Kids


In keeping with the theme of the past few posts, I wanted to post my own thoughts… so here goes: I have not read the Cinderella ate my offspring book, and I actually had never heard of it.  I would, however, like to read it.  Being a teacher who spends much of my day in my classroom with elementary aged kids, I’m sort of in a bubble when it comes to what’s going on in the outside world.  Sure, I visit a news website once or twice a day just to see if anything is “breaking” and see who thinks they might be able to fix it, but I don’t have access to a continuous feed of information throughout the day like some other people who have the luxury of taking a break from what they are doing to go and talk to their co-workers about this or that at the water cooler (huge run-on, I know).

Maya dressed up

Back in December, Maya attended the birthday party of a classmate who had just turned 3.  The theme was a Princess theme and she loved it.  The girls got to dress up as princesses in gowns, and the boys wore knight in shining armor paraphernalia.  Maya had a great time and has since been asking for a princess party for her birthday in March. (Too bad I’ve already booked the party with the magician.)  Ever since the party, and even a couple months before, Maya has shown a lot of interest in skirts, dresses, tutus and ballet attire.  When we get home from school she wants to put on her tutu skirt, or the leotard I got on clearance last year that is about 5 sizes too big for her.  She’s expressing some independence and we are letting her do it if it is safe.  For example, she has to wear pants and sneakers to school, but if she asks to wear her tutu skirt over that, so be it.  The other day she decided she HAD to put on tights, a skirt and her nice shoes before we could go grocery shopping.  Although Maya is very interested in princesses, tutus, etc, I signed her up for a mini-gym class at her preschool instead of the ballet class.  She probably would have chosen ballet over mini-gym, but she’s absolutely loving the gym class, and I love that she is getting to run, jump, tumble, etc.

Like Michelle, when I was little, I would probably have been considered a tomboy.  I was the ONLY girl in my entire town’s Little League baseball league (not team), and I was still better than the majority of the boys.  I even had a shorter haircut (thanks to some MAJOR miscommunication at the hairdresser in second grade), so many of the opposing players didn’t even know I was a girl unless I took my hat off.  As I got older I continued to play whatever sport I was interested in including baseball, softball, basketball, volleyball and soccer.  I remember my mom signed me up for ballet once, and I cried the entire time.  I don’t think I ever went back (Sorry for wasting your money, mom!).

The point is, right now Maya is at the age where she should be exploring different options and trying them out as she likes.  The tutu is certainly less expensive than the ballet class or dance company fees later on.  Right now she gets a kick out of dressing up, and tumbling in her gym class.  Cinderella might be trying to eat my daughter, but I’ll try to keep them away from each other for a little while longer!

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We are a Disney Princess family. In the beginning when Ella was first introduced to Disney, namely the princesses, I felt we had a good balance of what I’d like to call 2 categories: Princess and Not Princess. Ella really enjoyed playing with her trainset, reading all types of books (Thomas the Train, Huggle Buggle, etc.) and playing with her Princess Barbies. Lately she’s been very into Disney characters, namely the princesses. Does that mean Cinderella ate my baby? I think not.

It’s our job to support who our children are at any given point and instill in them their morals, values and ethics. I would feel sorry for your child if you tried to push him/her into something they weren’t. It’s like forcing them to play soccer if they really wanted to go to ballet class. One of my best friends has a son is the same age as Ella. He happens to enjoy playing with Barbies (dolls), puts on chapstick/lipgloss, seems halfway interested in playing dress-up, loves to cook with his kitchen, etc. My friend lets him, as she should because he enjoys doing those particular things. Is anyone judging her? Nope.

I think trying to make your child something he/she is not is more damaging than letting them play with a doll that happens to have measurements that you could probably only obtain by getting plastic surgery. It’s up to us, the parents of these young impressionable beings to teach them about what’s real and what’s not. Give them self confidence to be who they are and stop being so anti-“everything”. I’ve heard that Disney is actually talking about doing a bald Barbie for children who are going thru Chemo treatments, etc. I suppose that’s terrible also…How about American Girl dolls? These dolls have real life stories. They’re normal in size. I let Ella play with hers and she loves it. She happens to have Rebecca, the Russian Jew, by the way. Do you really think Ella knows the difference between the American Girl doll with the real life story or the skinny Barbie. Hell no.

