Semi-new action toys have come out, and they’re pink. The color pink has become controversial in its own right, but throwing weaponry into the mix brings up a whole new set of dialogue, “Why pink? Why weapons? Should girls and boys be playing out aggression? Are weapons bad? Are pink weapons bad? Is aggression good?…” Where I live, most parents are anti-fake weapon play. The mere pointing of a stick with the added “pow-pow” nearly brings parents to tears, likely fearing this role-play is somehow indicative of their parenting and the adult their kid will grow up to be. I am not apart of this mode of thinking. Kids role-play all sorts of things, they pretend to be a dog or a turtle, and yet we don’t fear children will grow up to have be “furries” or “plushies”. Nerf Rebelle Heartbreaker Exclusive Golden Edge Bow by Hasbro is being talked about simply because it’s pink. Toy weaponry is old hat. The focal point of the new weaponry toys is that they’re pink. Nerf guns have been around for years, in varying blues, oranges, greens and blacks, and while Nerf guns have suffered some criticism revolving around the presumed aggression, or warfare the gun may promote, I can assure you the criticism never once revolved around the color. So why now? Why does pink, and all things typically female create such cultural upheaval? We all know the argument against pink, I’ve written about it before, i.e., “pink is bad, it upholds gender stereotyping and women’s oppression.” Or something like this. First of all, a color cannot do these things, that’s just absurd. Second of all, we shouldn’t look at something that loosely represents an idea of “female”, and chastise it, we should embrace it and change whatever negative meaning it might have held. In order to progress, and continue equality among men we need to actually think that Women are equal, and not place blame on things like pink, makeup, tight clothes, etc., to each their own. And while I don’t wear pink or know how to properly apply make-up, I also don’t think that these things in anyway represent, or are cause for women’s oppression. I urge you to think about this topic. Consider what the color pink and weaponry play means to you, and why. Read the New York Times post I linked to about the new “girl” Nerf guns, written by Hilary Stout and Elizabeth A. Harris. I’d love to see some comments about this topic!
Please check out this great video “Pink is Not the Problem” by Moviebob. A fellow blogger shared this video with me after a post I wrote, “Feminism Vs. Dolls.” You can read it directly below this video!
Here is a disappointingly digressive take on the stay-at-home-parent by Women’s Comedy (blogger.) The author comments that, “We look up to people who achieve things using their talents and skills – not reproducing and becoming parents. Why? Because any fertile person can do that!”
What the author fails to acknowledge or know, likely due to her lack of experience and research in child-rearing is that while, anyone can have a baby, not everyone has the skills, patience, and authority to be a successful stay-at-home-parent.
In general, I’m not huge on reading parenting books. I think people rely too much on them and forget that they are human beings who have natural instincts for these things. I’ve looked over and read, what I consider to be a fair amount of parenting books, (yes, sometimes reading parenting books for my employers is part of my job) there are a few problems I find with most parenting books.
1. Most parenting books consist of long monologues with little information.
2. It’s nearly impossible to know what books to get, because there are hundreds out there, all claiming to be experts on the same topic.
3. Most parenting books consist of long monologues with little information… OH, I already said this?
I might take for granted that I know what I know about child rearing, safety, developmental stages, etc. because of all my years of experience, (I should also thank my mom for her amazing educated advice) but I do realize some people go into parenting with no experience, thus making it a little scarier and overwhelming.
It would be hard at this point to trace back all the moments when I learned all of the valuable information I take for granted now, such as, that babies have “sleep signals” to cue us for bedtime, that biting babies nails when they’re infants is easier than using finger nail clippers, that letting your baby run around without a diaper for a few hours is the best way to get rid of a rash…. you get the point. At some point I did learn all of this, there was a moment when it all clicked, and I learned this through experience, not from a book.
All of this being said: For people with little to no experience, and without a ‘model’ parent for which to ask questions I realize it can be comforting, and informative to read a book….or twelve. My personal opinion is that we (Americans) over-read on parenting. So far a few books I would recommend are listed below, keep in mind these books for the most part fit into my “parenting” style, or they are simply information based.
