Attachment parenting in a disconnected world

Archive for May, 2012

Sky Blue Pink

Now that I have two daughters, I have “a licence to be pink” apparently.  Before Alt.D2 was born, I would look at the two options available in the shops and sometimes choose the one that would be more socially acceptable for a boy.  Alt.D1 wore a lot of red and green as a baby!  I always had half a mind on her future siblings, anticipating the re-use of articles by a baby brother who might not be too chuffed to be seen in a bright pink duffel coat…
Except actually, I’m not a “pink” person.  Don’t get me wrong, I think pink is a pretty colour, just as blue, purple, orange and green are all pretty colours.  I just never felt the longing for pink baby clothes that many of my friends have expressed.  I can’t understand the obsession that modern society seems to have with “pink for a girl, blue for a boy”.  Why?
A friend of mine took her 4 year old son to buy new shoes in readiness for his first day at school.  Having been measured, he waited for the shop assistant to bring the shoes for him to try on.  He looked sadly at the proffered footwear;
“But I don’t like black and brown, Mummy, I like pink and purple!”  He was eyeing up the “girls'” section and looking so doleful that his mother wondered whether she could actually get away with humouring him and buying purple shoes for school.  She decided not to.  Later, she expressed a little sadness that she had to feel the pressure to conform.  
None of us wants our child to be picked on or ostracised, but I have often deliberately chosen the “less girly” of two items, feeling as I have done so that I just want to give a kick and a prod to whoever it was that decided our society should be thus divided.
When did it start, though?  Pink used to be a colour for baby boys in Victorian times, but by the time I was growing up in the 1980s, it was definitely for girly girls.  But, at the same time, we still had this:
    
  I love that image!  She’s so proud of her lego thingummy, a truly unisex toy, and what she’s wearing?  That’s what I wore in the 1980s, too.  Mine were probably handed down from cousins (girls) or family friends (boys).  But my mother probably didn’t even consider “were they girly enough?”.  Oh, and shame on you, Lego for your new, super sexist “Lego Friends” range.  It makes me want to puke!  Yes, I do feel that strongly about it, don’t click on the link if you’re in any way averse to saccharine sweet… and as for the poor body images, don’t get me started!

I recently needed a red top each for the Alt.Ds.  Plain, short sleeves, red.  I looked around the large shops in the Big City.  I noticed they ALL had boy and girl sections, but none had any “unisex” for children over 6 months.   Surely it’s not just mothers of girls who are struggling here?  What if you have a boy and you don’t want to dress him in sludge brown or sensible navy blue?  You’re scuppered!  Make your own instead.
So, I have been following the brilliant website “Pink Stinks” and their campaigns against popular media and businesses that dumb down, exploit, stereotype and limit roles for young girls.  They see the effect it’s having on boys, too, of course:  our children are growing up in a world where career advice is being dished out by a nauseatingly fluffy fairy, whatever next!?!  [Felicity Wishes]  Butterfly House Attendant?  Ballerina, Cake Baker?  How about Lawyer, Civil Engineer, Teacher, Medical Physicist, Farmer, Mother, or any of the other jobs undertaken by any of the real women that my daughters actually know?  Nope.
Take a look at the Pink Stinks campaigns – even if you don’t have girls, I’m sure you will see their message.

Alt.D1 started nursery two mornings a week back in October.  By Christmas, she was refusing to wear trousers.  I took it up with the staff, who looked perplexed.  Later in the week, one of the nursery teachers reported back that she’d observed a group of girls playing dressing up.  One of the boys wanted to join in, but another child had said “You can’t, this is for girls…” None of these children is over 4 years old, and they already have this idea so ingrained!  I was shocked, but then not surprised at Alt.D1’s confusion over her wardrobe!

Thankfully, the wardrobe dramas are now minimal.  As long as she is dressed appropriately for the weather and the activity, I don’t mind what she wears (and we have had some very, um, interesting, combinations, too!  Someone recently commented that her choice of clothes is what makes Alt.D1 who she is.  Absolutely.

She can choose pink if she wants to, just as she can choose any of the other colours.  Today she went to a party dressed as a mermaid (I was sad to veto her first choice of TIGER on the grounds it has been 35 degrees here for the last week!) and she had a great time.  Later on in the afternoon, she was running barefoot in the woods climbing trees with a little friend, and getting so excited she might burst at the prospect of a ride on a minature live steam engine.  Whether she wants to be an engineer, explorer, or in fact, a mermaid, she will have our blessings and encouragement (“Mummy, are mermaids wild?” – today’s unanswerable question!).  
Besides, mermaids are green, not pink, right?