We need to stop over analyzing absolutely everything and just let kids be kids. As long as we instill in them morals and do everything in moderation, who cares? Freaking chill out.

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My daughter is 6 months old.  I’m not currently concerned about sexualization… the thought alone makes me nauseous so I choose not to think about it yet.  I have actually started reading Peggy Orenstein‘s book and there is one topic in particular that really grabbed me.  STUFF.

Girl stuff vs Boy stuff.

Baby GirlWhen I was a kid, I wasn’t into Barbies.  I had He-Man toys and Gobots.  I played baseball with the neighborhood boys.  I loved my Micro Machines!  People called me a Tom-Boy. I never really thought about whether or not my mom was especially progressive for letting me have those toys and not pushing me to wear dresses (although she loooved when I voluntarily put one on), but I suppose she was.  What shocks me is that people still peg a girl as a Tom Boy for playing with those toys or for being into sports.  A girl is still expected to love pink and princesses and dresses.  And what’s even more shocking to me is that there are people in this world who believe that what toys or clothes your child likes has some effect on their sexuality.  Hear this now: I love boys and always have.  That was built-in. And despite my baseball hat wearing and my more dominant personality (something often pegged as “masculine”) I never had problems with the boys… ehem… if you know what I mean.  For me it was never about wanting to be a boy or being a lesbian or whatever other nonsense people think; it was just what I liked to do.  And actually, I think being allowed to be strong and dominant has given me the confidence to do whatever I wanted to do as an adult.

Moving beyond just Orenstein’s book, I’ve been reading more on the “princess culture” that is being shoved down the throats of little girls.  Sure, some little girls just naturally gravitate to that stuff and that’s fine.  But why should they be limited?  In fact, I have always felt that toys marketed to boys inspire more creativity and spark interests that lead to both hobbies and careers later in life.  Legos.  Chemistry sets.  Erector Sets.  (Do they even still make those?) Why should my daughter be limited to the Disney Princess make-up kit?  What does that do for her sense of self?  Tell her that beauty is what is most expected of her? I’ve seen science-themed party favors labeled as “Great for a boy’s party!”  I’m sorry, what was that?  BOY’S party?  What about science is specific to boys?  And we wonder why there is a shortage of females in science, technology and engineering fields.  Stealing from something I saw along the way (I can’t remember where so I can’t give due credit… sorry!), couldn’t my daughter benefit from an astronaut makeover rather than a princess makeover?  Can’t we take her to go watch the planes take off over the Potomac?  And after all of that, can’t I still take her to ballet?

Frankly, I’d like to keep princesses out of Darby’s toy box and closet for as long as I am able only because I don’t see the value. When she comes home asking for it, fine.  Barbies will likely not have a residence in our home (between body image and the skanky clothes those b*tches wear, she doesn’t need that).  I know I can’t control that stuff forever, but I can for a while and I intend to.  I want to expose her to planes and trains; building toys; art and music; the Cubs and the Red Sox!  If pink and princesses are her thing, I won’t limit that.  But I certainly won’t limit her TO that.  There is too much other cool stuff out there.

I actually think this kid nailed it. To quote the brilliant Riley, “Why do all the girls have to buy pink stuff?”  They don’t, Riley.  And I promise you, Future Ms. Marketing Director, that my little girl can have super heroes if she wants them.

There is no denying that stuff is both a reflection of who we are and an influencer of how we are who we are.  Kids and adults alike.  I want Darby to find success in her life, however she may define it.  Ballerina or brain surgeon.  I want her to be strong.  I want people to tell her that she’s beautiful AND brilliant… perhaps the latter more often.  Unfortunately the stuff that is marketed to her tells her that being beautiful and finding her Prince Charming will lead to happily-ever-after.  I hope she does find her Prince (or Princess) Charming some day… but what leads to happily-ever-after is being confident and proud of who you are.  I will simply not allow Disney or any of the other toy companies impede upon that ideal.  They are not the boss of my brilliant daughter.  I will protect her from this crap.

