What if this is my life forever?

For reasons I won't get into on a non-private weblog, I have been led to believe I didn't have a lot of treatment options. Turns out I just didn't have a good doctor. In fact, it's possible I've had the worst doctor. I have felt like I've been cheated out of enjoying my baby's first year of life because I was so immobile for most of this past year. This doctor saw me MINIMUM twice a month for the past thirteen months, he saw me limp into his office every time, and he could have done something about it and he fucking didn't. He just kept telling me I didn't have a lot of options.

That I basically had none.

And, for the personal reasons that I don't want to share (maddening as it is, I know) I believed him. It honestly seemed plausible.

On the day before I was to fly out with LB to Canada for my grandma's birthday, my doctor basically alluded to the fact that I was the only patient he had that was my age and with this arthritis and he stopped just short of saying he didn't know what to do.

I was in tears that afternoon, but as I was leaving the next day I had no recourse to take.

The day after I got back from Canada we went to Bern's emergency clinic so that they could try and take some of the fluid out of my knees, and Internet, I swear, the Universe finally threw me a bone. It solved a problem that was only admitted the day before my trip. The doctor who treated me that first day back in Switzerland not only had the same kind of arthritis I do, but assured me that actually I have a hell of a lot more treatment options than I'd been led to believe I had and he thought I was being jerked around.

He recommended me to his doctor and I've had to tell myself that maybe that year of pain was worth it, because this guy I saw this week is good. He's the kind of good that not everybody can see. The kind of good that comes with a long waiting list that I got to bypass. This new doctor didn't criticise my old doctor, nor did he even want to know who he was, but he made it very plain to me that even with my secret-personal-not-talking-about-reasons, I have treatment options.

And I can be pain free.

And the other doctor was a fucking tit on a bull, that's how useless he is.

Today, a mere two days after seeing him, I am *almost* pain free. I haven't started treatment yet, but he's given me something to take away the inflammation until I do. I woke up yesterday and my jaw wasn't locked.

I wasn't sore.

I wasn't exhausted.

I wasn't angry.

I wasn't anxious.

I haven't felt like joking around in awhile, I haven't felt like finding the humour, and I sure as hell haven't felt like writing on this blog. I did it out of some weird sense of obligation, but I abandoned that earlier this month while I was waiting to see the new guy (who was on extended holidays) and was so sore I basically cried every day.

I wasn't about to blog.

But it's amazing what one day of being nearly pain-free can do for a person's outlook.

I feel great, and am looking forward to continuing this momentum so I can end the year on a positive note, and maybe with a few pithy social observations thrown onto here for good measure.

Thanks for sticking around, and I'll be back soon.


Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Regularly Scheduled Programming

Should be back to blogging tomorrow.

That is if I don't hear a knock at my door and find Publisher's Clearance House sweepstakes division standing there with balloons and a huge cheque.

Then I'll just post arrogant pictures of myself in places like Chanel, the Maldives, and maybe a fancy car dealership.

Otherwise, yeah...tomorrow.

Me, the blog, maybe a picture of my gutter-dive of a living room.

Ciao for now!