Saturday, March 19, 2011

Is your child a 'prosti-tot'?

Most little girls like glitter and pearls. Right?

And nail varnish.
And dressing up.
Wearing lilac and pink.
All that stuff that I disapproved of before I had my girlie girl.

But where to draw the line? What is the point where you raise your fist and shout to the masses "NO MORE! My six year old will NOT have her hair straightened! Or wear clicky-clacky pole dancers shoes with a picture of Cinderella on the front. Or wear a t-shirt that says 'Boy Magnet'.

Because this is the dilemma I am faced with. My daughter is officially queen of the girlie girls (although she is a kick-ass Princess Leia when playing with the boys) and would love nothing more than to look like a Southern Belle in a full pageant regalia. Full time.

The other day she was invited to a 'pamper party' at a salon. Eeeek. I saw a newspaper article about this recently and swooned with horror at the idea of these little girls drinking 'mocktails' in a stretch limo, before being gussied up to look like mini-Dolly Partons.

And here was my daughter, reclining in a salon chair with her nails being buffed, choosing an eyeshadow in an alarming shade of purple.
It was all I have ever, as a die hard feminist, been horrified by. But here's the reason I didn't whip her out of that chair (and the reason why other parents don't either, I suspect) is that she was having the time of her life.
How mushy did I go when I saw a little flock of Disney princesses run past me giggling and twirling. How hilarious was it to see them admire each other's ornate hair-dos. It was all so far removed from my dark brown corduroy and navy velour childhood, where a pudding basin haircut was standard, that I was a little wistful about un-girlie I was.

So the line will be drawn somewhere. She will not have tiny heels on her shoes while her feet are developing. Slogans about boys on t-shirts will always be a no-no. But a bit of lip gloss?
My head says no, my heart says awwwww...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Oh! My poor ikkle baby short story. It's a massacre...

Have you ever entered your child into a 'Bonny Baby Competition'?

You know the sort. The kind run in a newspaper that only local taxi drivers seem to read. The kind that get excited that Sam from 'Stenders is going to switch on the Xmas lights. That kind.

No? Why ever not?

Is it because it is demeaning to your child, judging them solely on their chub-chub looks? Is it because it is the slippery slope to American style pagentry where you end up in a Holiday Inn in Bracknell, cheering on your Pussy-cat Doll-stylee three-year-old who is trying to twirl a baton like a majorette?

Or is it a little bit because, you have a tiny fear that your child might just come last?

Well, putting your creative writing work on a review website like 'Authoronomy' is a bit like hurling your toddler into a Darling Dimples competition.
Your darling story. You gestated it. You birthed it. You polished it up and plopped a bow on top.
Then finally you display it to the world. Friends and family will 'ooh and aah' over it anyway. They don't count. Nor do writers groups or creative writing classes. Everyone is too frightened about what you will say about their stuff to squeak more than a small criticism about grammar.

But an annonymous critiquing website - they are just thrilled to point out the metaphorical cradle cap and milk spots on your poor little work of fiction.
I just had a scathing review about something I posted. And one not so scathing. Of course, all I can think about is the scathing one.

Call my baby ugly? How very dare you.
I am planning the rewrite already.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Do you ever suspect you aren't doing too well at this parenting lark?

We just had another contretemps with my toddler.

We seem to always be having contretemps with my toddler.

He is three years old, wilful as a colt, sensitive as an eyelash and, at times, demonic. This morning it was about switching off the TV, as usual. They had been watching it for a blissful hour, allowing us to lounge in bed a little longer. I warned of the great TV shut off, I executed the great TV shut off. Queue a toddler nuclear explosion.

He lashed out at me in fury, his tiny fists really wanting to do harm. So, in great Supernanny tradition, I time-outed him. Lately, when he gets a time out he has taken to spitting or peeing on the floor. He had done both this time, so more time out (not sure if that is the right way to do things, but hey, advice gratefully accepted.) Then we cleaned up the mess together.

So my husband is going to the gym and taking them to the soft play there, and I get a morning of peace. Toddler realises we aren't going to the same place and screams and shrieks that he needs me. Husband now loses cool as we have now been engaged in battle for about half and hour. He doesn't understand how a tiny chap can make life so unpleasant for everyone. My daughter is the biggest casualty. While we are all focused on the human air-raid siren, she is quietly ignored in the corner. (yes, we know that is now the way to do things, but in the heat of the moment...)

So I am now having 'my morning' but feel horribly guilty that husband has to put up with screaming toddler, and toddler is potentially going to be traumatised by absent mother.

Sometimes I wish I had Supernanny in the attic, to wheel out at times like this. Or Tanya Byron to advise me when yet again the kids are whining about food, clothes, going somewhere, not going somewhere etc. I just feel as though I have a plan in my mind how to deal with child hot-spots, but when it comes down to the heat of the moment, all these plans become tangled and incoherent.

Does anyone else feel as though they are not only making it up as they go along, but also that they aren't exactly in control of their children and their lives?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tell me about your Bonfire Night. I miss it...

Canadians seem to go crazy for hallowe'en.

I mean, there is a house on the next street that, not kidding, has a twenty foot spider scaling the wall. I have seldom seen anything quite so barking, apart from those loons who put a strain on the national grid by covering their 3-bedroom semi in fairy lights every year, complete with Santa, a sleigh and his reindeers 'en rampant.'

But I kind of like hallowe'en. Gory witches, spooky skeletons, trick or's loopily nice.

