It’s Not All Mary Poppins

You Toucha My Daughter, I Breaka Your… Face

When I was a young married with a baby girl, our daughter’s father would joke that she wouldn’t be allowed to date until she was 35. Well, 30 if the prospective boyfriend was a member of the royal family. I’d laugh at his little joke, but it always annoyed me just a bit, though I wasn’t sure why. (The fact that it was feeble and repeated waaaaay too often didn’t help, but it was the actual content of the joke which bugged me.)

Not too long ago, some commenters on a blog I was visiting were speaking of the future dates of their infant girls. A couple of the daddy-types came out with the typical Big Protective Daddy comments. “The first guy to stick anything in her,” said one, “and I’ll stick something bigger into him.” (Charming, no?)

Here’s a thought that most parents of very small children don’t really understand: One day, you will be the parent of an adult.
Think about that for a sec. Your baby will one day be an adult. And you will still be the mom or dad. This is good, of course. This is why you strive so hard now – so that your child will one day be a fulfilled, contributing, card-carrying member of adult society.

It’s a long way from here to there. No surprise you can lose sight of the reality of the end goal. And how does we get that baby from totally innocent, helpless dependent, to fully-functioning adult, anyway?

Well, we don’t get them there by pretending that our children, boys and girls, will never be full adults, adulthood which includes sexual maturity. Just like learning to walk, learning to potty, developing language, gaining judgment and capacity for abstract thought, there is a developmental curve for sex and sexuality. This process takes years, of course, but eventually, children will become sexually mature adults.

As a parent, I have to accept that at some point, when he/she is ready, my child is going to have sex. All we parental types are still somebody’s kid, after all, and we’re all having, or have had, sex. Sex is normal, it’s inevitable, it’s healthy. (You know what? I’ve heard tell it’s even fun!!) Optimally, it will happen at the right time, with the right person; it will be respectful and caring. Optimally, it will be their choice. For both our sons and our daughters.

My baby girl is now almost twenty-one. I’d be a fool to pretend she’s not an adult in all senses of the word. I’ve been watching and guiding her passage into adulthood for a few years now. She’s a young adult – she’s got a lot of life, living, and maturing ahead of her (though she’s a very mature young woman for her age). She still needs my guidance from time to time. (And is now mature enough to actually seek it out!) Still, she is an adult. How can I be a resource to her as she manages this area of adult life if I’m pretending she’s still seven years old? If I deny her an active role, disallow her right to choose whether, when, and who – how does that help her?

Okay, now we’re coming to the crux of this post. Why did that stupid joke, why do those ‘protective daddy’ comments exasperate me so? Because they are based upon the assumption that females are passive recipients of sex. Females have no drives of their own, they have no sexual volition. They make no choices. If they are having sex, it’s because someone required it of them.

“My daughter couldn’t actually want to indulge with her boyfriend!” these parents wail. “It must be his idea, the filthy creep.” Well, I hope for your daughter’s sake that this isn’t true. I hope that the sex she has, happens when she’s ready, that it is joyful, respectful, mutually desired and mutually satisfying.

Just like you want for yourself.

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Updated to add related link: Talk Sex with Mary
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© 2006, Mary P

October 14, 2006 Posted by | controversy, my kids, parenting, sex | 25 Comments

When is a Book Not a Book?

Little Anna loves to open and close doors. Open, shut, open, shut, open, shut. She can stand in front of the cupboard, happily entertained for eight or nine minutes at a stretch. Open, shut, open, shut. She loves to lift and drop the flaps on the play table, lift up, set down, lift up, set down. She can while away large chunks of time opening and shutting boxes, turning light switches on and off, flipping the straw on her cup up and snapping it down, over and over again. This is all evidence of a single fascination, very common for her age. Any guesses? A single fascination. All these activities have one thing in common.

Hint: They’re all _________*.

Today we read a counting book. No, ‘read’ is the wrong word. I started out reading it, assuming that’s what Anna wanted. Silly me. Not that a page of a counting book takes much reading – especially ‘one’ and ‘two’. ‘Nine’ and ‘ten’? Now we’re getting into serious pre-toddler reading. But even on the very first page, Anna was not about to wait for me to finish blithering on about windmills and the colour of elephants. Puh-leeez!

