Attachment parenting in a disconnected world

Expect the Unexpected

Sometimes you just have to go with it, right?  We can plan whatever we like, make arrangements and sort everything out in advance, and then the kids arrive… it’s all steam rollered and you kind of have to start again!
My life changed quite a bit last January (2011) when my job was no longer available to me.  Despite first reservations, it has turned out to be for the good in the long run.  It wasn’t what I’d planned, certainly wasn’t what I was expecting, but actually, so far, it’s all working out ok.  You can’t buy back the time you have when your children are small, and AltFather and I know that the benefits of me being with them at home are going to far outweigh the cost of the things that we are going to have to go without to allow that to happen.  I feel so lucky to have had this opportunity, which I know isn’t available to everyone, and isn’t the choice that everyone would make, but I love it.
Every day is full of the unusual, often preceded by a small voice telling me:
Unfortunately, Mummy…” in that funny grown up way that AltD1 has of speaking.  She’s so serious!  This blog isn’t usually all about what I have been doing with my day, but last Friday was an amazing day I just wanted to share.
AltFather had the day off work, and we made a trip to a fantastic local outdoor Lido.  Olympic size main pool, heated and sparkly, with two children’s pools, a fountain and icecreams.  If you’re ever in the area, it’s well worth a visit!  We swam and we paddled, jumped in and out, splashed and sploshed in the sunshine until our heads were heavy and our eyelids drooped [and that’s just AltFather and me!] and it was time to go home.  
AltFather fancied a bike ride so we dropped him off half way and I drove home with my sleepy girls in the car.  Small snores emanated from the back seat almost as soon as the engine started, and they carried on all the way back to our house.  And so they continued from AltD1 as I carried her in and transferred her to the sofa.  AltD2 pottered happily on the carpet.  She had woken refreshed, her batteries recharged in the manner of a Nokia mobile phone – just enough from her 15 minute snooze to keep her going for a while more.  After about an hour, the doorbell rang and slightly muddy AltFather had returned.  The girls were both awake, we were all a bit hungry, it was a beautiful balmy evening…
 
AltFather dashed through the shower, we scooped up a blanket and two small girls, popped them in the car… and headed up to the Common for fish and chips and this:
“It’s rather lovely to be going out after bed time, isn’t it?” AltD1 could barely contain her excitement!  It was spontaneous and spur of the moment, but one of the best days of the summer so far.  I’m so glad we just went with it!  Shame the late bedtime didn’t lead to a lie in the next day, but ho hum.
All too often I find myself muttering under my breath the parental mantra “This too shall pass, this too shall pass”, often in response to an explosive and passionate moment with AltD1, or a strange and unexplained babyphase from AltD2.  The thing is, it will pass, all of it, the bad and the good.  What we’ll remember best are the things like exciting evening picnics of fish and chips on the common after bed time, or the fact that Mummy was able to spend the summer before AltD2 arrived just doing stuff with AltD1. 
Even if it’s unexpected or unplanned, it might just be for the best in the long run.  Because life isthe long run, and it will all be ok in the end – and if it isn’t ok yet, then it isn’t the end!
Advertisements

Words of Love

I am working on a project for AltD2’s birthday which is coming up at the start of September.  I suppose this kind of follows on from the creativity post, although you’ll have to wait and see what it actually is.  What I want to share today has more to do with the content.


When I was younger, there was a cheesy and (usually depressing) segment on Radio 1 called “Our Tune”.  Simon Bates would read out listeners’ letters in a Serious Voice.  Soothing music would play in the background.  Invariably the couple had split up, the dog had died or some other tragedy had befallen the writer.  The feature would culminate with a sentimental, meaningful song. [Hey, wow, I just googled and discovered it is still on!]

You have probably figured out by now that I am hinting that I have a special song, an “Our Tune” I suppose (but without Simon Bates and a long-lost goldfish), for each of the Alt Daughters.  Not sure I have one for AltFather, unless you count the first dance at our wedding, which, incidentally, was Dido’s “Thank You“, and not the Eminem Stan version, you may be pleased to hear! 


So I thought I would share these songs, and how they came to be.