Baby and Toddler 411 by Denise Fields and Ari Brown: These are 2 different books. The books have factual information about your child’s developmental stages they also have products like car seats, discussed and rated. I rarely look at this for developmental stages but I have referenced it when choosing important products, like car seats and high chairs for my bosses. I like the books because they are simple and to the point, you don’t have to read 12 pages to find the one sentence of actually useful information you wanted about diaper rashes.
Bringing up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman: A great book about an American woman in Paris, and her discovery, and conversion into French parenting. When I read this book I was shocked by how similar my “parenting style” is to the French parenting style. The book helped me to feel more confident in my choices and gave me some more useful tips on sleep and eating. A great book for someone who is unsure of what parenting style they want to go with!
Baby-led weening by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett: For those who are interested in, or want to know more about baby-led weening.
It can be hard to follow through on your own parenting style, when others around you are collectively doing something else. It’s hard when strangers look at you like you’re crazy for implementing some parenting technique, whether it’s enforcing a rule, or letting your child play on the playground with other kids while you’re on a bench watching.
At playgrounds I often have an inner, self-encouraging mantra running, telling myself not to jump into the sandbox, or pointlessly follow ‘my’ kid around on the actual playground. I have to do this because all around me I feel parents judging me for not following their lead of over-parenting (yes, I too judge their over-parenting.) While I love, and will happily play with the girl I watch, I think that she should play at the playground with other kids, not with me.
The other day, while I was out with the girl I nanny, who is now 22-months, I encountered this stranger-judgment. I had two choices, 1. stray from my “parenting style” so as not to be judged, or 2. Maintain my style, and possibly be wrongly judged for it. I chose the latter. While we were walking she (we’ll call her Turtle) decided to set her water bottle on the ground, walk away from it and then demand that I pick it up. The conversation went something like this:
Me: Turtle, can you please pick up your water?
Turtle: No, you pick it up. I need you to pick it up.
Me: Turtle, I’m not going to pick it up. If you don’t want to carry it, bring it to me and I’ll put it in the bag. But you need to pick it up.
At this moment a stranger glared at me and went to pick up the water bottle, I intercepted saying…
Me, to stranger: No, thank you, but I want her to pick up the water bottle.
Stranger: [Disgusted face]
Me: Turtle, you can take your time, but we aren’t going to walk any further until you pick up your water.
2 minutes later….
Turtle picks up her water and brings it to me.
Me: Thank you.
Turtle: You’re welcome.
The moral of the story is, yes, it was hard for me to have this stranger judge me, knowing she probably thinks I’m a terrible, mean, evil caregiver, but I have a specific “parenting” style and so, to maintain consistency, I let the stranger judge me. Plus, I know I’m not a mean, terrible of evil-caregiver, which helps.
Disposable diapers, on the national level, have been a topic of discussion for some time because of their negative environmental footprint. This environmental awareness has also led to a social pointing-of-fingers at playgroups and parenting sites. The people who cloth diaper their babies are the best, and the people who don’t just don’t care about the environment, right? Well, it’s not that simple, you know that.
While there are a lot of people who choose disposables for pure/mythical convenience, i.e., no extra laundry (true) and, no mess (myth!) A lot of people do not have the convenience of being environmentally friendly.
The choice between cloth or disposable diapers, could easily be described as a “white person problem.” While the process of cloth diapering might be thought of as more time-consuming, and inconvenient, there certainly is a convenience, in being able to make this personal, and financial decision. In order to successfully use cloth diapers you need:
Financial Costs: While the accumulated, total cost of cloth diapers is less, the immediate, out of pocket cost, is more than purchasing a one-month supply of disposables. This can be a huge factor for people of lower income choosing disposables over cloth; it’s a difference between say an immediate, one-time cost of $300-500 for cloth, versus a continual monthly cost of $70-100 for disposables. The latter is a lot easier to swing for people on a month-to-month paycheck.
*I feel a rebuttal coming on: Making you’re own cloth diapers out of shirts, towels and other cloth: This is a great alternative, but it is time consuming, and for someone working 50-70 hour weeks this might not make personal sense.
Access to, or funds for washing machine/diaper service: This is an extra cost, and if you live in an apartment, or public housing you will likely not have a personal washing machine, and most laundromats will not let you wash diapers in their facility.
