Bookish Thursdays: Cinderella Ate My Daughter

bookish thurs 3

 

 

Summary from GoodreadsSweet and sassy or predatory and hardened, sexualized girlhood influences our daughters from infancy onward, telling them that how a girl looks matters more than who she is. Somewhere between the exhilarating rise of Girl Power in the 1990s and today, the pursuit of physical perfection has been recast as the source of female empowerment. And commercialization has spread the message faster and farther, reaching girls at ever-younger ages. But how dangerous is pink and pretty, anyway? Being a princess is just make-believe; eventually they grow out of it . . . or do they? In search of answers, Peggy Orenstein visited Disneyland, trolled American Girl Place, and met parents of beauty-pageant preschoolers tricked out like Vegas showgirls. The stakes turn out to be higher than she ever imagined. From premature sexualization to the risk of depression to rising rates of narcissism, the potential negative impact of this new girlie-girl culture is undeniable—yet armed with awareness and recognition, parents can effectively counterbalance its influence in their daughters’ lives.

I read this book in the summer…the beginning of the summer.  While I have forgotten many of the details of what I read, I do recall how it made me feel.

I encountered a spectrum of emotions actually. I can’t quite decide whether my first emotion was fear of the world in which I will raise my daughter or the all-encompassing “duh?” of what seems to be common sense…you know, like I know this stuff already because I’ve lived it and continue to live it every day.

I felt disarmed because Orenstein offers so much insight into a culture that I feel will swallow my daughter and I have no defense against it. As my dear friend (whom recommended this book) wisely reminded me (I’m paraphrasing here): “It is the crux of feminist social analysis…the problems are clearly laid out…but there never seems to be a solution”.

Once I grappled with this feeling of powerlessness and got a grip on my fear and self-righteousness, I devoured the book. It is thoroughly researched and each argument for and against girly-girl culture is well presented and supported. While my tendencies are feminist and I believe in raising my daughter with an empowered voice and sense of self, I am also the first to buy her a cute pink outfit with cute bow to match…I mean she has gorgeous creamy skin and dark silky hair…how can I not?!?

And there is the dilemma. Or the irony. Or whatever you want to call it…moms of this “post-feminist” (in quotations because can we ever really be post-feminist?), post-girl-power age have a fine line to walk. We understand the importance of looking our best and the danger of succumbing to media-fueled images of female sexuality. We understand that being true to ourselves does not always look like the cookie-cutter version of femininity. But how do we pass along this knowledge to our daughters and help them navigate the incessant messages of what they’re supposed to be in favour of just being who they are?

This book will not offer any solutions. Not a one. But it does clearly explain the root of the marketing machine and the power of the bottom-line in the hopes that our decisions for our daughters will at least be informed ones. More importantly, it really sends the message that your support and guidance are vital when she is making her own choices.

This a quick read that will get you thinking. I highly recommend it.

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She’s Here!

Literally, 2 days after my last post…which has been up for three weeks…my baby girl arrived!!!  Hence, the reason I’ve virtually vanished on-line.

Labour and delivery lasted 7 hours from start to baby in my arms and she is absolutely precious.  We have all fallen in love.  Big brother is adjusting well.  Most days he is happy and just adores his sister.  There have been days of challenging behaviour – mostly due to the loss of being mommy’s sole focus.  We are moving through the ebbs and flows of a newborn as well as we can.

There is so much to write about!  I just wish I had the time…since some feedings can take up to two hours.  Or, when there is time…then I wish I had the energy because I’d rather be sleeping since my mind is in a perpetual state of haze.  Or, if I can’t sleep, it’s because I’m spending time with my four year old…or finally getting to that mountain of laundry.

I’m lucky in that I have help.  My mother has been invaluable.  In fact, I have warned her that she may very well never go home again.  And, husband has taken on extra duties as well.

I have successfully stuck to breastfeeding (which was a nightmare the first time around, read about that here).  I will write about the experience this time around soon.  I am not pumping.  I remain ambivalent at best about the pump since with my son it was basically horrid.  So, I am my daughter’s source of food.  Which means I am up for all feedings.  I am ok with that because I really wanted her and I to learn this whole breastfeeding thing together, and once we are confident in what we can do I will attempt to pump, store milk and receive help with night time feedings.

Thank you to all who have sent messages via various avenues asking about baby.  She is healthy, lovely and an absolute joy!  My family feels complete…she is a blessing.

I cannot write daily right now.  But I will try to write weekly as I do miss blogging.

I hope you are all well and enjoyed a beautiful Christmas season.  All the best in 2014 my dear readers!

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In Preparation for A Daughter

A few months back I wrote about my decision to not find out the sex of my baby.  I wanted that “it’s a…!” moment.  I was adamant that I would not find out.  You can read about that here.

Then life happened and I was in a position where it would be best to know what we are having before baby is born. That’s when I found out that we’re having a girl!  I cried all the way home.  I would’ve been just as happy had it been a boy – my experience with my little boy so far has been nothing short of phenomenal. But, I’m sure everyone who knows me would agree, I am such a girl’s girl that having a daughter would be…well, it would be expected.