When AltD1 was born, we spent a few nights in the hospital, getting to know each other, working out what was what, struggling a bit with feeding, and starting our life together.  She was being fed expressed milk alternating with formula from a bottle.

‘They’ said to me:
“Someone else should give her the bottle, not you, so she doesn’t get confused.” 
My role seemed to be to hitch myself up like Daisy the cow to a turbo powered pump, and when I wasn’t doing that, I was holding a very loud small pink thing while AltFather prepared the next bottle.  In between, I would have a go at feeding her myself, although it wasn’t working very well.  She got frustrated and I got sore.  She yelled every time I picked her up.  Once, when she was sleeping, I lay on my bed and looked at her in her plastic tank on wheels next to me, and thought:
“I’m not really allowed to touch you, am I?”

It was then that a few lines from a song popped into my head:

“All I do is miss you, and the way we used to be… all I do is keep the beat and bad company… all I do is kiss you, through the bars of a rhyme…”

I was only “allowed” to touch my baby with something in between us, I felt.  The bars of a rhyme?  The plastic bottle, the swaddled flailing arms… handing her over when she got too worked up… it made me sob.  No prizes for the first to guess that this song (which betrays my soft rock roots!) is “Romeo and Juliet” by Dire Straits.
There are two other lines in that song that I couldn’t get out of my head:

“I love you like the stars above and I’ll love you till I die” (oh my goodness, isn’t that just the truth?), and
“you exploded into my heart”  I just felt that every time I looked at her, my heart got bigger and bigger!

We came home from hospital eventually, and we got the hang of the feeding and the holding and bonding.  I put Dire Straits on the CD player and played it loud (not too loud I promise) as I rocked and bounced my lovely baby.  Sometimes I played it when I was just so happy to look at her and know she was mine, sometimes I played it when the hormones were raging and tears streamed down my face as I sniffed my way through the words.  It really became a song for me and her.

One day, AltFather came home from work to find us rocking out to the guitar solo (ok, me rocking out, AltD1 staring at me from her bouncy chair).  When he stopped laughing at my air guitar he hammered the air drums alongside me, crazy fools that we are, entertaining our perplexed three month old.  He told me that on the day we were married, as he walked to the church, that song was drifting down to the street from an upstairs window in one of the houses he passed… definitely a song for our new little family.

Nearly three years later, AltD2 arrived.  I had been worried before she was born that I wouldn’t be able to love her as much as I adored AltD1.  It couldn’t be possible, surely?  Then she stormed into my life and I was bowled over.  But not immediately.  It probably took me until she was 8 weeks old or so to make that unbreakable connection.  During that time there was a song I kept hearing on the radio.  All through my pregnancy it had been rising in the music charts and getting a lot of airtime. 

It’s a Bob Dylan song, but now made famous (and sounding so much nicer in my opinion!) by Adele.  “To Make you Feel My Love”.

The lyrics are presumably meant for a lover, but they are so pertinent and poignant for a new mother, even second time around.
“I could make you happy, make your dreams come true
No there is nothing that I wouldn’t do
Go to the ends of the earth for you
To make you feel my love”  
Once again – isn’t that just the truth?  My hormone-laden self certainly thought so.  I’ve played it to AltD2, whispered the words to her in the deep dark night, and really, honestly, meant every word of it.
I would love to hear if you have special songs for your babies, or any special family members… please do leave me a comment and share the story.  You’ll have to wait until September to see the finished (I hope!) birthday project, but I hope it’s going to turn out really special.

Getting creative…

I am a little late to the party here, but over at Hobo Mama, they have been hosting a blogging carnival along the theme of Creativity.  The premise of a blogging carnival, I just discovered, is that you produce a post on a certain theme, together with a number of other writers, and all publish your pieces on the same day.  Loads to read on a specific subject, but all coming from different places.

So July’s theme was creativity, and there were some very interesting submissions.  You can find the participants on the link above.

It started me thinking about the creative buzz there is in the Alt House.  This goes way deeper than the crayons and bits of tissue paper we find stuck all over the place.  The creativity in a three and a half year old is inspiring.  AltD1 just isn’t inhibited in any way, (that is certainly true, and probably stories a-plenty for another time!) least of all when her creativity gets going.