“One elephant. See, Anna? One big, gre–.” Whoosh. New page. Okay, then. “Two windmills. The windmills ha–” Flip. Three. Flip. Fou– Flip. A whirlwind tour of one through ten. Puppies, dollies, tractors, and whales. Flip, flip, flip. Then some agitation on Anna’s part, until Mary got with the program and started from the beginning again.

Flip, flip, flip, flip, flip. Back to the beginning.
(Five ‘flips’ because each ‘flip’ has two numbers.)
Flip, flip, flip, flip, flip. Back to the beginning.
Flip, flip, flip, flip, flip. Back to the beginning.
Flip, flip, flip, flip, flip. Back to the beginning.
Flip, flip, flip, flip, flip. Back to the beginning.
Flip, flip, flip, flip, flip. Back to the beginning.
Flip, flip, flip, flip, flip. Back to the beginning.

Thirty-seven times through the book.
Thirty-seven times.
One hundred eighty-five flips.

When is a Book not a Book?
When it’s a *Hinge.

Flip,
flip,
flip,
flip,
flip,
.
.
.
.

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© 2006, Mary P

October 12, 2006 Posted by | Developmental stuff, Mischief | 11 Comments

Nigel’s Language is Taking Off…in All Directions

Nigel approaches me as I sit reading, both babies in my lap.

“Whass daaa?”

“You know who that is, lovie. You tell me. Who is that?”

“Teemee!”

“Right! And who is this?” I jounce the baby on my other knee.

“Banana!”

Note to self: perhaps use the nickname a little less…

Nigel is reading a book to himself, a constant stream of babble/chatter filling the room.

“Fuck! One fuck! Too fuck!”

Guess which is his very favourite book?

“T-rrrruck, Nigel. Trrrruck.” Amusing as this is, I feel obliged now and then to try to guide him to the paths of politically correct enunciation.

“Ffffuck.”

“That’s right. Truck.” Not that I try too, too hard…

Nigel attempts to turn the page, but the book is large and its cover slippery, and it slithers to the floor.

“Oh, dammitahehww.”

I consider once more donning the mantel of Political Correctness Arbiter, then decide against it. Once is enough for now. After all, his brother was even worse! And he outgrew it. Eventually.

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© 2006, Mary P

October 11, 2006 Posted by | books, Developmental stuff, individuality, Mischief, socializing, the things they say! | 14 Comments

New Post on PiP

Mary waxes wise about choosing daycare. Check it out if you’re interested.

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© 2006, Mary P

October 10, 2006 Posted by | parenting, Partners in Parenting | Leave a comment

Happy Thanksgiving!

We’re celebrating in non-traditional style here. The husband is off to a cottage to enjoy some peace and serenity and Very Traditional Plumbing. The boy went off to his dad’s girlfriend’s for turkey dinner. The big girl will have Thanksgiving Dinner with her aunt in the city in which she attends university. The younger (but still big) girl and I spent a couple of hours reading on the sun-filled porch, our chairs facing each other, feet resting in the other guy’s chair. Then we went out for highly traditional nachos and salad.

I am thankful for time and space and serenity. For children I love. For a wonderful man.

Today we will lounge around, do a little housework, visit some friends, sit on the porch and watch the leaves fall.

Which is exactly what I want to do.

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© 2006, Mary P

October 9, 2006 Posted by | commemoration, holidays | 9 Comments

Inexplicable…

A bit bleary today. Not a lot of sleep last night, and poor quality what I got. Tired… Which is why the title of this post is to be hummed to the tune of ‘unforgettable’… “Kettle drummer! I say, kettle drummer!” This in plummy upper crust British accent… “Do you know ‘That’s What You Are’?” —

Oops, sorry, am I still awake? And typing? Sorry, sorry… (Why do babies so often fight naps? Don’t they realize a nap is a Gift from Heaven?)