There is a little nagging voice inside me, reminding me that this news might be wrong.  I might end up with the surprise of a lifetime and give birth to another boy.  Unless that happens, I will indulge my fantasies about raising a daughter.

My mind whirls with romantic notions of the bond we will share, of passing down all of the things I’ve learned, of using my wisdom to help her navigate life and the heart to hearts we will share…but, let’s be honest…she’s going to want to learn these things on her own…and if she’s anything like me, she certainly won’t want anyone telling or “advising” her otherwise.

I think of my future daughter and I am scared that she will succumb to the pressures girls and women in the modern era face.  I am scared that I she’ll feel less than perfect because of all the images we are bombarded with about ways to improve ourselves and it is only until we are old enough that we realize that we are perfect just the way we are. I hope to validate her feelings, to help her feel a strong sense of self, to know her voice, and to know herself so well that she will be armed against a harsh world that easily brings girls down.  My mission will be the same as with her brother, I will love her and empower her; I will use the incredible support system I am lucky to have.

My mother is the strongest woman I know.  My aunts, her four sisters, are warriors with hearts of gold.  These four women have influenced me to believe in myself, to know that in the face of adversity I can and will survive.  They give love freely, they speak their minds, they nurture and care for their families.  Love, strength, resilience, and femininity is what I have learned from them.  It’s something that I see in all of my female cousins.  It is something I am proud to claim and I am looking forward to giving my own daughter – to let her know that she is not alone when she is facing the friend who gossips, the group of girls who reject, her own inner critic saying she is not pretty enough, or the boy who breaks her heart.

Motherhood has been the most challenging and rewarding experience of my life.  I have fully invested myself in raising an incredible boy and helping to guide his path into manhood.  And, now I get to do that with a daughter – you’d think it would be easier since I’ve lived it.  Precisely because I’ve lived it, it’s actually tougher.

For now, I’ll concern myself with preparing for those sleepless nights and feeding schedules.  I will immerse myself in her babyhood as I did with her brother.  I’ll hope for a healthy baby.  And, I’ll deal with the rest as it comes.

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Summer Reflections

(En español abajo)

Today begins the last week of FREEDOM.  You see, in Southern Ontario, most schools start the Tuesday after Labour Day. This is the last week of living my life without being hounded by the whiny “M-iii-s” when students are trying to get my attention.  The last week of puttering around my house, reading to my son, writing and enjoying time with my family without routines, structure or deadlines.

This school year brings even more anxiety since it marks my son’s first official year of school.  He begins kindergarten – that is wrought with its own set of nerves that I will delve into later this week.

Before I get all anxious about going back into teacher mode or thinking about leaving my little boy in a gigantic building with one teacher and one E.C.E. in a classroom of 29, 4-5 year-olds  (so much for a cap of 24 – what happened there Ontario Government?), I want to fill my soul with all of the wonderful things that this summer has brought me.  I want to envelope myself in summer memories so that the carefree summer loveliness inspires me to carry excitement into next week.  I want to be able to inspire my students to see the new school year as a chance to keep creating themselves.  I want to be able to inspire myself to do the same.

Things I loved this summer that will carry me through the school year:

  1. Watching my son vastly improve his swimming skills through daily swimming lessons
  2. Our family vacation to Punta Cana – read about it here
  3. Watching my belly grow and feeling my baby move and kick all summer long – we are in for one active child!
  4. Sitting under the shade of our huge tree in the back yard with my son as we read Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets – read how this began here (We are now onto the Prisoner of Azkaban)
  5. Watching my husband work diligently on his portfolio as he works toward achieving his goals
  6. 7 years of marriage!!! (13 years together) – I feel like I’ve “grown up” next to my husband in a way…
  7. Watching my brother coach my son’s soccer team and pass along his love for the game – I just KNOW our dad’s spirit was with us at every single game smiling on our family
  8. Feeling my mother’s love for her family, identifying with her and gaining even more admiration and respect for her ability to give, to love and foster such a beautiful family atmosphere
  9. A family trip to Grand Bend, Ontario with tio and dear friends – we picked the coldest week of the summer and ended up having a great time!
  10. Visiting friends at the cottage – watching my boy (who is now “the BIG-4 mommy” because he is 4 and a half) develop friendships, roast marshmallows and make S’mores – sharing time with friends
  11. The Power Puffs!!! My friend’s husband mocks our network of friends because we are constantly talking, emailing, texting and inventing some kind of excuse to get together.  He claims we are too emotionally charged with each other’s lives.  We claim that our friendship is what keeps us sane.  Anyways, I love being a Power Puff.

No shots of husband…he’s a little blog-shy.

These are but a few snippets of what summer has brought me.  I am blessed and (reluctantly) looking forward to the beginning of a new school year, because that means I get to do this all over again, with an addition to the family, next year.

What has summer left you with this year?