One of my elder daughter’s favourite ways to express herself is through her crazy, crazy wardrobe choices.  We have had some interesting selections.  There was the period during which she would only wear tops and tights (in October naturally), sporting them with wellies or sandals, depending less on the weather than on her frame of mind.  We once went to do the weekly shop with AltD1 dressed in a purple tutu.  On top of jeans, with a sunhat (mine) and oversized sunglasses (also mine).  She may or may not have been wearing wings, I can’t remember.  We had a few funny looks in the aisles, but I’m pleased to say there were also a few admiring glances, too.

Someone once expressed to me that she was a little envious of her 2 year old who had gone to the library in a fairy dress.  Wouldn’t life be more fun if we all wore dress-up on a daily basis?!  Does it make a difference that the 2 year old in question is a boy?  I do feel quite proud of my friend for letting her hilarious little guy be so self-confident in his pink tulle!  She too witnessed raised eyebrows, but I hope she continues to have the same confidence as her little boy does now.

I admire AltD1 for having her own style.  She can dress herself, and she chooses from clothes that I (for the most part) have bought for her, so I can’t complain.  She is comfortable, and as long as she is dressed appropriately for the weather and vaguely appropriately for the occasion, I won’t ask her to change her outfit.  Nor would I ask her to change herself. She dresses her own way and I hope she’ll continue to do so for all of her life.  Just as I hope she won’t feel the need to be the same as everyone else in her views and opinions, nor should she need to dress the same as they do.

It’s more than just the unabashed confidence that I admire in small children, though.  They are not afraid to get stuck in.  

AltD1 loves painting.  For whatever reason, we tend not to do it at home (no child friendly paint… birthday coming up, must remedy that situation!) so given the opportunity at nursery or groups, she is straight in there, and very soon covered from top to toe.  Her favourite thing to do is hand prints, so you can guess where that leads!  Arm prints, ear prints, so on…  But secretly I would love to roll up my sleeves and squish the paint the way she does.

We are a pretty creative bunch, really, in the Alt House.  Small Person arts-and-crafts abound, with interesting shaped boxes being saved from the fate of recycling whenever castles, monsters or props for playing shop are required.  I am a stitcher and sewer, and AltFather is pretty handy with his work bench and a jig saw.  I still don’t reckon we make enough of it though. Isn’t it a shame that as adults most of us have reined in our creativity?  A three year old thinks “what shall I do today” and heads for the pavement chalks.  They aren’t worried about their skills at drawing, sometimes AltD1 decides what she’s drawn after it has come out on the page.  Actually I might apply that to dinner sometimes !  

We could all do with a bit of arts and crafts in our lives sometimes, in whatever way suits us…  just don’t get me started on the glitter!  🙂




OK TV

After a brief hiatus, Alt.Mother returns, topically enough, with a blog post on technology…

I was stunned recently when Alt.D1 turned on my laptop, clicked on CBeebies and set her favourite programme going!  She’s been pressing the pause button for a while, but whoah, that took it to new extremes… parental controls here we come!

We’ve been TV free in the Alt.House for about a year and a half now, and we love it.  There weren’t really any ethical reasons behind it, it was just practical.  We came home from a trip away during which the analogue television signal had been switched off in our area.  A couple of weeks later we turned on the TV and it didn’t work… we’d totally missed the switchover, and to coin a phrase, we thought “meh” to TV anyway.  So we gave it away and I cancelled the TV licence.  The people who came to pick it up via Freegle were delighted [recycling, see!], as were we – wow, loads of free time in the evenings instead of watching TV.  

Some people thought we were bonkers:  “What will you do?” they said. Others were concerned about our interior design scheme: “What will you point the furniture at?”

They needn’t have worried though. We had tonnes of stuff to do, and the furniture just points at each other.  Most people don’t notice the lack of big black box in the corner.  Maybe they think we have a TV room somewhere else in the palace house.