*If you have the time, you can wash diapers at home by boiling water on the stove, again another time and personal cost.
Stay-at-home parent/caregiver: Did you know that day-cares only accept disposable diapers? So, if you’re of lower income, and are unable to be a stay-at-home parent or provide in-home care for your baby you will likely send your baby to day-care, meaning you must use disposables.
All of this being said, I think cloth diapers are great, and I plan on using them when I have children, because I have the convenience of making this decision both personally and financially. It’s important to be aware of the social and financial costs for people, and why that might lead to a parent not making an environmentally friendly diapering decision, so let’s not point fingers.
Below I’ve linked to some websites, which debunk, and sometimes confirm some myths of cloth diapering, such as (inconvenience and mess) and other sites that discuss the why’s and how-to’s of cloth diapering. For more information and testimonials on cloth diapering, check out some of the sites below:
“The vast majority of licensed day care centers do not accept cloth diapers, and require parents and caregivers to provide a steady supply of disposable diapers.”
“What about those that only have access to community laundry facilities? It can be done! Many families do use cloth with limited access to washing machines. I recommend going with a simpler diaper like prefolds and/or a hybrid system like Flip. The covers can be wiped out or hand washed easily and the durable inserts may handle being washed just once a week better than more complex diapering systems.”
“For cloth diapering, each family will probably need about 6 dozen diapers10. The cost of cloth diapering can vary considerably, from as low as $300 for a basic set-up of prefolds and covers11, to $1000 or more for organic cotton fitted diapers and wool covers…. This means the cost of cloth diapering is about one tenth the cost of disposables12, and you can spend even less by using found objects (old towels & T-shirts).”
“…. A number of scientific studies have found that both cloth and disposable diapers have environmental effects, including raw material and energy usage, air and water pollution, and waste disposal. Disposable diapers add 1 to 2 percent to municipal solid waste, while cloth diapers use more energy and water in laundering and contribute to air and water pollution.”
If you’re going the cloth diaper route, this site rates some brands.
Scooters are fun. For children under 5 the scooter should be a toy, an activity limited to the confines of an enclosed park, or pedestrian walkway (that isn’t filled with pedestrians.) The scooter should not be used as a means of transportation. And while most parents wouldn’t admit they use the scooter to get their kid to scoot, just a little faster, that seems to be the only ‘logical’ motivation behind letting your 2 or 3-year-old speed 40 feet ahead of you, down heavily trafficked streets.
I get it 2 and 3-year-olds move slowly, and sometimes it can be frustrating, but the answer should not be, throwing them on a scooter, which, they do not have control over.
Sure, I have a small scar on the back of my heel from a scooter accident, but that’s not what drives my anti-scooter speech. The real reasons I don’t think scooters are appropriate for children under 5 are listed below:
2-year-olds don’t stop when they see other babies walking directly ahead of them. They don’t have the dexterity to swerve, gracefully out of the way, or negotiate their special surroundings, and most importantly they don’t fully understand the dangers of moving, motorized vehicles. 2-year-olds are just learning what the “stop” hand, and “go” walking person mean. But, both symbols are still abstractions to them. They simply know to stop or go when they see either symbol, and they often get the two mixed up, or forget to look without our cueing them. 2-year-olds don’t necessarily understand, that the “stop” and “go” symbols could be the thing protecting them from being hit by a car. And 2-year-olds do not understand what being hit by a car entails.
Solutions: If you want your 2-year-old to go faster put them on the scooter while you push them, but don’t let them manage it alone, while on heavily trafficked streets.
The first few years of your child’s life, and of your being a parent, come with many exciting, scary, and even dreaded milestones, like the naming and talking about of your child’s genitalia. As with a lot of my posts, this, too, is founded on what has become my “parenting style,” that of clear, honest, educated communication.
We are the first teachers our children will have. While a lot of what they learn is through pure observation i.e., watching and hearing us, talk, walk, socialize, etc. We also coach them in these skills, we have mini “lessons” where we ask them questions or ask them to practice a new skill. We even make up games and songs, because we are so eager for them to learn that, wheels go round and round and that, doors go open and shut.
