Sunday, March 29, 2009

Dolls are for Girls

When I was young a played mostly alone. Now, the boys didn’t want to play with me because I am girl and I was too asthmatic for sports. Every year when I was in elementary school we had physical fitness tests. I supposed they were attempting to asses our physical abilities for the sake of statistics, but I can’t say for sure. For one of the tests we were timed on how quickly we could run a mile. After the first two years I learned that I wasn’t going to get a good time so I might as well walk the whole thing and take the maximum time, I think it was thirteen minutes.

I didn’t want to play with the girls because I wasn’t at all interested in what they were doing. Dolls, house, patty-cake-type hand games, being catty even at a very young age, pretending to be a princess, none of that appealed to me. I remember as young as three or four I was playing with He-Man toys (I even named my kitten Cringer) and Transformers. I wanted to be He-Man for Halloween one year but my mom wouldn’t let me because I was a girl. Of course, I forgot all about it when she made my She-Ra costume. It looked authentic and she even teased my hair up like hers.

Why do I bring this up? I started a controversy today with two of my coworkers, K and A. Now mind you, it was more like friendly banter but I am very convicted regarding what I stated. I don’t recall how the conversation started but I mentioned that I was going to buy presents for two little boys whose shared birthday party my daughter and I would be attending next weekend. I said L was old enough now that I would let her pick out the gifts (with slight guidance) for her friends. She said she wanted to get Kyle, who will be turning four, a remote control car, and his brother Sean, who will be turning two, something with unicorns. But, I continued to explain, Kyle and Sean’s parents were of the type that boy’s shouldn’t be allowed to play with “girl’s” toys. For example, the mother had once mentioned that Kyle had requested a Dora The Explorer bicycle but she and her husband couldn’t bring themselves to buy it for him. Both of the coworkers I was speaking to agreed that they should not comply with his request and gave Dora’s cousin Diego as the alternative. I was immediately annoyed and this perplexed me for two reasons: 1) I don’t agree because I would buy it for my son (if I had one), and 2) Dora doesn’t engage in “girly” behavior. She explores the forest, climbs mountains, counts things, and solves riddles. There’s no fairly princess glamour or tea parties with fancy dresses. Fuel for the fire.

Keeping my irritation subdued, I listened as K went on about how her godson’s mother let him play with girl’s toys and K stopped letting him bring them to her house because he started acting “fruity.” I looked her right in the eyes and said “K, toys don’t make people gay.” She replied that he was acting it and she wasn’t having that in her house. I wanted to scream at her “so what if he was” but she’s my partner and you can’t afford to burn bridges in the corporate world.

After K walked away from my desk I went to the cubicle next door. Apparently I wasn’t done with the conversation. I asked A whether or not she thought boys should be allowed to play with toys normally targeted towards girls. She said they should not. I asked why and all she said was “because they’re for girls.” Oh, it was on.

Trying to keep the conversation at an intelligent level instead of it being reduced to a “you’re wrong…no, you’re wrong” argument, I chose my words carefully. I asked for specifics. Exactly which toys should boys not be allowed to play with. The main answer was dolls. Why, I asked, and the answer was “because they’re for girls.” I asked why dolls are considered girls toys. Is it just because they have always been perceived that way? Why were they given to girls to play with in the beginning? I’m thinking it was because woman used to be the sole caregivers for the children while men were the providers. Little girls were given dolls to play with to emulate what they would be doing when they grew up or to emulate what they’re mothers and grandmothers did. I told A that I knew she agreed that men should take on an equal roll in the care giving to their children and housework and the like. She agreed they should. I said “Well, then why should we stop them from doing it as children?” It teaches the responsibility, as MW agrees in his/her article “The Value of Playing With Dolls for Boys and Girls.” Again, the only answer was that dolls are for girls.

Both K and A stated there were no boy’s toys that are unacceptable for a girl to play with. I was even told it was because there is such a thing as a female tom-boy but there was no male counterpart such as a sally-girl.

While pregnant with my daughter I knew that I would try very hard to make sure she was exposed to all kinds of toys and all kinds of play. Even her clothes as an infant were varied, not all pink and lilac. Until her third birthday her toy box was equal parts cars and dress up jewelry. Twice a child older than her asked their parent or me why she was wearing a Spider-Man shirt when Spider-Man is for boys. My reply was simply “because she likes Spider-man.” When a little boy asked his mother I waited patiently to see what would come out of her mouth. I don’t think she knew we were within earshot. I was pleasantly surprised to hear her tell her son that anyone can like Spider-Man and explain that she herself has a Spider-Man hat.