Whilst our friends and family looked on in mild amusement, either waiting for us to cave in or cheering us on from the sidelines, the TV Licensing Authority were a different kettle of fish.  When I said earlier that I cancelled the TV Licence, it wasn’t quite that simple.  Oh no.  The thing is, they really don’t believe you when you click the box on the website that says something along the lines of “I don’t have a TV”.  Are you sure?  Are you absolutely sure?  Uh, yes, thanks, I am sure!  I would love one of their inspectors to come round – what are they going to do, look under the bed in case I’ve stashed a 60 inch flatscreen Panasonic Viera?

For those readers not in the UK, I should probably explain about the TV Licence.  Here we have the BBC, which is funded by the unique method of a licence fee collected from every household which has a television and uses it to watch live television.  I never really had a problem with the licence, and I really appreciate the fact that I can watch TV without any ad breaks, (yes, NO ad breaks at ALL!).  Going TV free saves us £145 a year, but that wasn’t really the reason behind it.

Eighteen months on, I’ve just had a letter from the Powers That Be asking me to check whether I might have forgotten that I do in fact have a TV and failed to mention it to them… well I have checked, and no, I still don’t have one!

The sense of incredulous wonder is sometimes amusing when I mention we’re Television Free.  The phone company rang me, trying to sell me their TV package.  As the agent started her spiel, she asked:
“What sort of things do you like to watch on TV?”
“Oh, I don’t have one…”
“Um… err… what do you do?”  The autocue didn’t cover that one, did it?!

Anyway, so we got rid of the TV.  No biggie.  Not really “turning into hippie types” (well no more than before, anyway!)

Source: http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2010/10/06/slugs-snails-and-puppy-dog-tales-telly-addicts/
Source:  ParentDish.co.uk

But I have been thinking a bit about whether television for kids is necessary at all.  In France, they have banned the broadcast of programmes aimed at children under three years of age.  The French authorities cite concerns for the children’s development.  It’s hard to tell really, but there are now at least three generations of people most of whom have grown up with a television in their home.  I’m not sure about stunting their development, but could it be stunting their creativity?  On days when Alt.D1 has been allowed unfettered access to the BBC catchup service, the house stays strangely and sadly tidy.  While I’ve been putting a crotchety baby Alt.D2 down for a nap, her big sister stays glued to the sofa.  It does make me a bit sad.

And yet, I do feel that it’s important that the cultural references do not pass my girls by.  A friend told me once she had met a lady at a dinner party who didn’t know who Winnie-the-Pooh was.  We couldn’t quite work out how a person could get to their mid twenties and not know at least one incarnation of AA Milne’s tubby little bear.  Even without a television, Alt.D1 knew who Iggle Piggle was as a child at nursery had a cuddly one… there’s no escaping, even if we want to.  I remember fondly my own childhood television favourites, some of which can be found in online archives and most of which look really dated and low-tech now!  (Fingermouse, anyone?).  It is a part of growing up, so Alt.Father and I are not planning to take that away from our children. 

We do tend to surround ourselves with technology, though, if not television in the Alt.House.  I know that in the early days of Alt.D2, I would settle on the sofa to feed the baby, and reach for the laptop, balancing it on one end of the sofa and catching up with friends on Facebook.  My mum looked at me once, and commented that she had never even read books when feeding us as babies; she thought she had to talk to us all the time.  Well there’s no argument that it helped me to become a good talker… I wonder if my babies will be good emailers in their turn?

I recently took a break from Facebook, deactivating my account for a week so I could concentrate on preparing for a family event.  It was an odd sensation, something definitely missing.  Friends rang me, some texted “What’s wrong, hope you’re ok?”.  Strangely, I just felt relieved.  I have since gone back online, but I find I’m spending less time there, definitely for the good.

Which brings me to share with you the excellent blog of Rachel at Hands Free Mama.  I read her blog and felt ashamed of myself for sometimes shushing my children as I checked my online messages.  We live in a communication age these days, but maybe we could all just do with communicating a bit more with the people who are close to us.  And maybe that should be by talking to them!