One of the most popular teaching songs even delves, lightly so, into anatomy, Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes, head, shoulder, knees and toes, knees and toes, eyes and ears and a mouth and nose…. We happily sing this song while touching the corresponding body part, and relish when our little ones can do it all on their own. However, some parents and caregivers do not share the same enthusiasm for teaching their sons and daughters the names of their genitalia.
A lot of parents and caregivers spend little time explaining anything about their child’s genitalia to their child. I rarely hear adults refer to their baby’s penis or vulva/vagina using the proper anatomical name. Most commonly babies’ genitals are referred to as just, “down there,” some mystery location, referring to something below the waist: knees, shins, feet?! Some adults adopt some fictional, cutsie name for their baby’s genitalia, such as, cupcake, hoo-hoo, pee-pee, wee-wee, va-jay-jay.
I don’t think vagina is an ugly word.
Oprah Winfrey, unfortunately, helped coin the cutsie term va-jay-jay to replace the “obvious” ugliness “vagina” exudes. It became okay to make up “pretty” names for your vagina, all under the guise of a misrepresented feminism, i.e., a pseudo take back/reclaim your vagina movement, but really only further separates us from our sex and sexuality. When grown men and women refuse to call their genitalia by the correct anatomical name, they do so out of embarrassment, a feeling I think most can agree should not surround our genitalia, a very important part of our bodies.
Why it can be hard to say P and V:
- It’s hard for some parents and caregivers to say penis and vulva/vagina because we associate these parts with sex.
- Our parent’s never said penis or vulva/vagina, so now we can’t say it either.
- Baby talk: some parents/caregivers have a hard time talking in anything other than baby talk, so knees could become kneesy-weesies without a moments thought.
- Adults are uncomfortable talking about their own genitalia by the correct names.
- *Some people think penis and vagina are “adult words.”
*While searching for some examples of cutsie names for genitalia I came upon a web conversation on the site, JustMommies entitled, “G-rated names for penis, vagina, etc.” Similarly, I searched “body parts Kids” and while there were many diagrams, none of those diagrams included genitalia. Apparently kids don’t have penises or vaginas. It seems safe to say we have an overarching problem with how we talk, or rather don’t talk about our genitalia. The words Penis and vagina do not need a G-rated synonym because they are not bad words. Penis and vagina are anatomical names, just like elbow or collarbone.
Parents’ and caregivers’ inability to say penis and vulva/vagina when referring to their child’s genitalia bothers me beyond the obvious, which is simply that of embarrassment. I believe that at such a crucial learning stage we should be teaching them the correct names for things, in general. Just like we don’t want our kids to use slang or mispronounce words, we shouldn’t want them to use slang for their genitalia. Our jobs as parents and caregivers should be to present them with correct information. If they decide to change the name of their penis or vulva/vagina to something else, that’s fine. But I believe they should be presented with correct anatomical names for these reasons:
Why we shouldn’t make up cutsie names for P and V:
- Miscommunication: If you call your daughter’s vulva/vagina a cupcake, she will face confusion when someone offers her a cupcake.
- Miscommunication: Others will not know what she means when she says “My La-La hurts.”
Why we should say penis and vulva/vagina:
- Clear communication: Every adult knows what a penis is.
- Clear communication: Every adult knows what a vulva/vagina is, right?! Vulva refers to the outer genitalia, while, vagina refers to the inner orifice.
I believe, strongly that having an open, and clear line of communication in regards to our bodies is key in creating a well-informed, inquisitive child. A child, who will know how to talk about their bodies without embarrassment, is a child who will also know their body’s limitations. They will be able, later in life, when they hit sexual maturity to make informed decisions, based on those early years of clear and open conversations about their body.
You can properly identify your child’s genitalia without sexualizing them. The reality you can take comfort in, is that your babies genitals are not something sexual, and wont be until puberty or after. Even if your baby is touching his/her penis or vagina, they are not doing so out of sexual curiosity. They are touching themselves out of pure and innocent, A-sexual curiosity, so name those parts the way you do when your baby pulls on their ear and you say “that’s your ear!”
Because we want out kids to learn body parts, we should also acknowledge and help them identify their genitalia and anus. These areas will gain a lot of interest from your child, especially during potty training, so get comfortable identifying and saying the names.
