Friends, bedtime, Grandpa’s visit, books, feminist mothering

This morning my friend R came over with her daughters. V is Hazel’s age. They cooperated in bringing masses of stuffies into the front room, ran around together, asked to go upstairs to play (denied, after the medicine-eating incident, from which I will recover eventually, but not yet), and generally had a good time. R and I sat around talking as the new baby slept on her mommy, did some snacking, and went back to sleep. It had been a while since we’ve seen each other, and it was great. The thing which often still strikes me, and probably will for some years to come, when hanging out with friends with kids, is how many more people there are in the space now other than just us two adults. There were a total of seven human beings in the room. And neither of us have had masses of children. It really is remarkable. I know, it’s been going on for millennia, but still, it’s impressive to me.

Toward the end I gave them all fruit – bananas, pears, and avocados – which was a tactical error, since no one wanted to eat lunch shortly thereafter. Nonetheless, Hazel did manage to eat her veggies in time to be driven off to school, from whence she visited the Aquarium on a field trip. Originally I was going to take the same tack we’ve been on lately, which is to say, “Ok, you don’t have to eat your X food. I am sure you can make it six more hours until dinner time.” But I felt it was unfair to unleash a hungry/cranky Hazel onto her teacher and class, so I told her she couldn’t go on the field trip if she didn’t eat first. She reluctantly complied with the addition of salt and ketchup on her veggies. I’ll take it, for now.

This afternoon, with the impetus of a family visit, I took some time to reorganize & clean up the toys. It’s not a job completely done, but it’s better. Organized toys are easier to find and therefore play with, and also easier to put away. I think it won’t take too long to finish.

My last student of the night cancelled due to illness, so I got home in time to see my father-in-law, and to participate in the kids’ bedtime routine. It took a while to get Emily down (Ted wound up going upstairs to calm her after we had come downstairs). It turned out she was clutching a Lego piggy, and every time she moved it poked her. But she didn’t want to give it up, and after Ted took it away she kept up a plaint of, “Moo! Moo!” for some time. That’s one of those moments in which frustration and amusement co-habitate in your heart, as the crying goes on and the funny does too.

Tonight before we went up to do bedtime, Ted and I made up his f-i-l’s bed. As soon as there were sheets on it Emily came over and started saying, “Bed, bed, bed!” Once I got the blanket on she added to her refrain, “Mine, mine, mine!” a word I hadn’t heard her say before. Each day I look forward to hearing more words. She’s acquiring them by leaps and bounds.

Grandpa G bought the kids some wonderful presents, including this ladybug scooter. There were also backpacks for each of the twins. Apparently Joanna wasn’t too keen on hers: as Ted pointed out, sometimes things with faces scare her a bit. They’ll be great in six months, though, when the twins head off to preschool.

There was a new book to read to Hazel, about a princess and a dragon who swap places. Each time we get a new book it takes me a while to process it, to figure out what I think of it, and how to approach it, given that I’ll be reading it a lot, at least for a while. This one starts out a bit too heavy on the good/bad dichotomy, but by the end it’s eased off and shows you that there are benefits to both characters. I think it’s relying on stereotypes, even though it flips them. I want to get my own copies of Mary de Morgan‘s fairy tales. She wrote a story called, “A Toy Princess”, in which a fairy godmother takes her god-daughter princess away from an emotionally repressed court to a simpler life in which she can be happy, leaving in her place a perfectly lifelike doll. The doll behaves just as the courtiers desire, saying only four things, one of which is, “Just so.” These fairy tales were written more than a hundred years ago, but they are more successful at challenging gender-based assumptions and expectations than some written much more recently. She was apparently a feminist: “Mary de Morgan was a member of women’s suffragist group the Women’s Franchise League.[10] These views are reflected in her fairy tales, which often have strong female protagonists (often outwitting or rescuing men), and, in the case of The Toy Princess, have been interpreted as mocking society’s expectations of women (though it should be noted that the fictitious kingdom of the story places the same expectations upon its men.)” [from the Wikipedia piece]

I have decided to stop shying away from princess tales, since Hazel loves to talk about princess, and delve into the literature to find examples other than the Disney stable. I will enjoy digging out my old fairy tale books, particularly those which, at the end of the 19th Century, were called “Modern Fairy Tales”.

It is a balancing act, trying to figure out what is the right way to interweave my feminism with my mothering, my daughter’s culturally-impacted desires with my intention to create a space in which she has both agency and boundaries. This is something that requires a lot of processing, feeling into, thoughtfulness. I will get it wrong a lot, I am sure. But I deeply loved fairy tales when I was a little kid, and I want to enter the conversation with Hazel about women and girls’ treatment in society with a sense of appreciation and openness, while I also give her some context she’ll need to understand as she grows.

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