Friday, November 26, 2010

What Are Little Kids Made Of?

I've been ruminating on something for awhile these last several weeks. Probably why I've been so quiet here. I've wanted to write, but I just don't know how to focus this subject. With all the senseless bullying (right - as if bullying ever makes sense) in the news of late - primarily aimed at boys, it seems - boys who are different, you might say, from the norm - I've been thinking on how it is to have - to BE - a girl who is not quite your typical girl.

I don't know about you, but I for one admire a mom who will, for example, allow her little boy to dress up as Daphne from Scooby Doo. Just because that's his favorite cartoon and she is his favorite character. Big deal! If that's what he wants to be, than rock on with your bad Scooby self!

However, I do completely "get it" that this adorable little 5 year old boy also expressed concerns about dressing as a girl for the holiday. And, as such, perhaps his mom should have recognized his concern & been just as okay with letting him change his mind to not dress like Daphne after all. I mean, bravo to her for downplaying his worries - since, ideally speaking, he really should be able to freely dress as he wishes without being afraid to do so. But, of course he understood, even at his young age, that dressing as a girl would generally be considered "weird" and "odd" and "not right" for a boy to do. Because that's just not what our society accepts as natural or good. Boys do and like boy things, girls do and like girl things. To mix and match is just plain wrong and may very well lead to changing/influencing the very essence of a child's developing sexuality, doncha know.

Ahem. I think not. Actually, I pretty much know not. But that's a different story...

Besides, is that truly, truly what "we" as a society think? Or are "we" a bit more one sided about the situation? After all, as Nerdy Apple Bottom mom goes on to say in her blog post, "If my daughter had dressed as Batman, no one would have thought twice about it. No one."

She's absolutely right. Cuz my daughter dressed up for Halloween as (essentially) Darth Vader. And no one said one contrary word at all. In fact, they thought she was funny (since she was actually dressed as an Ele-Vader - punny family that we are.) But controversial? Ha! I don't think so.

My daughter also looooovvvveeeess to play Legos. And play at being a Super Hero. She couldn't care less about dolls or princesses. She'll wear a dress without complaint - and look awfully adorable in it - when I put a dress out for her to wear. But otherwise she's much more comfortable in pants and that's usually what you'll find her in.

She also loves math. And science. She loves to ride her bike or "work" with her Daddy in his "mad scientist lab" (read: woodworking shop.) She also loves to go on hikes with her dad. She's never been what one would consider shy.  She's rather interested in cooking and baking... but that's another Daddy & Sweetie activity, since I am not the cook in the family at all.

She's also definitely caught the romantic attention of at least a few boys in her school. Cute little boys who tell her they love her every day. Who tell her they want to marry her when they grow up. Who fight with their little brothers over who gets to walk and talk with Sweetie for a little while. And while Sweetie is well aware of these boys' feelings for her, she continues to just take it all in stride. Not mentioning to me or her Daddy that she actually like likes these boys as well. No. She really doesn't care. Boys are just "whatever" to her still.

And maybe forever. Who the heck knows! I'm certainly not concerned now with which gender Sweetie will most be attracted to as she grows older. Her current playtime interests, to me, certainly aren't directing her towards one sexual orientation or another. To even suggest that is ridiculous. She plays what she want to play - the end. How in the world can that possibly be linked to whether she's going to be attracted to males or females as an older girl?

But yet - as seen from Nerdy Apple Bottom mom's post as well as the countless other newsworthy bullying and suicide incidents lately - if you're a boy who tends to like the typically more "girly" things in life, then you're obviously a boy who's headed down a highly controversial path and will almost certainly come out as a homosexual person somewhere down the road.

It's a horrendous double standard, if you ask me. Why is it that shy little boys who like to bake with their moms, or want to learn how to sew, or who's best friends are girls, or who would rather take up dancing than run around outside getting dirty digging up worms while tossing a football around... well, obviously these boys will one day prove themselves to be gay. At the same time, we continue to teach our girls that they can be anything, do anything they set their minds to. Play sports! Be outgoing and confident! Be the best student you can! You don't just have to sit around having tea parties, learning to bake and cross-stitching samplers. Whoop those boys fannies and boldly get out there into this great big world!