It may be incongruous, but Ctrl.Alt.Parent is now on Twitter.  Follow me by searching for Alt Mother or #ctrlaltparent


All part of the process

My two girls are the best things that have ever happened to me, without question.  They are better than chocolate, better than sunsets, better than dipping my toes in the Indian Ocean.  They are better than watching fireflies dance in long grass after a thunderstorm (yes, that, really!), honestly better than anything I have ever experienced.  But I can’t lie to you and say that the days they were born were the best days of my life.
You can prepare yourself for childbirth, as much as you like.  You can attend classes with other parents and nod wide eyed as the teacher shows you the physical process step by step on large picture posters.  You can go to yoga classes and spend time in the company of other women all anticipating the arrival of their first child.  There are support groups and antenatal talks.  You can wince through Channel 4’s “One Born Every Minute” while you tuck into your ice-cream and onion sandwiches (no, not that, really) but until you have lived it, you don’t know what it’s like.  You just can’t imagine.
I know that some of you reading this are mothers, and I know that you might have been nodding along to that last paragraph.  But for those who aren’t, I would just like to add that everyone is different, and the arrival of every child into this world is different for the baby and its parents.  I say parents, because in my experience, the births of Alt.D1 and Alt.D2 were most definitely shared.
Alt.D1 is now three and a half years old.  I can’t write much about her birth, here.  I’m still processing it.  In fact, I think I will always still be processing it.  It wasn’t the most pleasant thing I’ve ever done, but it doesn’t affect in any way the love I feel for her, and for that I am thankful.  
I am thankful for the fact that after 27 hours, a healthy little baby girl was handed to me, and we were both ok.  The preceding time was nothing significant to me.  Hard work, sore, uncomfortable and exhausting, but so worth it.  Alt.Father was there through it all, and he still bears a lot of emotional scars from it, he would tell you himself.  
We actually did it!
It wasn’t quite what we’d planned, having rocked up at our local Maternity Unit with sandwiches packed.  Alt.Father had assumed the role of Sandwich Maker and started buttering the bread at about the third hour.  I have no idea what happened to the sandwiches in the end – I didn’t eat them, although I could insert a joke (maybe not a joke) about squashed day old sandwiches being better than the food at the Big Hospital, but hey, let’s be nice.  😉  When the contractions started, we had no idea what was ahead of us, despite the hours of classes we’d attended.  We just held on to each others’ hands and hoped it would all turn out ok.

Which it did.  So that’s alright.

But is it?  Is it really ok for me to be so dismissive of such a huge event in my life?  

Alt.D2 made a different sort of appearance.  She was speedy and well timed.  She showed her annoyance at the speedbumps on the 2 minute drive to the Maternity Unit.  Maybe she was just embarrassed that her mother had left the house in just a towel and almost without remembering to put shoes on despite the early morning drizzle!  I was out of the house for about 35 minutes before I had my second lovely girl in my arms.  She almost didn’t give me time to think about it.  For that, I am thankful, also.

So the second time around, I was asked to write up my birth story for a local parenting magazine.  “Sure.” I said, and duly typed up an account of the day’s events.  I hit “send” on the email before I had read it through, and then suddenly it was in print in the next quarterly issue.  It was weird to see it there.  My experiences put down in black and white.  It made me a bit sad to think that Alt.D1’s story isn’t written down anywhere.  I tried to write it then, but it wouldn’t come out.  “Least said, soonest mended” don’t they say?

I live not far from the Maternity Unit (hence the 2 minute speed-bump dash!), and today I pulled over in my car to let an ambulance out, blue lights flashing, anxious partner in the following car, heading for the Big Hospital.  I felt quite emotional for the woman in there.  “You can do it!” I found myself telling her, “go on, girl, you can do it!”.  Her plans were having to change, but her baby was on its way.  I hope that tonight that family is gazing at their wonderful new addition and that the blue-light frenzy is already all a blur.
Recently I have been talking to other mothers about their birth experiences.  There is so much pressure put on us to make plans and to have a perfect, natural birth, with resistance to pain relief seen as something to be proud of.  As one of my friends said, “Birth Plan, Smirf Plan” [you know who you are!].  It seems that so many of us are beating ourselves up about our birth experiences being different to what we’d hoped for. 
 
