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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Barbies

I knew it was inevitable.

My children, when they decide to rebel, will most likely be well served should they decide to rebel by becoming Republicans...or playing with Barbies. Alexis, at the ripe old age of three and a half, has apparently figured this out and is requesting them.

We have, in our attic, a shitload of those things. They are a combination of leftovers from my sister and myself and the leftovers from Elizabeth. The ones from Elizabeth come from both her house and her father's. Suffice to say, there are a lot. A lot of plastic, perky boobs, impossibly small waists and long legs...figurines that do not in any way, shape, or form represent a real woman's body. Figurines that represent that women are nothing more than playthings, to be controlled by some outside force, even if that force is just a little girl innocently playing.

Some will tell me, "It is just that...innocent. I played with Barbies, and I am just fine!" IDK about that...there is still a lot of misogyny in this world that is very cleverly disguised. As feminists have moved above ground, the resulting push from those who would like to maintain the status quo has moved below ground. It is more insidious, more patronizing, and more harmful...an attitude of "Well, you asked for it all, and this is what you got. Happy? Serves you right for going against nature!" All the while, ignoring the fact that while women may have changed, men still have not and are still buying into the whole "It's my biology!" argument.

Some will tell me, "Barbie is a doll! No one translates what her body looks like into real life!" Really? Cause I distinctly remember thinking that Barbie's body WAS the ideal as a child. As I became a teen, I remember thinking, even at my skinniest, that I was fat. Now as an adult, I still have to struggle with a sometimes very warped and distorted, yet media-fed, image of what is beauty. I don't believe him when my husband tells me I am beautiful because I can't get past the numbers on the scale. When I see a "beautiful" woman with an "ugly" man, I wonder why but yet when the opposite occurs, I don't blink an eye. Granted, all of that probably did not come from Barbie, but there sure as hell was a starting point somewhere.

What about the measurements of Ken? He is pretty unrealistic as well. Do I want my daughter to look at men and think that that is the ideal? That to be a perfect couple, you must have plastic good looks and a shit ton of trendy stuff?

Elizabeth played with Barbies and turned out just fine. However, this was before I started to become more and more invested in learning about feminism and the insidious ways that sexism manifests itself today. I also know that Elizabeth inherited her father's build...tall and skinny, with a pretty high metabolism. My oldest daughter is going to be H-O-T, in all the traditional senses of the word.

Alexis, however, is most likely destined to be short and squat like her father and I. I can already see that she inherited her dad's short, thick legs. She is not overweight...I would like to point this out. She is actually a pretty skinny little thing, probably because she subsists on a diet solely composed of whatever minerals are in the air and three bites of whatever I served for dinner. I am actively teaching my children to make better choices about their food and making a concerted effort to have healthy foods available, as well as to make our lifestyle more active. But I also know what it is like to have an older sister who is rail thin, and to forever feel that you are compared to her. I also know that my in-laws have a really nasty habit of commenting on weight, and I will go BALLISTIC if they say anything to either of my girls. Overcoming what society presents to you (as well as your own family!) is HARD. Do I really want to exacerbate that struggle that she is going to have because of what still is yet to change?

I struggled with the princess thing...and finally reached the compromise of emphasizing the good in each and discussing the bad (I could go on and on about that, but that would be a post in and of itself...) However, short of constantly reminding Alexis that Barbie is not representative of a real woman's body and that she should not strive for it, as well as the fact that the lifestyle that she represents is a myth, I really don't know what else to do. I hate the feeling of fighting a losing battle. Someone already bought her a Barbie for her birthday last year. I know if I make a big deal of it in front of my mother-in-law she will deliberately buy her as many as she can because she is passive aggressive like that. I have all of those Barbies in the attic, just taunting me...little plastic symbols of repression and misogyny. Sigh.

I still don't know what I am going to do...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Bravery

Yesterday Alexis was telling me all about her bad day she had. While at daycare, she did not have a bar-bar (Nutrigrain bar) for breakfast, then she had an accident in her panties and Mommy forgot to bring underwear for her (oops!) so they put her in a Pull-up and I DON'T LIKE DIAPERS! (good job brainwashing there, huh? :p), then she was playing with Abby and she told her that Angel is a stupid name for a cat, then when she was leaving she did not get to say goodbye because she was being a three year old and did not want to until Daddy had just had enough of it so he picked her up and carried her out.

Holy run on sentence, but you get the drift of just how horrid her day was. Pretty heavy stuff for a three year old.

So as she was telling me this in typical Alexis fashion, all drama and histrionics, I offered her a sympathetic ear, and then a hug. And here is where she just tugged on my heartstrings. She straightened up, wiped her tears, and said, "Nah. I'll be OK, Mom." Then she ran off to play with her princesses.

When did she get so big and mature and KID LIKE? When did she learn to chin up in the face of adversity and to just keep going? I wanted to gather her in my arms at that moment and tell her that Mommy would always protect her from those days. I wanted to go beat up that little kid that hurt her feelings, burn that Pull-up and stuff her bad full to overflowing of underwear so that that would never happen again...you get the drift.