It's praised, don't you see, for a girl to do the more "boyish" things. I admit it! I feel rather proud of my little girl for doing what she wants, being who she wants - not "playing by the rules" that she has to like Barbies, dress up, and the like. Yet for boys, it's severely frowned upon when they gravitate toward typically girl-driven activities and interests. "We" want to hide those boys. And not that "we'd" ever admit it, but I dare say "we" are almost ashamed of our sons who tend toward the more feminine interests.

When did it become so shameful to be a typical girl?

What's shameful, I think, is that our kids as a whole - boys and girls alike - feel any pressure at all as they grow up to "do the right things" or play the "right" way.

Little girls who only love to wear dresses and hold tea parties every day for their bevy of stuffed animals and dollies and who take ballet lessons and love to draw and skip and play house are just as amazing and awesome and powerful as little girls who climb trees, play super hero and build with Legos while dreaming dreams of car racing and becoming the quarterback of their favorite pro football team. Likewise we should recognize and encourage the beauty, strength and confidence present in every little boy - whether they prefer to sit in a corner and crochet while playing with their teddy bears then go off to play dress-up with their mom's wardrobe, or they're typically found covered in mud and scrapes, kicking around a ball with their buddies or attacking monsters and other nasty villains on their latest video game.

Kids should be allowed to be kids. As I said here today - and have said time and again within this blog - Hubby and I are nothing but proud of our Sweetie. She's a confident girl who's not afraid to speak her mind, couldn't really care less what other's think, and continues to play at whatever it is that makes her the happiest - other kids or grown-ups be damned! And I know & have known plenty of other girls like this as I've grown up. It really does my heart good to see the little ladies of our world having the confidence to live their lives the way the want and to become the genuine people they're destined to become.

Now if only we could allow all the little boys of the world to be their true genuine selves as well. Letting them know that it is alright for them to be as they wish, do as they please, and not be afraid of the consequences of such behavior. Indeed, teaching our boys that acquiring some quiet sensitivity is quite an asset to one's character!

If we can raise our boys to know & live the truth in their hearts, if we can become a society that accepts every individual for their true authentic self... only then will we have succeeded in stepping much closer to a peaceful and meaningful existence.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Something Old Something New Something Borrowed Something Blue

No, no one I know is getting married. At least not that I'm aware of. No, this old wedding verse is actually applicable to what Sweetie's Christmas is shaping up to look like.

And she's gonna absolutely freak.

Something Old: "The Invention of Hugo " book. An "old" book to her because we already read it together as a family this summer when we borrowed it from the library. But, man oh man!, did she love it! I have never seen her so interested in a book before & so wanting to get back to family time reading together as she was with this book. And, since it's a several hundred page chapter/picture book, Hubby & I figure Sweetie deserves to have her own copy to read & cherish & continually find something new about for years to come.

Luckily, for Hubby & I, there are a few other presents for Swee that fit into the "old" category...

1) Hubby's old kid's sized guitar from when he was young. We'll have to have it restrung for our left handed girl, but otherwise a gift in perfectly good condition that she'll be thrilled to get.

2) My old drafting table - a gift I received when I was about 11 or 12 years old. For this one we are still hoping the thing can actually be found in my parents basement. But if it's there, we know it's the sort of gift that will make our budding artist completely happy.

3) Old (but very clean & new-looking) dress socks from Hubby. Yes - socks. And (here comes the "borrowed" part comes in) assorted foam parts & pieces from Sweetie's very own already existing collection of foam parts & pieces which she very rarely ever plays with. We'll toss in some borrowed yarn strands & buttons from Nana's and/or Grammy's craft areas & - presto! - Sweetie's got herself her very own Burping Yeast Sock Puppets Making Kit from her beloved Alton Brown "Good Eats" show.