- When changing the diaper, simply get comfortable saying something like, “Oh, don’t touch your penis right now, there’s poop on it.”
Tall Nanny, Small Nanny, Slow Nanny, Fast Nanny: How many different nannies you meet!
How to choose a nanny: This is the topic of conversation in Park Slope. Speaking with parents on this subject has led me to believe a lot of parents go into the process of finding a nanny, with, well, not much of a process at all. This shocks me because Park Slope parents are notorious for being overbearing in every other aspect of child rearing. Parents spend hours, weeks, maybe months, carefully choreographing their 5 month-old’s weekly class schedule (dance, music, art, etc.) Yet, not much thought seems to go into the person who will spend 40+ hours a week with their child.
Of course parents think and care about who watches their children, but without a clear structure, or rubric to choose a nanny they become overwhelmed, the process becomes something akin to shopping in a grocery store: pick one important “no” ingredient i.e. high fructose corn syrup, and ignore the rest.
Looking back about a year and a half ago, before I got my current job, I put myself on SitterCity, a website designed for nannies and parents. I remember the submissions by parents including such things as “flexible hours, experience,” but then the requirements often leaped to language… “Must be fluent in…” most popular being Spanish, but because I’m in New York, more obscure languages such as, Hungarian, Vietnamese, Mandarin, and Russian enter into the mix. After hours, wage, language, and maybe education, that’s about it in terms of job requirements. The process is similar to any other job someone may get (Cook, Lawyer, Waitress, etc.,) unbiased to personal character. The problem with this is that being a nanny is not like any other job, your character does matter, or it should.
I think choosing the right nanny should, ideally, include elements of character (values, lifestyle, religion, etc.,) The key is for parents to decide, even loosely, what’s important to them, both as an employer and parent (monetary vs. character). This part can be difficult because it takes time to decide what is important to you in someone’s character, should their values, religion/non-religion, match yours or do you want variation?
The truth is, if you have a full time nanny that nanny is going to have a pretty significant impact on your child, in more ways then you can see. It can be small things or big things, maybe you’re an atheist but your nanny is a god-loving woman or man and is preaching the Bible all day. Maybe you don’t want you’re child to be a racist, because, who wants their child to be a racist? But, guess what, your nanny is a racist. Maybe you’re healthy, but your nanny eats all day and is extremely over weight? This is not only a safety issue: what your nanny is physically capable of in terms of protecting your child from harm, it also becomes a character issue: will your child also learn to over eat, or use food for comfort? All of these things matter, your children will learn from the behaviors of the person near them, meaning parents, and also caregivers. So be critical of their character, because unlike other jobs their personality and character matter.
So, what would this look like? Below is a loose list of what is most important to me, and my partner, that is, if we were in the market for a nanny. You’ll notice that business (salary, sick days, paid vacation, etc.) is the last item, this is in an ideal situation where financial constraints do not apply, where I can choose my child’s nanny based on her character and experience, not on her low rates.
- Character matters: I would want my child’s nanny to have similar values as my partner and I.
- Parenting: I absolutely would want my child’s nanny to have a similar parenting style as my partner and I.
- Dietary: I would want my child around someone who is healthy; carnivore, vegetarian, vegan: I don’t care. But I do care if they eat all day, and go to McDonalds with my kid.
- In Shape: I don’t mean a muscle builder, just someone healthily mobile. If my child runs into the street can my nanny run after him?
- Doesn’t watch TV on the job
- *Business: This includes salary, time off, paid vacation, sick days, Health Insurance, etc. *And, yes, these should all be included for a full-time nanny position.
What this means: I want my kids to have a consistent upbringing. For others this might be different, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it is important to think about, and figure out, what is most important to you as parents. Obviously money comes into play for most, which may limit your options, or may not because low and high salaries do not necessary correlate to the dedication/character of the nanny. A lot of nannies don’t know what they’re worth (please don’t take advantage of that,) and some nannies think they’re worth way more than they are.
When you’re getting ready to hire a nanny think about what you want: make a list of character traits you want your nanny to have, and a list of more business end things: experience, flexibility, job duties and pay. When it comes time to open your pocket book remember that this person, the person of your choosing, who ideally matches your criteria is spending 40+ hours a week with your child. The nanny you choose will play a significant role in building your child’s character, emotional capacity, education, etc., so pick your nanny wisely and pay accordingly. And if you’re not sure you can afford certain rates, consider your life style. Maybe it’s worth it to give up some extra luxuries, like a fancy car or cable TV in order to ensure your child has a proper upbringing.
