Pretty Pretty Papa Princess

It was bound to happy sooner or later. Try as we might to shield Ruby from the infectious outside world, we knew that eventually she’d be exposed.  Sending her to preschool only increased the odds, and now, finally, it has happened:  she’s been invited to a Disney Princess Birthday Party.

original by flickr user PinkMoose

original by flickr user PinkMoose

Kate and I both anti-princessification, for reasons I’ve mentioned before. Looking at the cheap invitation (printed at home, not Officially Licensed Merchandise) a whole new objection sprang to mind: they’re posers.  Literally — all they do is pose.  They’ve been stripped of their original, entertaining and worthwhile myths and stand inactive and vacant. Instead of watching their actions, you should just watch them…  as they do nothing.  Added to our original objections over the cultural appropriation, incessant marketing, pressure to conform, and rigid gender roles and segregation, and you can guess how we want to RSVP.

But ultimately, we decided she should go. These are friends she sees at school every day and it’s good for her to also see them outside of school.  And she’ll be exposed to the princess culture whether we like it or not, so at least one of us can go along and frame her experience in ways that we think are important.

Still, we’re not going down without a fight.  And so, gender roles and pretty princesses be damned, it is I who will be escorting Ruby to the Disney Princess Birthday Party. I won’t be surprised if I’m the only non-related adult male in attendance.

Actually, I’m kind of looking forward to it. Ruby is just starting to learn how to play with (instead of alongside) her peers and it’s a pleasure to watch her social skills develop. I don’t get many opportunities to watch her play with her schoolmates — complete strangers (to me) she’s developed complex personal relationships with. It’s fascinating to see her trying to flex her leadership muscles, or be polite and kind, or be totally socially oblivious.

I’m sure Ruby will have fun, and I’ll do my best around the grown-ups, and this little foray into the world of princesses will soon be forgotten amidst our summer of swimming and building and jumping and thinking.

Oh, and the invitation encourages children to wear costumes. Do you think Princess Ladybug will work?

Trust and Failure

Earlier this month, the NY Sun published an article by Lenore Skenazy, a woman who let her nine-year-old son ride the bus home from Manhattan, unaccompanied, as an exercise in building confidence and independence. She was subsequently labeled the worst mom in the world.

I’m totally in support of her goal to break us out of the deer-in-headlights state of fear that so many parents fall into: “Children are precious. The world is scary. We must protect them at all costs…”

Except, of course, that we shouldn’t protect them at all costs. That’s a conscious choice I made when Ruby was born: that I would not do everything in my power to make her happy, comfortable, and safe. She will, for the most part, be given a relatively luxurious life (globally and historically speaking) but she’ll also be given the opportunity to fall off the monkey bars, trip on the sidewalk, embarrass herself, fail, and have her heart broken a few times.

I don’t wish these on her, and my heart will be broken every time hers is. But I also understand the importance of letting her choose and take her own risks so that she can truly appreciate the consequences of her failure and her successes. When she wants to, and when we think she’s ready, we’ll let her take the bus home too. And of course we’ll sit anxiously on the porch awaiting her arrival. But that anxiousness is the price we pay for the joy of parenting the best way we can.

[Ms. Skenazy now has a blog devoted to this subject: Free Range Kids]

Heave Ho

I’m starting off another work week with a sore back. It’s now been six months that I’ve had constant lower back pain. I’ve tried both resting and exercising, and neither has seemed to work — although I’m still working hard on the latter and have only recently started making decent progress towards some of my fitness goals.

It’s no coincidence that my back is worse on Monday — I spend all weekend carrying Ruby around. I do it because I love to hold her, whisper in her ear, nuzzle against her cheek, and see the world with her. But I think the sad truth is that as she’s gotten heavier, the strain on my back has gotten to be too much. I generally carry her just on one side, which doesn’t help things.

I’m going to try spending a week consciously avoiding carrying Ruby. It will be difficult, and I don’t know how many exceptions I’ll need to make to get through the week. And in the end, I’m not even sure if it’ll be worth it.

Missing Ruby

Work is ramping up for a big release next week, and so I’m working longer hours than usual. And that means I’ll be spending less time with Ruby.

Right now my work hours are shifted a little early than in the morning so that I can come home and have dinner with my family. That tends to not work so well during crunch time, though, as the principals tend to work into the evening and things can really get interesting at work around 5pm or 6pm. So, for this week I’m working into the evening and not getting home until around Ruby’s bedtime.