Now, I reckon if you all, dear readers, aren't familiar with the Food Network's "Good Eats" show, then you obviously also don't know about the burping yeast sock puppets that occasionally make an appearance on that program. But let me tell ya, they do. And whenever they do, Sweetie just thinks they're the funniest things going. Hubby & I think she'll get a big kick out of making these "TV Stars" her permanent friends.

4) Since we're talking about rather off the wall gift ideas, try this one on for size! We are going to give Sweetie her very own piece of wood!!!! Woo hoo!!! We ROCK as parents!!! (or, at least, we "wood" rock, if only...)

Anyway, yes. A simple piece of wood will be one of Sweetie's gifts. But she's going to love it! Know why? Because it will come with a label exclaiming the question "What WOOD You Make?!" And then the rest is up to her. She so loves spending time with her daddy in his "mad scientist" wood shop - drawing on wood, making design plans with him, and otherwise being her amazingly creative self - that we figure if we let her have carte blanc freedom with this gift, allowing it to become whatever it is she can imagine, that she will come up with something pretty awesome. Bonus Daddy & Sweetie time included if her ideas include anything that involves power tools & more than simple building.

5) Last on the "Old" list are previously used Legos, purchased off EBay for an inexpensive but sure to please present. We can easily get a large collection of Lego pieces for around $10.00. And since Sweetie's free time is largely spent either coloring/drawing or playing Legos, this one was a no-brainer for Hubby & I. For all the time she plays with these little plastic building pieces, she has proportionately very few pieces to actually build with. The girl needs more & we're happy to be able to provide her with some with as little damage as possible done to our bank account.

Something New: Lest you worry that Sweetie's getting nothing but hand me downs, old clothes & blunt objects with which to beat her crazy parents senseless, don't you worry. There are some brand new items on tap as well. New books, a new jigsaw puzzle, a new DVD, & new clothes are all on the list. A new fairy door might even show up at our new house, courtesy of a fun scavenger hunt. And, of course, everything she's getting is new, to her, at least. I don't think we'll be hearing any complaints at all.

Something Blue: And now, for the big one! The big "Blue" gift for the whole family. The one gift made possible via all the pennies saved on the other "old" & "borrowed" gifts.

We're getting tickets to see The Blue Man Group in Boston for a performance a week after Christmas!

Sweetie is going to freak. I'M freaking! Hubby's already seen their show years ago & is so excited to take Sweetie & me. Sweetie's seen these guys on one of the PBS kids shows she watches as well as a PBS special of theirs that played somewhat recently. Yes, we know their particular brand of concert/theatrical show isn't everyone's cup of tea, & there may even be parts of the show that aren't exactly meant for kids. But for our little family, seeing the BMG live & in person will definitely be one of life's highlights. And as for the non-kid-friendly potential bits - eh. Whatever. Either Swee will get treated to a naughty little laugh, or the whole bit will go right over her head. We're honestly not that worried about it.

So, yeah. Looks like Sweetie's going to have a pretty kickin' Christmas this year. And don't forget too that her birthday is just a few days before Christmas, so all these things will be spread out over the 2 gift giving occasions. We're not inundating her with all this stuff all at once, that's for sure.

Getting so excited for the holidays! Christmas used to be my favorite time of year because I so loved getting presents. And now it's still my favorite holiday... but so, so, SO much more because I love to see Sweetie's reactions to the gifts Hubby & I are able to give to her.

It truly is so much better to give than to receive. After all, after receiving the gift of Sweetie herself - right near Christmas, no less - what more could I ever ask for for myself?

Monday, November 01, 2010

Taking a Cue from D. I. Leaders Everywhere

I have never really been a "yes girl." At least I don't perceive myself as one. I feel I have a pretty good sense of what I can and cannot take on, and I'm not afraid to turn something down because to take it on would certainly lead me to feeling overloaded.