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This week we’re doing a series about some of the concepts that Peggy Orenstein writes about in her book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter. Stay tuned for more posts from some of the other writers here!

I’ll admit, I haven’t read the book. Early last year, The Diane Rehm Show on NPR featured an interview with Ms. Orenstein. There’s certainly no way for me to comment on the entirety of the book in this post, but I’d like to comment briefly on the overt sexualization of young girls. Ms. Orenstein aptly describes frequent situations in which young girls (teen, pre-teen, tween, pre-tween, preschool, etc.) are thrust into an atmosphere dripping with sexuality. Abercrombie and Fitch (I know – shocking) came under fire last March for selling a push-up bikini for young girls. When faced with this kind of environment, these girls react the way anyone would – they adapt, they react, they incorporate, they do their best imitation of a sponge and soak it all up.

I don’t personally have a problem with Cinderella, Barbie, Aurora, Belle, pink, purple, fairies, crowns, or even the occasional tutu. They’re all crammed into various bins and boxes in our playroom as I type. Sometimes the girls play with them, sometimes the boys parade around the house in a much too small leotard. At this point in my parenting life, there’s not much that will faze me when I walk in the door after work. However, there is a significant problem, as Ms. Orenstein claims, with equating your daughter’s (or any woman, for that matter) value with her sexual appeal or behavior. Some may think that we as parents are paving the way for sexualizing our girls with the occasional fingernail polish. I hope not, but it’s a difficult world out there for young women. I hope we’re able to instill in our girls the ability to value their whole self, not just their physical self.

I work a lot with college students. Increasingly, many of our college students are women. Overwhelmingly, they are strong, beautiful, smart, inventive, and independent women. They’re just plain awesome – the kind of women I hope Peyton and Adah resemble when they are in college. I teach a class on college student development each fall and we always focus on interpersonal relationships one week. We usually read Janet Reitman’s piece on the lacrosse scandal at Duke University from Rolling Stone (read it if you have a chance – really good piece of writing). Usually, students reaffirm the thesis that college women live a bit of a Jekyll/Hyde life – during the day women perform well in class, excel in leadership positions, and generally outclass their male peers, while at night the same women reduce themselves, and their clothing, to the sexual playthings of boozed men. The women in class often lament that they see it all too often. They’re genuinely saddened by it. As a father, husband, and brother, so am I.

Peyton’s favorite color is pink. Lately she and Adah have been rocking out with these Vtech Disney Princess Wands:

I don’t think they’re destined for royalty by using this little trinket (sorry, girls). Tomorrow, they’ll jump out of their pink and purple sheets and probably head straight for their new dollhouse. Does that mean that Cinderella ate my daughters? Maybe for now, but I don’t think they’ll sit too well in Cinderella’s tummy. As they grow and develop, we’re going to teach them to love their Cinderella self, their pink self, their emotional self, their cognitive self, their physical self. When it’s time for them to understand their sexual self, I hope it’s on their terms.

I’m a self-proclaimed nerd. This should be nothing new to those of you who know me…I was always much more likely to sit inside than head out for recess. I always loved studying and genuinely enjoyed going to class. Although I’m glad to be done with school, my inner nerd comes out every once in awhile.

I was in a training session for work the other day and we took a learning styles assessment. I love personal assessments, because they teach me to think about my own style in new ways. I don’t think I learned anything groundbreaking from this particular assessment, but there was a section about learning styles and parenting that I thought was interesting. Also, for other nerds out there, you can read more about learning styles and experiential learning here.

We all learn and make sense of the world in different ways. There are four learning styles (learning by doing, learning by experiencing, learning by reflecting, and learning by thinking). You can probably think of your preferred learning style just from the descriptions. When we parent, we will most often teach in the style that we prefer. But are we being sensitive to how our children would like to learn? Or should we try to strengthen weaker styles with our kids? Here is a brief description of the styles for kids:

Learning Styles

After reading through the styles, do you have any inclinations about your kids? Of course, the best approach with your kids is using a blend of styles. Interesting stuff, huh? Told you I was a nerd.