Around her third birthday though, she was much more into dolls, princesses, and ponies, and she made it very clear her favorite color is pink. She does occasionally play with her cars and trains. Of course, I accept her for the little princess she is (I call her Princess Lunatic). I will just mention that in addition to the Barbies (I’m trying to be ok with this one. I will only buy her the ones that do not look like hoochies. Thankfully she wants the veterinarian Barbie) and mermaid dolls, she also wants a tool set for her birthday.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Breastfeeding is Hard

On posters in the OBGYN office and in books and magazines about pregnancy and babies you read that taking care of your health and producing breast milk to feed your baby for the first year of his/her life is a prime perspective. The benefits are tremendous. A healthy mother produces the exact nourishment her child needs to be as healthy as possible, and promote the best brain development possible. My daughter did not get sick at all until she began attending day care at nine months of age, and even then she was only sick twice before she turned one (it may actually have been that she never fully recovered from the first cold and relapsed). She also developed at a very favorable speed.

While there is no greater gain than the sound health and growth of your child, breastfeeding also benefits the mother. After the baby is born the uterus slowly shrinks back to its normal size. Breastfeeding speeds up the process. And, what’s the best way to loose that weight you gained during pregnancy? You guessed it - breastfeeding. By the time my daughter was five months old I actually weighed a little less than I had when I found I was prego. In fact, I couldn’t keep any weight on. Although I ate normally, healthy stuff to pass on to my daughter, she sucked all the nourishment right out of me.

With all the perks to my child in mind (I actually wasn’t aware of the extra rewards for the mother until I experienced them), breastfeeding was still tumultuous.

I have been through many extremely arduous experiences in my life; I was homeless at sixteen coming out of an apathetic and abusive home. However, continuing to provide my daughter with breast milk for the entire first year of her life was the hardest thing I have ever done.

My daughter fed exclusively off the boob for the first three months of her life. At that point I had to return to work. At first L would feed from the breast in the morning before I went to work, I would pump the milk out twice while at work and once when I got home, and then L would have one last latch before bed time. Eventually the actual latching on moved weekends only, and at around six months old L quit the nipple completely. She quit because I scared the crap out of her…twice. The first time she bit me it was a beautiful Saturday morning. The morning sun was shining in through the windows. I was sitting in the glider reveling in the feeling of not having to use the pumps. Then her sharp flat little teeth slid into my areola…and I screamed, and it made L cry. It was the only feasible reaction, but I hushed her and said I wouldn’t do it again. She latched back on and we were in business. The following week it happened again. Imagine a sharp slice like a dull razor on the most sensitive piece of your body. You’re going to scream. I didn’t jerk L off or jump up. I just let out a shrill that I suppose to L was the equivalent of me dreaming about clowns. She got scared and cried, and never latched on again. The pumps became the only outlet.

We were living in a not-so-nice neighborhood (no place to raise a child), which I had been trying to get us out of since before L was born. We did not have the money for the more expensive, better quality breast pumps. I purchased two of the cheapest handheld electric pumps available from Wal-Mart. Ever hear the phrase “you get what you pay for?” I now know these things were a joke. Near L’s first birthday, the day I would be pump free, one of other pumping mothers at work told me about how she had rented her pumps from the hospital and it took her only seven minutes a sitting to pump. But for me, five times a day, for thirty minutes a sitting, I (and my man if I was home) had to listen to the most obnoxious sound ever created. It was an errrRRR errrRRR sound like a dieing motor that made you want to jam sharp pencils in your ears. My man once told me that we should keep the pumps and if L ever tells me she hates me he will stick her in a room and make her listen to them for a few hours and tell her what I did for her. If I mention the satanic pumps to him now he gets bad chills.

Finding somewhere to pump twice a day in the corporate grey where I am employed was no pleasurable task. In a building that houses over a thousand employees there was one curtained area in a bathroom at the farthest corner of the building. There were at least three other mothers that needed the same space and always seemed to be there when I needed it. When I was able to use it, the bathroom always felt like a walk in cooler. Guidelines will tell you that in order for better let-down (when the milk starts to flow) you should not be in a cold area.