That is a promise that I can't keep though. I can't protect her from those days. I can't make life a breeze for her, nor should I. But when I became a parent (at the ripe old age of 16) the one thing that no one ever told me was that you will be forever torn in two directions. You will forever be torn between wanting to shield your child from all of the world's shit and from knowing that you are doing your child a disservice by doing so. It is hard to watch your kid have a bad day, even at the age of three. The other thing that no one told me is that it is even harder to watch your child cope with it well, as odd as that sounds. It is hard to realize that they have learned how to cope with crap, because that means that they have gone through crap. And you can't stop it from happening to them, and this goes against every instinct you have as a parent.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Consciousness

Did I spell that right? You can't spell check in the title :p

At any rate, mine has been raised. I always have identified vaguely as a feminist. Never really sure what that mean, but I thought at one time it meant not taking any of men's shit. Being one who comes from a very systemic perspective (hello, MFT program at U of A!) I am a bit surprised at how narrow my perspective was. Perhaps I have only learned what I was capable of absorbing...

I have consciously done more research about this very issue, driven both by a bit of boredom and by the fact that I have two daughters. I have learned so very much, about things like male privilege, how women today seem to think that they have it good, but really it is more just a pat on the head than any real progress, etc. I am now completely and utterly unable to watch TV without dissecting in my head all the ways that what I see objectifies women and serves to keep them in their roles, i.e., submissive to men. This has altered a lot of what I watch.

It has also been a big struggle for me. I watched Shrek 2 with Alexis for the first time today (hers, not mine). It is the first time that I saw it since I started to do my research. While there are a lot of good things in that movie, it still serves to perpetuate the stereotype that women are not whole somehow unless they have a man in their lives.

We still have a long way to go. I am proud to be a part of this movement, and to pass my knowledge on to my kids. I just worry that I am not doing my part, by allowing my daughters to play with princesses and to watch Disney and to listen to pop music. I could shelter them, not allow them to listen to it, as many fundamental Christians do. However, how will that work once they grow up? I have chosen to talk to my kids about this instead.

My consciousness has been raised. While it has shown me the errors of a lot of what I used to do, it has opened up new avenues for me. And for that, I will be grateful.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Growing

My kids are getting so grown-up.

This may seem self-evident to a lot of people. Duh, that is what children do. Dumbass. (Shakes head and walks away). But let me tell you, it totally sneaks up on you. I swear to God, just last week I was still breastfeeding both girls (quite a feat, let me tell you, since one is currently 3 and the other 12, and the 12 year old I only breastfed for a few weeks...)

Alexis actually cuddled with me today. Willingly, without being sick. She has never been a cuddler. As a baby, she would not let me out of her sight, but when I did attempt to love on her, I could almost hear in her baby babbles the "It burns! It burns!" that her father tries to get her to tell me when I kiss her now. (Noticing a theme around here with the warped-ness of our minds? Poor things never had a chance with us running the show...) As I sat in the recliner and held her, her head resting on my breast, holding her little hand in mine, I realized that there was going to come a very definite day when this would end, and that I needed to savor it. So I stopped for a minute and soaked it all up.

For me, that was huge. I am of the variety that I seriously think that the world will end if I am not doing something, or at least pretending to do something or actively doing something. I am extremely high strung and tense and living with me is not pleasant, as I have said before. I have no delusions that my children will not one day tell their therapists that I am solely responsible for their issues because, well, I probably will be. But as I sat there with Alexis tonight, I realized that I cannot remember the last time that I cuddled like that with Elizabeth. I started to wonder about that date. Did I in fact push her away before she was ready, because I felt the need to be doing something, anything? WTF is wrong with me that I would think that there could be anything more important than taking those five or ten minutes that my child needed to make her feel loved? Did I allow myself to fully relax, or was I sitting there tense, ruminating in my mind of all the things that I COULD be doing? Things that really, were meaningless in comparison to what I was doing at that exact moment.

Elizabeth in many ways has gotten a bit of the short shrift from me. I was very young when I had her...16 (almost 17, but like that makes it any better.) I was not married to her father, still in high school...so cliche a situation it makes me wince...honor student getting knocked up. There are things that I am able to do for Alexis now that I cringe to think about how I handled with Elizabeth. It is a simple matter of resources and maturity. But I was also able to spend a lot more time with Elizabeth. Granted, I was in college and worked a shit ton. However, I did not have a husband and house to worry about. I had significantly more energy. I did not have clients who sometimes sucked the soul out of me. I also lived in a more suburban area, where there were things that we could go DO.

Trade offs, I suppose. Elizabeth is simply an awesome human being. She may make me want to tear my hair out, but she truly is just a cool gal. Who knows, maybe once she moves full force into teen-dom, her issues will surface and she will do a 180. All I know is, someday I will have to thank her for being my kid and letting me screw up so much with her, because it did benefit her sister. I just hope that is enough consolation for her.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Commitment

What is America coming to when we compare buying a La-Z-Boy sofa to a long term commitment? Just sayin'....