Bookish Thursdays: Cinderella Ate My Daughter

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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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Bookish Thursdays: Reading With Your Child

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My son has been looking at books since he was four months old (read more about that here). My daughter is now doing the same. It is the most special time of the day to have my baby on my lap as we read the alphabet, count to ten, or flip through a cute and cuddly touch and feel board book. Or to laugh out loud at the antics of Captain Underpants as my son now proudly takes on some of the reading himself.

It is the book-lover in me and the English teacher in me that drove me to instil a love and respect for books in my son and I hope to continue that with my daughter.

There is something about reading that teaches us to slow down, to appreciate the written word and to use our imaginations in ways that modern society does not challenge us to do in our every day lives.

The importance of reading to children and babies is firmly supported by a plethora of journals, researchers, parenting websites etc etc etc.

I do not pretend to be well versed in this research – but, I do know that as a mother of two my heart is warmed by my son’s excitement when we discuss our favourite parts of a book and  my 7 month old’s little fingers grasping at her book when I say “turn the page”.

I admit that as an English teacher, I am aware of the connection between being a good reader and being able to inquire, research, deduce, create and write well. So instilling a love of books is as much about their education as it is about loving the written word. This is easy for me because I love reading. But what about those adults who don’t? If you’re at a loss for how to give your child something that you may lack, but you know is important, here are a few tips that might help:

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They deprive me of sleep, push me to the borders of irrational rage, squeeze every last bit of patience out of me – but when we sit to read everything dissolves around us. My children and I willingly lose ourselves in the magic of the words and pictures.

Love for reading is a gift that will last forever. Teach it with passion. Give it with abandon. Your children will thank you.

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Mommy Mondays: Second Time Around

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When I became a mother for the first time it seemed like I was constantly on high alert. I was stressed about my baby boy’s sleeping (or, non-sleeping) habits. It was all organic, home made foods. I rushed to wash his hands, change his clothes or his barely used diaper whenever a hint of germs or spit up or whiff of foulness was detected. My radar was sharp. I missed nothing.

I would invariably catch the attention of a more relaxed mother, perhaps on her second or third child, who would smile (condescendingly? nope, I think remembering her own hysteria) and say “he’s your first…it’ll be so much easier with your second”. I would nod and laugh and say something short like “I bet” while groaning inwardly.

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The blissfully relaxed smiling face would say “You’ll be so much more relaxed with your next child” and I’d say “I guess so.” But what I really meant was:  ‘Really? You mean you can see my anxiety-ridden shoulders that are practically in my ears and my tight smile that is about to make my cheeks explode?”

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Mother of Year would say “You’ll worry less with your second”. No response. Just a head nod as I would think, “Mind your own f***ing business because if I decide to have a second I’m not going to let that child swim in their own shit, be covered in vomit and drag themselves all over the grocery store because I’ve learned that babies/toddlers are tougher than we think.”

Ahhhhh. Even though there’s nothing worse than someone belittling your present experience because in the future it’ll seem like a trifle, I know that they all meant well.

Well, I’ve had my second child. And, while I still strive to give my daughter the same attention and care I gave my son…it is different.

Am I more relaxed? Yes, but not in her care. I am more confident in my abilities to care for her and to read her. I don’t necessarily find her easier – it’s more that I don’t feel like a baby-idiot any more.

I accept that the intentions of those mothers who were trying to help me relax with my first baby were good. Don’t we all love to impart the lessons we’ve learned to ease the hardships or trials of others. Except it doesn’t really work that way. We learn through our own experiences. Period.

I’ve been a mother to two children for three months now.  So, how have I changed my approach to motherhood as a consequence of my experiences?

  1. I will carry and hug and kiss and cuddle my children as much as I want. They grow fast and I will never, ever have this day with them again. I want my children to look back at their childhood and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they were loved.  And even if they do get a little spoiled with hugs and kisses…better that than feel less than important.
  2. When my baby cries I will pick her up. If my baby needs to fall asleep in my arms, she can.  If she wants to sleep with me, she can…because her brother did…and now he’s fine and sleeps independently…well not since his sister was born (but that’s another story)…and I doubt either of them will require to sleep with us when they’re adolescents…
  3. If I am in any way feeling irritated or less than patient, it is better to wait a few minutes before tending to my children. A deep breath, a moment to myself will help me be there for them without feeling exasperated.
  4. I can leave my baby in her play pen to simply take in her surroundings, check out her toys, get to know her hands and the sound of her own voice. I am not neglecting her because a baby does not require constant stimulation.
  5. I know that dirt won’t kill them. I get it that it is good for their bodies to be exposed to germs. I know that rolling around on grass, kneeling in soil, playing in sand, and jumping in mud puddles should be done with abandon. And, afterwards it should be thoroughly cleaned off. I cannot leave them dirty or in dirty clothes for long. Making the memory is awesome…smelling the memory, not so much.
  6. I will now approach my first born with the same confidence that I do my second born. My experiences with my son will always be a first for me…it’s not fair to him that I muddle it all up with anxiety to then breeze through life with my daughter.
  7. Babies just want to feel loved and protected. All the extra stuff that marketers wish to push down our throats … it doesn’t matter. The same goes for older kids too.
  8. Everything else can wait.
  9. My health matters. I will take care of myself because I hope to be with my children throughout their journey. As my son loves to ask me, “Mommy, how old will you be when I’m 100?”

Now that I’m doing this for a second time…I’m still on high alert but my shoulders are squared where they should be. These are a but a few ways…if you’re a first time mom and these help you out, great! If not, revel in your anxiety and worry…should you choose to do this again, the anxiety will magically disappear. However, I would never dream of telling you so.  

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Bookish Thursdays: My Son’s Life In Books

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For the past 5 years my husband and I have been adamant about instilling a love for books, an appreciation for literature, a mind that thinks beyond the screen in our son. And, so, my son’s books could very well stock a day care, preschool and library. No regrets on the money spent on books or the fines on overdue books. We are left with rich memories of bedtime stories, rainy day tales and early morning reading when it was way too early to be up and about.

Age 0-2 years:

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These were some of our favourites. I exaggerate not when I say I read Good Night, Sleep Tight every night for 2 years. Every. Single. Night. We even took it on holiday. At 3 he was able to recite most of these by rote. I recited them in my sleep. By seven months he knew what “turn the page” meant and loved flipping to the next part of the story.

Age 2-3 years:

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We graduated to more sophisticated, longer reads. He loved reading about his favourite television or movie characters. The best part was giving life to the characters with different voices and intonations. Oh, and we read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas well into July.

Age 4 – present:

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This phase of his reading began with Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone (Read about that here). It was love at first word. He was hooked and now LOVES chapter books. We read them to him, and now that he’s learning how to read he helps with the reading too. It is incredible to see his brown eyes light up with delight, joy, laughter, curiosity, intrigue…as we read each book and listen to the plot unfold.

My son’s journey through literature has been exciting, fun and adventurous. There is nothing we love more than cuddling up to a great read. I can’t wait to see where his journey takes him next.

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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