We need to talk it through with our partners, and with other mothers.  We need to process what happened, and we need to look at our beautiful children, whom we are so lucky to have, and say to ourselves:

“Whatever it was, it was worth it.”

If you found this post interesting, you might also be interested in the Blog Carnival “Embracing my Birth Experience”.  Look out for a friend of mine, Caroline, and her blog, which is featured.

Plastic Fantastic

Well we are just recovering from a trip to Legoland Windsor where a good time  was had by all!  Thinking we would be clever, Alt.Father’s sister and I arranged the family reunion outing for 12 on a training day for her children’s school.  Then they announced the bank holidays for the Jubilee, and the world and his wife decided to descend upon Legoland for the day!  Ah well, the more the merrier, I say.  Once you get over the audacious charges for everything from car parking upwards, it’s a fab day out!  Anyway we, like most of the other people there that day, had spent supermarket coupons rather than real money on our entry ticket!  In our matching Team T-shirts, we tore up the park and had an absolute whale of a time!
Lego has a special place in the Alt.Household.  Despite my rant last week at their disgracefully sexist “Lego Friends” range, Lego can do very little wrong.  In fact, it’s the main exception to the “no plastic” rule that pervades in our house.
I had never really thought about the impact toys can have on the environment before Alt.D1 was born.  I had rolled my eyes at the idea of the stacks of plastic junk in the house that “inevitably” follow the arrival of a small child.  We’d get used to it, be ruthless in handing things down, get a good storage system and live with it, I supposed.

Then I saw this video:
I watched it with tears in my eyes and determined that I would not be responsible for any more of that as far as I could help.  We already had reusable carrier bags, we already recycled as much as possible.  No way was I going to start gathering things which were destined for landfill or to be floating about on the sea one day just for the sake of a couple of years of playtime.
Plastic toys break.  Then what can you do with them?  You can’t fix them, or reuse them for something else, or even recycle them, as the plastics they are made from are non-recyclable.  They are a drain on our oil reserves, and their mass production in China means they have thousands of miles of production and distribution under their belt before they reach the toybox.

Wooden toys also break.  But any rough edges and splinters can be sanded down.  They can be repainted, glued, mended.  When they are beyond repair we can use them to heat our home!  They can be home-made, they can be produced from sustainable sources, and they can be played with for years and years, mended and fixed between generations.

So before Alt.D1’s first birthday I somewhat nervously emailed round the family saying that if they were going to buy her a present (and only IF, there were certainly no expectations!) we’d prefer not to have plastic toys.  I sent out the link to the video, and my weirdy alternative hippy request has been complied with, for the most part, for the last 3 years.  We’ve really tried to keep away from plastic toys, and we have mostly succeeded.

Yes, I know that lots of wooden toys are made in China too, many have been given bad press when their paintwork turns out to be poisonous.  Some are dull colours, some are uninteresting.  But that does not have to be the case.  Shop around, buy second hand, try making your own (little kids won’t mind, although the older ones might!).  Educate your children as to why you made that choice.  Alt.D1 knows her toys can be mended, and she’s happy with that.  
I would urge you to think about what you buy for your children to play with.  What is its lifespan?  What went into it?  Where will it go?  Is there an alternative?  There are so many beautiful alternatives out there that you may get bitten by the bug too.  We have wooden, fabric and knitted play food, wooden (and metal) cars, a wooden dolls’ house, car garage, toy mobile phone and Noah’s Ark.  We have home-made cloth baby dolls (not as scary as some of the shop ones!!), a hobby horse, dolls’ crib and push-along walker.  We recycled and re-painted a wooden scooter for Christmas (much coveted, that one, she was delighted!).  We’ve got a wooden Wendy House, and metal mini gardening tools… our girls are so lucky to have so many wonderful toys and hopefully, they will last, and be recycled when their time is up.

So, Lego is the exception to the rule.  Its unbreakable, reusable, creative qualities have earned it a stay of execution in the Alt.House.  Actually, Alt.Father is a teeny bit obsessed with it, I think he was more excited than any of the 6 children who came with us to Legoland on Friday!


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?


 

Tag Cloud