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En español

Hoy comienza la última semana de la libertad. Usted ve, en el sur de Ontario, la mayoría de las escuelas comienzan el martes después del Día del Trabajo. Esta es la última semana de vivir mi vida sin ser acosado por el quejoso “M-iii-s” cuando los estudiantes están tratando de llamar mi atención. La última semana de estar tranquila en mi casa, leyendo a mi hijo, escribiendo y disfrutando del tiempo con mi familia sin rutinas, estructura y plazos.

Este año escolar trae aún más ansiedad, ya que marca el primer año de mi hijo de la escuela. Comienza en jardín- pero esto mis sentimientos sobre esto los voy a profundizar en esta semana.

Antes de ponerme ansiosa por volver al modo maestro o pensar en dejar a mi niño en un edificio gigante con un maestro y una ayudante escolar en una clase de 29 niños, de 4-5 años de edad (tanto por un tope de 24 – que pasó allí Goberino de Ontario?, quiero llenar mi alma con todas las cosas maravillosas que este verano me ha traído. Quiero rodearme de recuerdos de verano, para que la belleza del verano sin preocupaciones me inspira a llevar la emoción hasta la próxima semana. Quiero ser capaz de inspirar a mis estudiantes a ver el nuevo año escolar como una oportunidad para seguir creando ellos mismos. Quiero ser capaz de inspirar a mí mismo a hacer lo mismo.

Cosas que me encantaron este verano que me van a llevar a lo largo del año escolar:

  1. Ver a mi hijo mejorar en gran medida sus habilidades de natación a través de las clases de natación diarias
  2. Nuestra familia de vacaciones en Punta Cana – leer sobre ello aquí
  3. Ver crecer mi vientre y sentir a mi bebé moverse y patear todo el verano – nos espera un niño activo!
  4. Sentarme a la sombra de nuestra enorme árbol en el patio trasero con mi hijo para leer Harry Potter y la Cámara Secreta – (Ahora estamos en el prisionero de Azkaban)
  5. Ver a mi esposo trabajar diligentemente en su portofolio para el logro de sus metas
  6. 7 años de matrimonio! (13 años juntos) – Me siento como que he “crecido” junto a mi esposo de una manera …
  7. Ver a mi hermano como entrenador del equipo de fútbol de mi hijo y pasar su amor por el juego – Sé que el espíritu de nuestro padre estaba con nosotros en cada partido sonriendo sobre nuestra familia
  8. Sentir el amor de mi madre por su familia, identificándome con ella y aumentar aún más mi admiración y respeto por su capacidad de dar, amar y promover un ambiente familiar tan hermoso
  9. Un viaje familiar a Grand Bend, Ontario con tio y amigos queridos – aunque fue la semana más fría del verano, disfrutamos y tuvimos un gran tiempo!
  10. Visitar a los amigos en la casa de campo – viendo a mi hijo desarrollar amistades, asar malvaviscos y hacer S’mores – compartir tiempo con los amigos
  11. Los “Power Puffs”.  El esposo de mi amiga se burla de nuestra red de amigas porque estamos constantemente hablando, mandando correo electrónico, mensajes de texto e inventando algún tipo de excusa para reunirnos. Esta amistad nos ayuda a mantenernos sanas.

No hay fotos de marido … es un poco tímido para aparecer en el blog.

Estos son sólo algunos fragmentos de lo que el verano me ha traído. Estoy bendecido y (a regañadientes) esperando el comienzo de un nuevo año escolar, porque eso significa que tengo la oportunidad de hacerlo todo de nuevo, con una adición a la familia, el próximo año.

¿Qué te ha dejado el verano este año?

Old Homes, Gardens and Women

courtesy: kjmcountrygardens.com

What is it about gardens and broken down homes that they are so readily included in women’s literature….chick-lit….chick-flicks?

When I read Alice Walker’s book of essays In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens, I was struck by the number of books I’ve read or movies I’ve seen around this theme:  Wildflower Hill, The Forgotten GardenThe Physick Book of Deliverance Dane Under the Tuscan Sun (which I love) – to name a few.

Why is it that artists love to envision women bringing a barren piece of land to fruition?  So many stories involve bringing a garden or an old home to life, and in doing so, a woman finds herself, or is healed and becomes whole. The female protagonist will hammer and dig her way to a new life.

I wonder why we love to associate these ideas with womanhood and with a woman who is lost?

Maybe it’s the romantic notion that women nurture life.  Women give life.  We take care of something fragile, meet its needs and allow it to flourish. 

Maybe we’re so bad at taking care of ourselves, that the only way we can do it is when we trick our minds into believing that we’re taking care of something else and inadvertently, we end up taking care of ourselves (but, don’t tell us that – we’ll stop all the crazy refurbishing and planting immediately).

I wonder if our voices get so lost as we grow that we have to bang them out when we are adults?  Regardless, it does seem to be a beautiful process of rebuilding oneself.

Do you love the imagery of a woman restoring herself by restoring a garden or an old home?  What books have you read around this theme that you recommend?