Tuesday, 25 May 2010

School days

Recent conversations have brought my time at school to mind a lot recently, coincided with thoughts about how my daughter relates to other children, and how that might affect her in the future.

And, ya know what? Like many, I had a crap time as a teenager due to various factors, but I don't harbour pain or anger at school, or the people I knew there.

A recent post at Feministe outlines how difficult it can be for people who are 'different' to get on in school. I guess things are a little different here, compared to in American schools where such a strict 'class' system is enforced (which I only really know about from TV and film, so, Americans, you can enlighten me if I'm wrong!)

I know I went through many phases of trying to 'fit in' with people, but, in the long run, I was, and always will be, somewhat of a solitary individual. For better or worse, I remember enjoying my own company and spending most of my time figuring out my own thoughts, rather than caring about what other people thought of 'my image' or my interests.

The comments over at Feministe made me think about what I'm teaching my daughter, and what I was taught as a child. I don't really recall any sit-down, pre-emptive talks about 'just be yourself.' Maybe they occurred, but they don't stand out. (Mum, dad, help me here?)

What I do recall, however, are my parents supporting me through every time I felt bad, or needed to let loose and scream, or just to talk about anything and everything.

So I guess my advice to other parents, and to myself, is to always talk to children. ALWAYS make them feel that they have valid opinions and you are interested in what they have to say. Never put them down or tell them they're being stupid. Sure, prepare them for the world, but the main thing is to deal with what's in front of you, how they feel, not stress over every single interaction they might possibly have in their lives.

I think about how I'm going to deal with the messages about gender NP will receive every day of her life, and realise that the only way to teach her is to challenge her: why does she think that's a good idea? Why does it matter what other people think? And listen to what she has to say. She's not even 3 yet, and I feel like I'm barely out of childhood myself, I just hope I've got enough wit and experience to help her through her own challenges.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

On child hating

Well, I kinda missed most of the crazy child-hating conversations going on around the blogsphere, but a good review with some excellent links can be found over at Blue Milk

Reading BM's post made me think about how we've raised NP, her own behaviour in public, and how we contribute to the over-arching problem.

We've always eaten out with our daughter, though there are definitely times I remember regretting it. She was about 2 months old and breastfeeding and my parents booked a big family meal in the evening. As I remember it, we spent the whole evening walking around outside, taking it in turns to wolf down our (relatively pricey) meals, then leave early because she just wasn't up to it. From that moment on we always insisted that family make plans that fit around her.

I guess we caved in to the rest of the world and made our child fit into society: we never took her on a plane, never took her out to eat late at night etc. However, we did take her out regularly during the day, coffee shops, restaurants, etc. These days, her behaviour is usually impeccable for a (nearly) 3 year old, so much so that people comment on it. At which point I feel proud, but also very embarrassed because it feels as though we're contributing to the attitudes that children should be 'seen and not heard.' Sometimes, I feel as though the one example of a kid behaving in an 'adult appropriate' manner makes it difficult for parents of more adventurous children to be accepted by society!

Mr Onions often refers to it being a case of our ability to 'control our child', (even though I really do hate that phrase and the implications of it) but I'm not so sure that is the case, I really do think it's her personality. However, I sometimes question whether we've done the right thing for our daughter. Has she be stunted or held back by our methods? Have we discouraged her from behaving in an age appropriate manner? She is definitely reserved when it comes to interacting with other people and children. She has very strict boundaries that make it difficult for affectionate people to be around her. However, I remember her being a baby and saying the same thing - she would never jump straight in to play with toys, she would always suss out the situation before choosing her course of action. She would never instantly smile at people, she had to figure them out first. It's not like she's unhappy - she is a lovely, excitable, intelligent girl. She's just different. (Like every other single kid in the world).

I can't say she's never tantrum-ed in public, or that I haven't been embarrassed by her behaviour, but I also can't say I've ever really had the 'evil eye' from anyone. Maybe it's where I live, maybe it's me, maybe it's her. Maybe we shouldn't try to pigeon-hole all kids into 'good' and 'bad' behaviour - just make it 'being an individual, still figuring it all out'. The way we guide our kids is always going to differ, but that doesn't mean one way is wrong and another way is right - that's just another way of forcing mothers into competition with each other: another form of control in a sexist society. After all, infighting is the best way to keep people oppressed.

I guess this is really me just working out my own insecurities about my parenting. I always felt I'd done the right thing, but more and more you wonder whether your approach really was the best thing for your child. We're so het up these days about 'doing it right' that we'll probably end up creating a generation of neurotics.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Sexualisation of children

Fertile Feminism hits it right on the head with this post about what is particularly wrong about 'sexualising' children: it's the standard that is set in the first place that is the problem.

The hypocrite in the room