Reading today. Trick or Treat Countdown, by Patricia Hubbard, illustrated by Michael Letzig. A good counting book: fun graphics, items clearly laid-out, easily picked out by a toddler’s eye and dimpled finger, and a jouncy, bouncy rhythm to the words. Nigel sits on my lap to enjoy it for perhaps the fifteenth time this week.

“One haunted house groans.”

“Wha’ss daaaaa?”

“A house. See, it has a funny face.”

“Two tall tombstones moan.”

“Wha’ss daaaaa?”

“Stones.” I take his pudgy hand in mine and plonk his finger on the pictures as I count. “One, two, sad stones. Stones with sad faces.”

“Three green witches cackle.”

“Wha’sss daaaaa?”

“One, two, three witches.” More finger-plonking. “Three witches, see, riding their brooms. Four dried leaves crackle.”

“Wha’ss daaaaa?”

“Leaves, Nigel. One, two, three, four leaves. Those are oak leaves. Big, brown oak leaves.”

“Wha’ss daaaa?”

Okay, tombstones, haunted houses and witches might be a bit outside his experience, but leaves? We’re knee-deep in fallen leaves, play in them most every day. I try for less automated, more thoughtful participation.

“Oh, you know what it is. You tell me. What’s that, Nigel?” I give him a squeeze, tap one of the leaves.

“Be-gup.”

“Leaf. It’s a leaf.”

“Be-gup.”

Idiosyncratic pronounciation? I’d have expected ‘yeef’. But begup?

“Five jack-o’lanterns gleam.”

“Wha’ss daaaa?”

“Pumpkins. Those are a kind of pumpkin. You take a pumpkin, and put a face in it, and it’s a jack-o’lantern.”

“Wha’ss daaaa?”

“You tell me. What is it, Nigel?”

“Be-gup.”

Hmmm. “Sick scarey skeletons scream. What is this, Nigel?”

“Be-gup.”

“Seven ghosts whisper ‘Ooooo’. What is that?”

“Be-gup.”

“Eight goblins shout, ‘BOO!'”

“Be-gup.”

“Nine scarey monsters?”

“Be-gup.”

Ten werewolves? Eleven bats? Twelve cats?

Be-gup. Be-gup. Be-gup.

“A shivery, shivery, shivery scene,
All make-believe on Hallowe’en.”

“Be-gup.”

“Bless you.”

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© 2006, Mary P

October 6, 2006 Posted by | books, holidays, individuality, random and odd, the things they say! | 8 Comments

Unexpected Ally

Nigel is saying “please”! And “thank you”! Routinely – and with a smile!

How, you may ask, did Mary achieve this, so quickly? So painlessly? So effectively?

Fact is, Mary didn’t.

Remember our 23-minute standoff? Nigel is one very smart and even more tenacious little dude. He did not, as many – most! – children would, take that experience and decide, “Hm. Mary does not cave like I expected. Perhaps this means Mary is not to be trifled with.” (Because toddlers do not hesitate to dangle their prepositions when necessary.)

Many children would have begun to take this lesson. Nigel did not. Instead, Nigel decided that his response to the struggle would be to cease speaking to me when in the high chair. At. All.

“Hey, sweetie! Want some apple?”

Silence.

“My, you drank that water quickly! You must be thirsty. Want some more?”

Silence.

“Malli is using blue paint. Would you like red paint, or green?”

Silence.

“Everyone else is having a cookie. Want one?”

Silence.

(Oh, but meantime? Meantime, is parents are all excited. “Hey, what have you done to Nigel these days? He’s suddenly morphed into Polite Boy. ‘P’eas’ and ‘gank oo’ and ‘toe-wee’ and ‘kooz me’ all over the place!”)

It is clear I am being punished. I can handle this, though. I don’t even have to get into it directly. This one is easy: no Good Thing will happen in the high chair until there are Words Spoken.

“Everyone else is having a cookie. Want one?”

Silence.

“No? Okay, then, away you go and play.”

No second chances. He can stand and watch the others eat their cookies. This was a total set-up – I hardly ever give the kids sweet treats: that’s the province of their parents.