There’s loads more I could say on this issue, and probably will, at some point.  What are your thoughts?


 
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Touching tales

The Alt.Family have been away for a while, taking some time out in the rain!  A very wet holiday, and uexpectedly without an internet connection… so, belatedly, here is the post that you should have had last week!This video has been doing the rounds of facebook over the last couple of weeks, but just in case you haven’t seen it yet, I want to share it with you now:

The baby in that film is so relaxed, there’s no question she is enjoying all the sensations she’s experiencing; the warm water, the gentle touch of the nurse.  I have never made the most of baby massage with my two, but having seen this, I wish I had done.  There’s so much to be gained from the experience, for the parent as well as the baby,  I would think.
The skin is an amazing human organ, passing all sorts of messages to the brain.  Touch is important for babies and children (in fact for all of us, who doesn’t like a hug?) for so many reasons.  In fact, Deborah Jackson dedicates a whole chapter of her book “Three in a Bed” to the importance of touch.  She points out that before birth, the child and its mother communicate solely through touch.  They rely, she says, “on physical contact for information”.  Yet when a baby is born, we are almost afraid to touch it.  We are blinded by the apparent fragility of the newborn, and need to be reminded that this new little person has never before been “untouched”.  
How scary that must be for them, how alone they must feel!
 
I suppose this builds a little on the idea of wearing your baby in a sling, thus mimicking the sensation of being inside the womb.  The baby feels secure, snuggled from all sides, and is happy to sleep and wake, and feed and sleep again, in something resembling its own familiar environment.  It really is like a massage from all directions!
When Alt.D1 was born, she was whisked away from me to a rescuscitaire on the other side of the room.  She’d been distressed during her long and uncomfortable journey into the outside world, and they needed to check her over.  I needed stitches, I was still uncomfortable, but I was aware of the importance of skin-to-skin contact for my new baby.  I suggested perhaps she could have that contact with Alt.Father, whilst I was being attended to.  I was met with a confused look from the midwife.  The baby was wrapped up so as not to be cold, and she waited to be put on my chest when I was once again sitting.  I felt a bit cheated, although she was nice and clean and not slimy.  She hasn’t suffered through not having had immediate skin-to-skin contact, as far as I can tell, and we’re a very cuddly household (as you can probably imagine!) so hopefully we have made up for it since.  
Alt.D2’s experience was different, in that she was delivered straight into my hands and up onto my chest (very slimy, that one!).  I held her for a while, and then Alt.Father held her, also skin-to-skin, while I bathed and had more stitches (don’t ever ask me about my stitches!).  Then we attempted biological nurturing, where the baby finds its own way to its first feed.  This was with limited success, but all the while giving Alt.D2 constant contact.  We weren’t hurried to dress her immediately, and we all loved it.
I read a passage in “Three in a Bed” where the author describes being encouraged by writer Jean Liedloff to hold her young daughter up by her ankle.  I tried it with Alt.D2 (about 6 months old at the time) and she loved it!  She absolutely howled with laughter, grinning and dribbling upside down into her hair.  I mentioned it to Alt.Father, who looked a bit sideways at me, but later admitted he’d tried it with her at bedtime, and conceded that it did seem to make her very happy (weird child, loves being upside down!). So maybe we should be a bit braver in how we handle our kids.  I should probably put a disclaimer in here, shouldn’t I?  People, be a bit careful, use your common sense, but have a good giggle – remember how much you used to love dangling head down from the monkey bars?
 
There has been much research into the health and healing benefits of touch.  Kangaroo Care for premature babies has yeilded amazing results.  This technique was introduced in the early 1980s in Columbia, a country suffering from high infant mortality rates.  The babies were placed inside their mothers’ clothing, against their chests, where they remained for 24 hours a day.  Similar methods, where babies born early or with low birth rates are held by parents or carers for several hours at a time, have been introduced in many hospitals around the world.  It’s hard to believe that premature babies were once kept away from the touch of their parents and nurses in the belief that risk of infection outweighed the benefits of physical contact.  

It seems that it works both ways, too.  The touch of her baby was enough to rehabilitate Australian coma sufferer Emma De Silva, whose husband and family had been told there was almost no hope.  Their incredible story can be seen here.  Get the tissues handy before you hit play, though!  What an amazing testimonial to the power of touch.

 

Normal service will resume…

The Alt.Family have been away from the furthest reaches of WiFi!  Normal Service will resume shortly – and look out for a bonus post mid-week.

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