At this time I was on hourly wages (I’m salary now) and only had a specific amount of time I could spend on break. Instead of trekking to one end of the building only to find the pumping curtain occupied, and then trying to find another room, I began to sneak into these tint meeting rooms called huddle rooms. I would write my name on the reserving calendar just outside the room as though I was having a meeting in there. After a few weeks the first one I was using was assigned to a contractor who would be there for quite some time. The second one did not have a lock on the door and it wasn’t long until a woman whose desk was near by, peeked her head in to see what the noise was. She opened the door and just stared at me like her brain couldn’t process what was happening until I said “excuse me” in the most awful, powerful, hormonal voice I could muster. After that I talked the head of security into allowing pumping mothers to use the small room with a cot they call the infirmary.

Another bothersome aspect is what’s called a lull when the let-down happens. Your eyelids get heavy and you feel like all of your energy is being sucked out with the milk. Seeing your content baby during this time is like an immediate boost back to life. But when you look down and all you see is little machine that would look much better smashed into little pieces the lull carries through. Since I couldn’t get novels to stay open I brought comic books to work to read to get through this while pumping.

One final hardship I will share. My daughter started going to daycare half the week when she was 9 months old. The first daycare she attended was not so great and she would cry with relief when she saw me walk through the door. When we got home I would have to ump right away, but L did not want me to put her down. I would lay a blanket down right in front of me, put L there with some toys, sit in the glider and start pumping. L would cry and reach for me the whole time. I tried to cradle her with my legs so she would understand I wasn’t leaving her, but she would just sob. I recall one day had been particularly rough and being hormonal from milk production wasn’t helping. With L on the floor I began to pump…and L began to cry very loud. When the lull came I lost it. At first I thought I would cry to but I began to laugh hysterically. I laughed so hard my eyes dropped tears. There was nothing else I could do. I couldn’t take everything coming at me all at once and I didn’t want to upset L anymore than she was. Laughing was my only option.

I understand now why there are support groups for breastfeeding mothers. If I haven’t painted a clear enough picture of how hard it is to produce milk for your baby for an entire year let me know. I will come over with some vice grips, breast pumps, a frying pan (to help simulate the lull with a smack to the head),and the most annoying Yanni or happy-hardcore techno album, turn your thermostat down to forty degrees and get to work.

Check out this very awesome shirt I will be purchasing during my next pregnancy (it appeals to my inner superhero…maybe I read to many comic books). Yes, I would do this all over again for another healthy baby. I have to give the same advantages to any other children I have…but next time I am renting the hospital grade pumps.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Big Brothers Big Sisters Bowl for Kids' Sake 2009 - Team Nine Tailed Fox

I posted the information below a few weeks ago. Our team is trying to raise $1000 in order to support a child/mentor match up for an entire year. Unfortunately, we are only at $50 as of today. If you are intersted in helping the children in need of guidence and support please take a look at our team page.

I have signed up to participate as a team captain for Bowl For Kids' Sake 2009. This event is being held to raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters. Our team goal is to raise $1,000.00 before the middle of March. $1,000.00 will support the mentoring of a child for an entire year. Please follow this link to check out our team page. Any support, any support at all, that you can offer will be appreciated, not only by my team, but also by the child you are giving time to, time that will be used to show them that they are worth our time, that their lives and well being is important to us, time that will be spent showing the child the love that is available in this world.

Friday, March 6, 2009


Now, any parent who has read any parenting magazines or any of the literature lying around the OBGYN office has heard that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no television be watched by children under two. I have always been apprehensive about allowing my daughter to watch television. How much could I allow her to watch with out depreciating the time she spends doing something more constructive like using her imagination with toys or exploring the backyard? What kind of programming would have the most positive influence on her? I didn’t have a fair amount of faith in anything I had seen, not even when Noggin was first introduce to us when L was two years old.
I am sure most of us know of the children’s television station Nickelodeon. I believe the station began when I was a child. Think “You Can’t Do That on Television.” They expanded their programming with time slots they called Nick Jr. The Nick Jr. block aired programs geared towards pre-school and early elementary school aged children. While the Nickelodeon channel stills gives the Nick Jr. block to its viewers, the series shown progressed into being part of a separate channel called Noggin. Noggin is literally “Preschool On TV” (their slogan).

