As a child I used to play for hours with our basket full of lego. I remember making towns and homes and parks and imaginary worlds and moving the little people all about. We have a big basket of duplo from the 80s that my grandmother gave us when she moved house, but the girls are now ready for the smaller sized lego pieces.
Birdie recently got some lego and when we brought it home I was surprised to note that almost all the blocks were pink and the only person in the box was a blonde princess. She has a bed with roses on it and a dress and a rabbit with its very own crown. And a wand. It wasn’t until this point that I realised (in horror) that in this day and age there is “girl’s lego” and “boy’s lego”. What I would refer to as “lego” is now “boy’s lego”. And from what I can gather they seem to come mostly in kits where the need for imagination is limited. I bet you all knew this already, right? I was telling someone about this horrific discovery only to have them reply, “Oh, I know, isn’t it great! Now the girls can play lego too… it’s so cute.”
As you can imagine I had to quickly change my tune…
Before I had children, I thought gender stereotyping was a thing of the past, but as a parent I now realise it is certainly alive and thriving. Why can’t my girls play with plain old lego? I should point out that Bird absolutely loves her pink lego… But there were no towns or families or parks to be made with the princess stuck in her lonely old castle. As far as I could see she didn’t have many things to do aside from faff about in her royal bed or look at herself in her royal mirror and wave her pink wand every now and then. With her crowned bunny. Who also has a wand. But can’t hold it. So.
Just like at the Pixie’s swimming lesson the other week when the teacher instructed her in a little dainty voice to “kick, kick, kick your little princess toes!” and to the boy in the class in a gruff deep voice: “kick, kick, kick those big strong legs!”
I don’t know about all the other parents of girls out there, but I know I want all three of my women to grow up with strong legs that can carry them through the ups and downs of life, rather than “little princess toes”.
I was brushing Birdie’s hair this morning. She stood in between my legs while I sat on the couch. I could see her poking her thigh with her finger while I brushed.
“Am I skinny?” She asked.
“You’re perfect.” I replied.
“But I can see some fat here,” she said, poking her upper thigh.
“That is not fat, it’s just part of your body. Your body is perfect and has everything it needs. If you didn’t have that bit of body, you’d only have a bone and when you tried to walk with only a bone you’d fall over, ” I replied: stupidly, awkwardly, long-windedly. She seemed to accept this answer and think it was quite the joke. She went on laughing about walking around with only a bone for a leg and falling over.
I remembered someone telling me that their daughter started worrying about her weight when she started kinder. I was gobsmacked. Kinder? Are you kidding me? I don’t remember noticing anything in particular about my body until high school.
I am probably reading a lot more into Birdie’s comment than I should. Perhaps it was just a flippant comment that meant nothing to her, yet to me held a tsunami of undercurrents about our culture and society, materialism, body image, questions about whether or not I’ve been making comments while getting myself dressed that she has picked up on, ra ra la la ha bla.
It has reminded me that I am a role model – the main womanly role model they have. They see how I look at myself in the mirror, they hear the things I might say about my body, or about how a piece of clothing looks.
It’s been a good opportunity to think about what I do and don’t want to pass on to my daughters when it comes to body image. A lot of food for thought…
Thinking and dreaming and writing (elsewhere!). Reading things that make my path and decisions easier. Focussing on mindfulness in the day to day. Trying not to get bogged down by the irrelevant. These are a few of the things I have been doing. As Autumn comes into focus (albeit a rather warm one) the world around us seems to slow down. The days become shorter and, if you pay attention, nature begins to wind down, reminding us that we should be doing the same. The Ashtanga Yoga I was doing over summer has merged into sporadical (read: rare) trips to the studio for rejuvenating stretching and meditation. Food has become warmer in our house, and cooked longer and slower as I follow the seasons and my instincts to fill our bellies with fresh, warm seasonal produce. In a book that I constantly refer to, I read that Autumn is a time for shedding, and not to be surprised if you cry a lot as we move into this season. I’m never afraid to cry. Are you?
The idea of womanhood, to me, is for us to stick together and learn from each other and gently teach each other what we know.
I heard two stories today – one from a friend and one online – of two women. The first story was about a woman who is choosing to have an induction for the birth of her first child because her obstetrician is going on holiday and she has paid a lot of money for him to be there for the birth of her child. The second woman was a friend of a friend of a friend, commenting on facebook about booking in for a caesarean because birth is too ‘disturbing’.
This made me feel deeply sad.
Not only because these women (both of whom I have never met!) seem to have an incredible lack of understanding about birth, and inherently – womanhood. But also because, one might assume from the outside, they have no women in their lives who have shared positive stories about birth, pregnancy, new beginnings, life.
I am not being judgemental of other’s birth choices. I believe it is each individual’s prerogative to make the choices they feel are right for them. The catch is whether or not those choices are informed.
If we don’t share positive stories about pregnancy and birth, and pass on information about the power of our bodies and our babies, is it any wonder that women believe what they see on television, and opt for the operating table?