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Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

When I was pregnant with my children, I used to wonder if they’d have my eyes, or hair colour. It didn’t really occur to me that more than that would get passed on, which is short-sighted of me, as it all got passed on to me.

I have (among many other things) Restless Leg Syndrome. It basically means my legs twitch uncontrollably at times. Sometimes my left arm too. Annoying – sometimes very – but not life-threatening. Turns out, according to Consumer Reports, only 3% of the population have it. My mother has it too, as has one brother, so I never felt that weird.

A little while ago, I happened to be sitting with Asher as he fell asleep. He kicked his feet as he faded off, and continued to kick in his sleep for a while. He did it the next night too. I then asked him about it, why he moves his legs as he goes to sleep. He said, “I just need to move them or it feels weird.” And on it goes. I feel kind of bad about that one.

I bought a pill organizer that is comprised of 7 small containers that screw together, one on top of the next. They are all different colours and come with the days of the week on labels to place on them. As I labeled them, I commented on my irritation that they didn’t have the right colours for me to use. “I need a brown for Monday,” I said, mostly to myself.

Another quirk – I have a form of synesthesia called grapheme, wherein you experience the days of the week and, for some people, the months of the year, as having an inherent colour. In my case, Monday is brown. Tuesday is blue. Wednesday is yellow. And so on.

I had no idea everyone didn’t have this until I read an article on it somewhere. I asked my family about it and they all made it clear they thought I was insane, then tried to trip me up by asking me at different times what colour various days of the week were, to see if the colours changed.

So I was kind of delighted when, after I commented on Monday being brown, Maya said, “Monday isn’t brown. It’s green. Use this container.” We compared our days and agree that Tuesday is light blue and Wednesday is yellow, but our days and months are different colours. We had fun arguing over them.
I told her how weird she is, which she did not appreciate. The days and months are so inherently colourful to her that she cannot imagine that other people do not experience them this way.  I said, “Go to school tomorrow and ask your friends what colour Monday is, and see how many know what the heck you are talking about.” She said, “I will! And they’ll say it’s green!” “Brown!” “Green!” “Go to bed now.”

She not only has my eyes, she has my grapheme. And on it goes.

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When Maya was born, J’s entire extended family showered us with gifts, which was very nice of them. Several people gave us ruffly pink dresses and those pink headbands you put on naked baby heads so everyone knows you have a girl. We got pink sleepers, t-shirts, jumpers saying, “Little princess.”

I wrote out thank you notes and then took everything but the sleepers to a consignment store. I could not bear to put them on my baby, especially the dresses, which J and I called baby armpit warmers.

As she aged, I put her in dresses and girly things – black dresses, blue dresses, green dresses. No pink. Most of the non-dress stuff I got was gender neutral in case I had a boy next time. That was my excuse, anyway.

We have no Disney movies, so Maya had limited ‘princess’ exposure and it never caught on with her, to my great relief. When someone gave her a viciously pink book of Disney princess stories for her birthday, I nudged it under the couch the moment she was distracted by the next toy and she never saw it again.

She soon asserted her independence, of course, demanding only shirts that demonstrated some sign of femininity, like flowers or hearts. She feel madly in love with Barbie and much as I hated them, I figured making them forbidden fruit was worse.

So she got girly. But at least she wasn’t princessy. For her 3rd Halloween, she went as a biker chick, with a faux leather jacket from her aunt and wee cowboy boots from a friend.

Asher came along and loved pink more than Maya. Perversely, I was happy to dress him in the pink sleeper. Then I steered him towards gender neutral stuff too, not wanted him to be abused by his peers. He had his own dolls (named Sam and Sleeping Baby) and wore nail polish, but I managed to distract him from the bright pink raincoat he was set on with a colourful but less pink umbrella.

I don’t just hate pink because people have irrationally assigned it to only one gender (oddly, in the 1800s, the colour was considered to be too strong for girls and was almost exclusively for boys). I just don’t like it.

I weakened a bit when Boo was born, because she had dark hair and looked pretty nice in pink. Limited, non-ruffly pink.