I shop on Etsy a lot.  If I had no self-control, I would shop their more often.  And because I shop there as much as I do, I get a lot of questions from my friends… What is Etsy?  How do you find stuff there?  It is too overwhelming!  So here it is, folks!  My Etsy tutorial.

Etsy Finds So what is Etsy?  It is an online marketplace.  Some stuff is handmade, some is vintage.  It is a place for crafters (did I just make that word up?) and artists and collectors to sell their creations and finds.  Much of it (although, admittedly not all of it…) is amazing.

There is a TON of stuff on Etsy.  There are literally hundreds of thousands of sellers (290,000+ as of February… that was the most recently number I could find) all with items in their shops.  So as I said… there is a TON of stuff on Etsy.

How do I find good stuff?

Sometimes I browse but I rarely buy stuff that way.  Usually I go there looking for something.  For example (some of my best Etsy finds):

When I was decorating Darby’s room, I went straight to Etsy for almost everything.

  • Artwork: Adorable sock monkey and rubber ducky pop art.  And my husband joined the fun when he found this artwork of a unicorn riding a bike.
  • Something fun to hang over the changing pad: Poms (I chose the colors I wanted)
  • Decals for the walls (cheaper than buying more art): Cute modern birdies and a letter D decal (no longer in their shop). I also got to choose all of the colors for these.
  • I had the changing pad cover custom made by someone on Etsy (her shop has since closed, apparently).  I also had the crib skirt made in the perfect color (deep purple — not the easier color to find)

Carrier blanketI needed a blanket for my Ergo carrier, car seat and stroller so I took to Etsy.  Found a GREAT one (see the photo) by this seller (she’s currently on hiatus but plans to be back).  I wanted a bracelet with Darby’s name on it and found it on Etsy.  It is amazing and super unique!  Holiday cards? Etsy.  Baby gift for someone who just had their third girl — something unique and personalized since they likely already had everything?  Found this adorable lovey on Etsy.

Here are some of my other favorite Etsy finds (although I don’t own most of them… yet…) on my Pinterest board.

So back to the original question… How do I find stuff on Etsy?  Think about how you shop on Amazon (which I find harder to browse than Etsy).  You go looking for something specific and flip through the many different items for sale.  It is the same thing with Etsy with one primary difference (and this is my favorite part)…

Etsy sells unique handmade items that are being sold directly by the person or people who created it.  I emailed back and forth with the woman who made the changing pad cover to come up with something that worked for me… my holiday cards were completely customized… and those weren’t unique experiences! Just about everything is customizable because things are made just for you.  I didn’t have to settle for the mass manufactured stuff that wasn’t *exactly* what I wanted.  THAT is what I love about Etsy!  Oh, and I’ve never had an issue with quality.  It has all been incredible.

When I need something, I go to Etsy first.  If it isn’t there or if it is too expensive (handmade stuff does sometimes cost more… although I usually find it to be worth it), then I go to Amazon or whatever.  My heart belongs to Etsy.

Princess EllaElla has had a sense of style that just comes naturally to her.  From the time she was little she’s had input picking out her outfits.  She usually opts to wear a princess costume to school every single day.  I let her because it’s how she expresses herself.  Her reasoning for why she wears them every day when you ask her is “because I love it.”  Either way, she knows exactly what she likes and dislikes and isn’t afraid to let me know!  Being able to pick out her own clothes gives her a sense of control over her individuality and personal style, which I think is important to instill in her.  However, I’ve started to wonder where I should draw the line and step in.

Case in point…

Ella has been talking about getting her ears pierced for a while now.  Sure, I think she’d look adorable with her ears pierced, but is it really necessary to poke holes in her ears when she’s 3 years old just because she’s asking for it? I certainly don’t want to hinder her personal expression and uniqueness but I’m having trouble knowing the “right” thing to do with this particular request of hers.  What would YOU do?

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