We’ve all been at playgroups when the inevitable screams of a parent/caregiver demanding their irritable-tantrum-raged toddler to “Stop! You’re being so bad! We’re going home!” resound over the screams of the toddler, demanding the question: Who’s having the tantrum, the child, or the adult?
The thing that makes, or breaks, a public tantrum is the parent/caregiver’s reaction to the crying child. Does the adult keep his/her composure, or, out of embarrassment and frustration, loose it as well? The reason a crying child can be unbearable isn’t because of the child, it’s because of the screaming adult accompanying the child. Screaming attempts to “Stop!” your child from being upset only fuels the fire, that is your screaming child.
Like adults, children have bad days; unlike adults they haven’t yet learned to control their emotions, leading them to display, publicly, just how upset they are with slight signs of frustration, or massive tantrums. Sometimes a child can be calmed down with an easy fix of a clean diaper, meal, a nap or a calm conversation. Other times, there isn’t a ‘thing’ to be fixed. They’re just in a funk and there isn’t much a parent or caregiver can do to stop it. I’m not saying we should accept crankiness, nor am I saying we should praise our children when they aren’t fussy. What I think is important is that we (adults) maintain our composure, even while our children are completely loosing it.
We can try to help them calm down, by figuring out if they are hungry, sleepy, or need a new diaper but after those things are checked off, there isn’t much we can do other than talk to them calmly and explain the situation at hand to them.
At the beginning of any given day I discuss with ‘my’ toddler what the day will entail, whether it’s a fun play-date or a not so-fun doctor appointment. I believe, (as I’ve stated in other posts) that preparing our babies/toddlers for the days activities and involving them makes it less likely a tantrum will occur.
If a tantrum does occur in public I try not to leave right away, or at all. I try to figure out if there is something I can do, by talking calmly and understandingly to the child. Giving the toddler time to adjust to the new environment and people is key. She may just need 15 minutes to realize that she’s safe where she is. Running out because she’s crying, or wont leave my side, will not teach her independence or patience, because I’m not allowing her time to adjust.
Most everyone can excuse and empathize with a screaming child; the same does not go for an angry, screaming adult.
If you’re out in public and your baby/toddler starts to scream or cry remain calm and remind yourself that everyone with kids has been here. Try to figure out what’s upsetting your child, if there’s something you can do to make it better, do it, but if they’re just in a funk, leave them alone. Talk to your child calmly and reassuringly. This will go a long way in calming both of you down and will relax the people around you.
I cannot count the times that saying something like “I understand how you’re feeling, take your time” or “I understand you’re upset right now, but we are around other people, so lets try to be a little quiet” has led to a calm child. When I say these things it calms me down and it also works to calm down the toddler.
Children want to be acknowledged in their frustration, saying things like the above can completely turn a mood around.
So if talking to your child calmly and reassuringly works so well…(sometimes,) why don’t people use this tactic more? My guess is, people think it’s just too simple, we have it in our minds, our way of thinking, that we must talk them out of their frustration with negative reinforcement, “Stop!…We’re going home!…” when most of the time a calm and understanding tone will do the trick.
Leave when necessary, but don’t chastise your child for it (unless they are hitting, or pushing.) Use your judgment, but you don’t have to run out of a playgroup because your child is upset, give them some time to adjust to the new environment and people.
If you’re at a ceremony of some kind you should leave, know your audience. If there are tons of kids, and it’s a kid event, stick around. If you’re at an adult gathering, head outside for a bit until your child calms down.
Things you can do to avoid and calm public tantrums:
- Prepare them for the day, talk about the new class, play-date or activity for the day. If they know what’s coming and are excited, its less likely they’ll be overwhelmed upon arrival.
- Try to figure out what’s wrong and help them if it’s something “fixable”.
- Reassure them, e.g. “Everything is ok, we are going to play here for a bit and then we can leave.”
- Be understanding, e.g. “I understand you’re frustrated…”