Despite the fact that we still don’t have any Disney movies, she found out about the princesses. I have no idea how. That’s the problem with the third kid – you have no idea what’s going on with them, even when they are little.

Last year, she wanted to be a princess for Halloween. Maya has been a witch, a ghost, a unicorn, a cat and a biker chick. Asher has been a wizard, a witch, a magician and a vampire. I sighed and told myself that at least she didn’t want to be a specific princess, like Cinderella, and bought her a cheap blue costume dress.

This year, she has decided on being a fairy princess. She already has the pink wings, but the blue dress is too small.

The other day, I was in the Children’s Place and saw this:

dress.jpg

It has that gauzy stuff underneath to make the skirt stick out all the time, like they do with wedding dressed (and which I took off mine), and you can’t see it well enough, but the front is all this brocade-type patterning. It’s really quite well put together, and it was on sale for $15.

I ignored it and went around the store collecting $3 skirts and $7 pants, and brought the entire pile up to the cash, where I spotted a knight’s costume for the same price and decided to get it for Asher, who is sick of being a wizard.

Then I stood in line and stared at the princess dress. I hate pink and I hate princesses, but Boo loves pink and princesses and as far as pink princess dresses go, I recognized that this was a good one, and for a good price too. I knew I could find her something I hated less and that she would like, but I also knew that she would love this dress.

I sucked it up and bought the dress. It isn’t me dressing up for Halloween, it’s her. And she was just as happy as I imagined she’d be when I showed it to her. She put in on immediately and wanted to wear it everywhere.

So there you go. It took me 11 years to slide all the way down that slope from giving away all the pink gifts and forbidding my mother-in-law to buy anything that colour to voluntarily buying my kid a pink princess dress. Now she’ll never be Prime Minister.

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I was listening to Sounds Like Canada on the CBC this morning as I puttered around (for the Americans, CBC is our version of NPR). The host, Shelagh Rogers, was interviewing several women about a book they contributed, called Nobody’s Mother. It is about women who have chosen not to be mothers. It sounds like a fascinating book. The conversation certainly was.

I found the topic so compelling I wrote a letter. (It isn’t the first time, but I don’t do that often, either.) The gist of it was that I wish more women would make the same choice.

I really wanted kids. I always wanted kids. I wanted them so much that I was convinced something would go wrong when we started trying to have kids because somehow the fates would punish me for wanting it that much. I was very lucky. And yet, I find this job exhausting. Having kids is tough work, mentally and physically. Little kids are boring much of the time. Big kids can be remarkably cruel. None of them come with a manual and most parents I know live in fear of messing up, because messing up means ruining a life. Erk! The pressure.

One of my brothers, A and his wife K decided against kids long before they got married. Many people (but not those of us in his direct family who knew him well enough not to be remotely surprised) thought he’d outgrow it. Their decision was dismissed by most people as immaturity for as long as they could get away with that, but now that A and K are heading solidly into their 30s with no sign of wavering, the ‘immaturity’ label is getting old. The ‘selfish’ label just keeps on working, though.

These are two very productive members of society. They have good jobs, they volunteer. As vegans, wearers of organic clothing and careful recyclers, they step more lightly on the earth than most Canadians (because really, once you have kids, who has the time?) They are great with kids and their nieces and nephews, who despite not getting to see them for months at a time because they live across the country, adore them.

I have a sneaking suspicion that many of the people who attack my brother and sister-in-law for their choice and try so hard to drag them into the fold are just jealous that A and K figured out not to have kids before it was too late. Their attackers just wish they’d had enough brains to come to the same conclusion before they threw their lives away and got trapped in parenting hell.

I’m not saying all parenting is hell. (Although all parenting is hell some of the time.) It is utter heaven at others time, as long as you are happy being a parent. But for those who just bumbled along, conforming to society’s expectation, and had a child they didn’t really, really want because they didn’t think about they really really wanted beforehand, parenting is hell. And I bet they wished they had the wisdom and self-awareness to realize that this is not the life for them, before they actually had a kid and found out the hard way.

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