He stood and watched the others eat their cookies, but he did not whine or fuss. He took the consequences of his silence on the chin. Gotta love a kid like that, but I could see this was going to take us a while.

Enter Malli.

“Hey, Malli. Would you like some more asparagus?”

“Yes, please.”

“Oh, Malli! What Good Manners you have. You said ‘yes, please’, just like a very big girl. Good for you!” Malli gets a hug. And more asparagus, which she loves. Nigel takes all this in.

“Nigel, would you like some more eggs?” Not asparagus for Nigel. He eats those things on sufference, but scrambled eggs? Loves ’em. It pays to pick your motivation carefully.

“Eggs.” Hey! A word! A spoken word! From the boy in the high chair! But I’m not stopping yet. I may be pushing my luck, but I’m sticking to my principles here.

“Can you ask nicely, like Malli?” Big warm smile at Malli.

A slight – very slight – pause. I hold my breath. “Yes, eggs, please.”

HA! And that’s it, folks. The wall of silence had been breached, never to return.

Peer Pressure is My Friend.

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© 2006, Mary P

October 5, 2006 Posted by | food, manners, power struggle, socializing | 14 Comments

Baby Delights

Don’t you just love:

– the way a baby stretches when they’re woken? The bent arms by the scrunched-up face, and the arch of the back that makes their little bottom so round? Particularly effective if the child is wearing a onesie*, and you can see the pudgy thighs beneath the lil round bottom. What is it about that stretch that melts you, every time?

– baby giggles?

– the intensity of focus a 10-month-old requires to bang a spoon on a pot, or clap hands, or wave?

– the way a 12-month-old’s fingertips juuuuust barely touch over the top of their heads? On a good day?

– the smell of a baby, warm and a wee bit sweaty, from a nap?

– baby fingernails the size of a sesame seed?

– baby babbling that almost, but not quite, makes sense?

– toddler dancing? Mini elephants with itchy bottoms on speed. “Don’t dance too close to the CD player, lovie, or it’ll ski- it’ll ski- it’ll sk… Here. Dance over here.”

– teeny tiny toes, viewed from the bottom, tiny pink spheres clinging to the sole.

– anything you’d care to add?

*A term I picked up from American bloggers only in the past year or so, but it’s so cute!

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© 2006, Mary P

October 4, 2006 Posted by | commemoration, Developmental stuff, individuality, quirks and quirkiness, the cuteness! | 28 Comments

Helpful Public

An old post from the draft files. (Anna’s having a clingy day, and her yelling woke Timmy early from his nap, so he’s unusually cranky…)

————-

Out with the tots today, taking a bus downtown. As you enter the bus, each side has three seats in a bench arrangement, facing the centre aisle. Behind these sets of three are pairs of seats, facing the front of the bus. I set myself in the rearmost seat of the three on the side. One child is snuggled to my left on the bench, one is in the seat immediately to my right, facing the front of the bus, tailor-sitting in the seat on the aisle. The third is in the umbrella stroller, tucked in the gap between my seat and the child in the front-facing seats.

(A diagram would be helpful here, I’m sure…)

We have travelled fifteen minutes or so, chattering away, the three of us, when the woman across the aisle leans over to speak. I’ve noticed her watching, but as she never returned my smiles, I’ve tuned her out. It takes a couple of attempts before I realize that she’s telling me I need to move the child on the aisle to the window seat. She’s afraid that, when we go around a corner, he’s liable to fall into the aisle.

We’ve turned lots of corners and he hasn’t teetered in the slightest, but she is insistent. Where her English fails her, she supplements with lots of gestures and a fair bit of volume. If I thought she would understand my response, I might attempt to reassure, but I now understand that the reason for her lack of smiles was stern disapproval, so maybe not.

“Arthur,” I say. “This lady is worried that you might fall. She thinks you should sit in this seat.” He slides over. The woman nods, her mission accomplished, says something – and I don’t like the tone of voice – to her male companion, and gets off at the next stop.

“Arthur,” I say. “You can move back now.”

PHBHBHBHBHTTT!