For example, for the last couple years I've co-edited our church newsletter - meaning some months it was my responsibility to edit on my own, and some months it was the other editor's job. But this year, in light of my several part time jobs I've recently taken on, when I was asked if I could help out with these duties for this year, I politely declined. No, ma'am. I'm sorry, but my schedule is much too busy these days. Sorry!

Likewise, I really don't fit you're "typical" image of a busy working mom. Working outside of the home, raising the kids at home, taking care of house and home. Yeah, I do all that, but not alone by any means. I feel very blessed that I have a Hubby who likes to cook and provides us with our dinners every night. And he's good for taking care of outside the house duties (mowing, shoveling, etc.) as well as whatever inside-the-home repairs need tending to. As for me, I do the dishes (no dishwasher for us) and the laundry. I vacuum when needed. And tend to Sweetie's day to day needs (prepare her breakfasts, make her lunches, assist her with her bath and hair washing, make sure homework is done on time, etc.) And I try to take care of myself. Reading when I can, watching some favorite shows, playing on the computer, etc... And I don't feel too bad about it, either.

What I don't worry too much about is the day to day tidiness of our home. Heck, that's what guests are for! Hubby and I joke that the only reason we ever have people over is because it makes us clean up the house. We ourselves don't worry too much about the state of our place. At least I don't think "we" do. I don't - obviously. Anyway, the fact remains - our family's general happiness does not and never will turn on the basis of whether our knick knacks are dusted and our things are picked up.

Not that I'm saying we're a pig sty either. Not by any means! Just saying - with a child in the house as well as 2 adults who tend to just put things down "wherever," I'm not too concerned about making sure we keep "show clean" at all times.

Anyway... what was my point? Oh! Yes. I'm not a "yes girl." Right. And I'm not. True enough.

However, (you knew there'd be a "however," didn't you?) in one of my jobs I've kinda lately been feeling like I have no choice but to be a "yes girl" when it comes to getting all the lofty goals and aspirations of my boss up off the ground. She wants to grow! And change! And update! And create! and get with the technical age! And sell! Yay!

Aaaaannnndddd.... I'm her only employee. The Office Administrator. She wants to get these projects going so great things can happen and I have to do them all!!! Yes!!! I'll get it done!

.... No. No. Really. I don't have to do them all. I can't do them all. Primarily because I don't have the background education to make all these various projects come to life. To think that I myself have to get it done is overwhelming, to say the least. It was making me feel nervous and as if I was less of an employee. A disappointment. Like it would somehow be cheating or trying to get out of work by asking someone else to help me with this or that. My boss wants these things done and I must use my time to make them so - even though I don't have many hours each week at this job, nor the vastly different sorts of skill sets to get it all done. Sure, I suppose somehow, someway, I COULD get things done. But none of them fantastically. None of them to the best end product that's possible. I need help.

So I've done a lot of thinking this past weekend. And re-realizing my role as the Office Administrator has helped a lot. After all, my job really is to facilitate things getting done - not to necessarily be the one to do the actual work in all cases.

(Thank you, random article I read on the recent D.I. leader training that took place in our area. Leaders are supposed to facilitate things for their teams of kids, not do the things for the kids. For example, show the kids how to fish and where to buy a boat, but let them pick out the boat they want and do the fishing all themselves.)

So, great! Need to create an e-commerce store on our site? Fine! Here's this recommended site designer who can help us.

Want to create a kickin' full-color glossy professional-looking brochure? I know just the person for that!

Want to get to the top of Google when certain key word searches are done? Here's some information I've found and some people and programs that could answer a lot of our questions.

Help, people. I need help. And I'm not afraid to ask for it.

After all. It's my job to help my boss grow her company. And sometimes the biggest help I can give her is getting the right people in front of her and I to make things happen in the best ways possible for everyone and everything involved.

Yes! I can do that!

(And, no. No, I still can't get my house into pristine show quality at all times. In the grand scheme of things, it's just not that important to me. This I know for sure.)