The first clip I saw on Noggin was from Yo Gabba Gabba. A green monster named Brobee was inviting carrots and green beans to a party in his tummy. The monster was an obvious person in a costume and the effects and background scenery was simplistic. But the “Party in my Tummy” song was so jammin’ it didn’t matter. That’s also where L got hooked to the station and Yo Gabba Gabba became on her favorite (and one of her father’s favorite) shows, along with Diego and Dora the Explorer (also aired on Noggin). The show has a very indie music/film feel to it.

Yo Gabba Gabba! (There's a Party in my Tummy !)
Uploaded by Materialiste

L turned three and began watching more and more television. It didn’t completely ease my concern, but at least all of the TV she was watching was on Noggin. I had come to know that ALL of the shows on Noggin were extremely educational and interactive. In fact, just in case you didn’t see the educational value while watching the shows, before each one a woman’s voice reiterates the list significance shown on the screen. For example, just before Little Bill, a Bill Cosby creation, comes on you are told that the show “enhances preschoolers’ social and interpersonal skills, helps build ethical values, and encourages an appreciation and understanding of community.” When I first saw these introductions I remember thinking that they were just ridiculous propaganda given to beef up the minimal lessons in the shows. Well, I knew I was wrong when L asked me to help her clean her room after watching the Wonder Pets. She said “It will be like teamwork,” teamwork being one of the main focuses of the show. Or how about when she told our puppy to jump in Spanish? I know enough Spanish to get by, but I didn’t know “salta.”

Currently L’s favorite show on Noggin is Lazy Town. Lazy Town is all about practicing healthy habits and improving yourself. Of the shows characters about half are puppets. The other half the main female protagonist eight-year-old Stephanie, bad guy Robbie Rotten, and Sportacus the superhero, are real people. Sportacus’ name says it all. He is extremely fit, exercises often, and always eats healthy (he calls fruits and vegetables sports candy). He and Stephanie show off their gymnastics moves while dancing to electronic music and singing about the day’s lesson. My daughter loves to get up and move with them.

Yet another great show on Noggin is Jack’s Big Music Show. Mary, Jack, his dog Mel, and other characters on the show are puppets that are in love with music. They hang out in Jack’s playhouse playing instruments, creating and exploring all kinds of different music. The show features music videos especially filmed for the episodes from children’s artists like The Laurie Berkner Band, Milkshake, and Music for Aardvarks. Sometimes the musicians even come into the playhouse with Jack and pals. Normally the featured bands are musicians whose careers are focused on making music for children, but every once in a while a broader spectrum is creating when they present artists like Nuttin’ But Stringz. Here is a video that my whole family absolutely loves. L even said she likes the way the violin sounds. The video is not great quality, but that can’t take anything away from the awesomeness of the music.

It isn’t just the shows that are interactive. Noggin is a mostly commercial free station. The only commercials you will see during the twenty-four hour a day, seven days a week preschool programming are for other shows on Noggin, Nick Jr. or Nickelodeon. These are commercials are placed between songs about seasons or animals, new word introductions, and something wonderful called Puzzle Time, all hosted by the same cartoon moose, named Moose A. Moose, and his bird friend Zee.

Puzzle Time is just what it sounds like. The moose introduces puzzles and asks the viewers to participate in solving them. He will ask about opposites and rhymes. He will ask you to choose which of the three figures is different or unique. He will ask how his friend Zee can get to a particular destination or ask for help following certain directions. He also asks for assistance in finding shapes, and I’m talking not just squares and circles. My daughter can tell you how many sides and octagon and a hexagon have from watching these puzzles. That is something I never would have thought to teach her on my own. Noggin gives me ideas on different concepts I can teach L.

L is almost four now. After expressing my many thoughts on how much television she was watching and how it takes away from time she could be spending exploring and/or using her imagination her father has cut back on the amount she watches. But when the TV is turned on she instantly asks if she can grab the remote control and turn the channel to “one two five,” Noggin. If she is going to watch TV I am content with her watching this channel. I just have to make sure addiction doesn’t set in (I have seen it creeping up). I strongly doubt that the children used in the study mentioned in an article titled “Watching TV no help to babies: study” were watching Noggin.