Ruby’s day is only about 12 hours long, and with the bus ride I can easily be away from home for all of it. Today I managed to catch her for a few minutes at each end of her day but I could, theoretically, go an entire day (or days) without seeing Ruby.

It seems particularly hard to spend significant amounts of time away from Ruby — harder than it is to be away from Kate. I’ll think about Ruby and Kate spending time together and feel like I’m falling behind. I want to be just as important a figure in Ruby’s life as Kate is, but of course in reality that’s impossible. One of us needs to work (and actually, I’m quite happy to be the one earning a paycheck right now).

This Morning On The Bus

On this morning’s bus ride there was a woman with two little girls (2 or 3 years old?) in a double pram.  One of the girls was unhappy and would occasionally scream.

This was a bus at 7am, full of morning commuters.  The pram took up a bunch of extra space.  Screaming on a bus at seven in the morning is kind of hard to tolerate.

But still, one can only assume that she wasn’t happy about the situation either.  It’s hard to imagine that she wasn taking a 7am bus ride with two unhappy toddlers just for the sheer joy of it.

Shout out to the G-units

Kate and I have been suffering the past few days. I injured my back playing soccer on Thursday and have been barely able to stand. Kate picked up a bug on the way back from Mexico, and so she’s been feeling drained — and hasn’t been able to relax because I can’t step it up (quite literally) to spend more time with Ruby.

Fortunately, Ruby’s grandparents have come to the rescue! We spent last night at Kate’s parents’ house so they could watch Ruby while we draped ourselves over their couches. And tonight, my parents are taking Ruby up north so we can spend all day Sunday doing the same to our own couches.

We’re really fortunate to have parents who live so close (although it is a two hour drive from here to my parents’ house) and are so willing to step in at the last minute give us a hand when we need it. It made a huge difference when she was a newborn, and it made a huge difference all last year when I was juggling Feedwhip and stay-at-home-dad-ness. And I’m sure it’ll continue to make a huge difference in the years to come.

Thanks, Mom and Dad and Mom and Dad!

Bye, bye plane

It’s a bit surprising, seeing as Kate and I are seasoned world travelers, but we’ve never taken a plane trip with Ruby.  We’re thinking of remedying that this summer with a trip down to California or Mexico, but stories like this give me pause:

A passenger on a Continental ExpressJet flight from Houston to Oklahoma City says she was removed from the flight because her toddler would not stop repeating the phrase, “Bye, bye plane.”

Almost as disturbing to me as the removal is that the flight attendant seemed to have an expectation that all young travelers should be knocked unconcious prior to flight:

Penland told the flight attendant that Garron would fall asleep soon enough. Penland told Eyewitness News, “She said, ‘It doesn’t matter. Regardless, I don’t want to hear it.’ And she said it’s called baby Benadryl and (made a drinking motion.) And I said, ‘Well, I’m not going to drug my child so you have a pleasant flight.'”

On a related note, yesterday Ruby spent an hour walking around the backyard saying “bicycle” over and over and over.  And it was TOTALLY FAWKIN’ CUTE!

More on Princesses

Kate’s Mom sent us a very good article from the NYT about the Princess trend. I expect to be dealing with a lot of the issues raised in the article over the next few years.

This paragraph from the article sums up my objections pretty handily:

“Playing princess is not the issue,” argues Lyn Mikel Brown, an author, with Sharon Lamb, of “Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters From Marketers’ Schemes.” “The issue is 25,000 Princess products,” says Brown, a professor of education and human development at Colby College. “When one thing is so dominant, then it’s no longer a choice: it’s a mandate, cannibalizing all other forms of play. There’s the illusion of more choices out there for girls, but if you look around, you’ll see their choices are steadily narrowing.”

The Benefits of Boredeom

A recent ParentingIdeas.org article talks about the benefits of boredom:

Strange as it may sound, bordom [sic] promotes happier, creative kids who are better problem solvers. When children use their own creativity with unstructured play, they find ways to amuse themselves — even if it means simply daydreaming.

This has been our plan for Ruby all along.  It’s why she doesn’t watch any TV right now, and why we’ll keep her organized activities to a reasonable level when she’s older.  It also makes me feel better about the time she spends exploring the playroom alone while I’m in the next room writing blog entries.