October 3, 2006 Posted by | our adoring public, outings, the dark side | 7 Comments

Further Musing on Banned Books

I did a little searching to see if there was a Canadian equivalent of the “Banned Books” list. (In fact, that name is a bit misleading: the books were on the list because they were challenged; many (some? most? all?) of those books may not ever have been actually banned.)

The Canadian list I found was much more informative: not only the titles and authors were cited, but the reason for the challenge and, when available, its outcome.

I discovered that it was very rare for the challenge to result in the book being withdrawn from the class, store, or library. (This is good!)

I discovered that many books were challenged by a single person. Hmmm…

You know, if one wing-nut writes a letter of outrage to a bookstore owner, I don’t really think he or she constitutes a serious threat to literary freedom. There’s a very industrious fellow in my town who, every weekend morning, distributes hundreds of sheets of paper, closely filled with WARNING TO GOVERNMENT LEADERS AND HEADS OF STATE AROUND THE WORLD… RECENT MEETINGS EXPOSE THE MYSTERY GENEVA… THE WTO WANTS SMALL AFRICAN COUNTRIES… WARNING TO CEO… THERE IS NO RECOURSE FOR THE UNDERPRIVILEDGED…CEO CORPORATIONS USE LEGISLATION ADVANTAGE… SEVEN PERCENT OF REALITY IS IN MY HEAD…

Every weekend. Hundreds of sheets of paper, tucked on windshields of parked cars for blocks and blocks in the downtown. He’s angry, that’s clear. He doesn’t think much of people in authority, and seems to hold capitalism in some disregard. Sometimes it seems he’s trying to rally the people to rebellion. At the very least, he’s an ecological threat, but does anyone put him on a published list of threats to peace and stability? Course not. He’s just one nut job, and a pretty harmless one at that.

So, to find that a good number of items made the Canadian list because of one letter of complaint to one bookstore is a little disconcerting. I suppose a serious threat can start with one person; if that one is organized, focussed, diligent. It would depend on the community: will they rally round or ostracize? One unsupported person, forever on their own, is no threat – just the local eccentric.

I further discovered that a fair chunk of them made the list because a parent or group of parents felt they were not age-appropriate. Of course these is room for abuse here. Parents could rally around and decide their sixteen-year-olds should not be reading books about puberty and sexual maturity. But that’s not what I found.

One example that poked me in the eye was that of a book on date rape – which was being used in a GRADE FOUR classroom. Now, those of you who’ve been reading me for long enough will know that I’m very relaxed about sex and sexuality, and I’m able to talk with my children about it freely – at a level appropriate to their capabilities. Date rape? With 9-year-olds?

If my child had been in that class, I’d have been having a conversation with the teacher, too. If it had been a grade seven, maybe even a grade six class, that wouldn’t be troublesome to me. But grade fours are prepubescent, largely. Most of them still think the other sex is “icky”. Dating is not really on their horizon yet, sex even further, and the nasty possibilities of dating/sex impossibly remote. Their first “date”, which will probably not occur for at least a couple of years (if their parents have any sense at all) will likely be done in a group. A bunch of them will go somewhere, and the couple’s dating-ness will be evidenced because they’ll hold hands during the outing (though maybe not when their friends are looking). So, yes, I’d have trouble with that book being raised with my 9-year-old. Does that make me a “book-banner”?

So now I’m wondering: how many titles on the list I posted yesterday got there by similar means?

To me, book-banning means an intelligent effort (not the ravings of a random individual) to have a particular text banned from public consumption. It’s trying to control what other people think. So, if people are lobbying to have a certain book completely prohibited in bookstores and libraries across their city – that’s book-banning. If a single person manages to badger a bookstore owner into removing a volume from his shelves, that’s book-banning. A person who writes a single letter which is either ignored or responded to politely is a would-be banner, but doesn’t deserve the list. A parent who says “I don’t want my child reading this book for another couple of years” is not a book-banner. At all.

Book-banning is real. It is wrong. But please, let’s be accurate.

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© 2006, Mary P

October 1, 2006 Posted by | books, controversy, parenting | 14 Comments