Why are the holidays we celebrate so violent and bloody though?
Guy Fawkes night - hurrah! Lets burn a catholic on a pyre. And make dad nail a rubbish catherine wheel to the fence.

Easter - hurrah! Lets stuff our faces with Cadbury Creme Eggs because some chap got nails through his hands.

Hallowe'en - hurrah! Ghoolies and ghosties abound. Some of the masks you can buy here are beyond terrifying. I can't wait to see my daughter's reaction to being offered candy by a sinister straw man with a sewn up slit for a mouth. My bowels are turning to water just thinking of it. Will she need counselling in later life? Have a corn field phobia?

Christmas is a little bit jollier, birth and all that. Diwali with the festival of lights also sounds like a pretty happy event.

But I do miss Bonfire Night a little bit. The 'oohs' and the 'aaahs' as a roman candle farts light into the air. The drizzle. The numb hands holding sparklers. The fact that our old neighbourhood seemed to think that firework night started two weeks before and two weeks after the actual date, condemning our pitifully bad toddler to a months worth of broken sleep.

Ah. Perhaps I don't miss bonfire night after all.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

When your child is a bit racist...

I do not live in a terribly ethnically diverse area.

Essentially, the demographic is white, middle class 2.4 (actually, more like 3+ children, we are in one of those areas where 3 children is the new 2.4) children. And tons of Japanese students who go to the local language school.

My daughters school has a good mix of nationalities. Iraqi, Jordanian, German, Acadian, and many, many Chinese students etc. But I struggle to think if I have seen any black children at the school.

Nope, still struggling.

I took my daughter to her first cheerleading class yesterday. (hmm...) The class was in, what friend's black nanny (who I often hang out with at the park) described as, a 'ghetto' area. I lived in one of the roughest parts of London for 7 years, so didn't think too much of it. Surely even the worst parts of chirpy Canada-land can't compete with the depths of 'Sarf-Laaandan town'.

Yep, the area was a little intimidating. Scrawny-looking, heavily-tattooed men hung over balconies. Young men loitered in the park, holding up their half-mast jeans with one hand on their crotch. Every surface available was covered in graffiti tags. Swarms of young children, from about age 3 up, ran on the grassy square in the centre of the community centre, with no obvious parental supervision. An enormous part of me envied their freedom, it looked so much healthier than my friends and my helicopter-hover. Altogether, it looked like a cross between 'The Wire' and 'Sesame Street'.

My daughter then asked a question which no cringing middle-class liberal parent wants to hear: "Do you have to be a brown person to live here?"

I went into Guardian reading overdrive, giving what I hoped was a informative, culturally sensitive speech about how we are all the same, yet differences are to be celebrated...yadda yadda. My teeth started itching with how hideously politically correct I was. Trevor Philips would have held me up as a beacon of hope for integration.

Yet here I was, nervously clutching my purse and holding my child's hand a little tighter because we had arrived in a part of the city where folk were unlike me. I try and think, would I be as defensive if there were a bunch of young tattooed white dudes hanging out at a park looking intimidating, and I am relieved to say that I think I would be just as nervous.

My daughter loved the cheerleading lesson. She was the only white girl there. At the end I asked her how she liked the other little girls.
She said, "Mummy, I like brown people, even though I am not meant to call them that."

Nothing like a middle-class cringe to end the day.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I want to go home. Only I don't know where home is...

We are not coming back to England. At least, not as of this morning when my husband found out he didn't get the job that would have seen us secure the rest of our lives.

Part of me is happy - the town we would have ended up in made me feel elderly even just looking at it.
Part of me is terrified - there have been so few jobs on offer anywhere that we are in limbo, just waiting and hoping for a job to come up anywhere.
Part of me is desperate - I miss my family in the UK and now we are thinking we may have to look further afield to New Zealand and Australia it has become a reality that we may never live in the same country again.

I feel homesick, but not sure for which home. I think it is the home in my mind where we are secure, my daughter is in a school for longer than a year and my husband is settled in a job, at last.
That home is not here, as this is temporary. It is not in England, they don't seem to want us.

Where is my home now? And if I don't know that, when will this longing end?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Can you remember the first time you ever saw...?

...a pierced tongue?
...a mobile phone?
...the Internet?
...a video player?
...a CD?
...a 'normal' person with a tattoo?

I remember all of those things, so that probably makes me officially very old even though age 40 is a way off yet.
The pierced tongue had to be around the time of 'Firestarter' by the Prodigy. So, what, around 1995-ish. I remember being really disgusted that spaghetti would get wrapped around it and potentially you could end up chatting to someone whilst flapping Linguine Carbonara at them.

The mobile phone must have been around the same time, or at least in common usage. Whilst I was university it was all about the landline and hoping someone would take pity and actually leave a message on a scrap of paper.

I definitely remember the internet. It was 1997 and I had just spent a year writing lovely long letters to my boyfriend in Australia. Someone took me to the computer room at work and showed me this newfangled thing called email. I managed to ignore it for another year. I have kept every letter my boyfriend/husband sent me. The same can't be true of our emails. Shame.

The video player we had was a Betamax, and I have felt the stigma ever since. I think we watched 'Lord of the Rings' the cartoon on it about 800000 times.

The first CD I saw had to be the same one that everyone else saw, the one being smeared with jam on Tomorrow's World. My sisters and I loved the rainbow iridescent surfaces.

Trying to remember when I stopped associating tattoos with ropey sailors. I think I was about 20 and they started to become de rigeur.

Would love to know when you remember seeing these things or whether they were always there.