Thursday Open Thread

It’s Thursday!

I found this Jezebel piece, about women who don’t want daughters, fascinating. Mostly because I have never encountered this. All the women I know either said they would be fine with either a boy or girl, or hoped for a girl.

That includes me. When I was pregnant with my first child, I hoped for a girl simply because it felt familiar: I’m a girl, therefore I could relate to a girl. Plus, the clothes! SQUEEEE! ;-) But I was also open to the possibility of a boy.

When I got pregnant a second time I openly hoped for a girl, simply because Maya was such a dream baby and having a daughter was fun beyond my wildest dreams. The thought of another daughter, a little sister and companion (plus the matching outfits! SQUEEE!) just made me crazy happy. Then the ultrasound tech told me I was having a girl. Cue the planning! The daydreams! The shopping! The girl names! When a second ultrasound revealed the baby was actually a boy, I was crestfallen, only because I felt like I had lost a “daughter” that I had already grown attached to.

Fast forward and y’all know I’m madly in love with my baby boy. But still, I have never met a woman who expressed reticence about having a girl. The Jezebel piece describes two camps:

#1“I don’t want a daughter because girls are harder to raise than boys.” Variations on this: “Girls are so moody and dramatic” or “Girls are manipulative and dangerous” or “Girls are easy when they’re young but watch out when they’re teenagers! Hoo boy!” or the ironic “Girls are too girly. I just can’t get into that stuff.” I cannot explain these women. I’m sorry. The best I can figure is that they dislike themselves, their sister, their mother, or someone else with a vagina, based on past experience, and the thought of producing another creature of the female variety makes their brain short and they say stupid things like, “Girls are just, I don’t know, harder on you emotionally.” They assign qualities of Disney villainess proportions -– jealousy, anger, cunning, ability to talk to mirrors -– to all female children. . .

#2“I don’t want a girl because the world is harder for girls.” Surprise! It is! But when we’re not dodging rapists or avoiding math and science, we do like to have some fun (I mean, fun we can afford; our paychecks are only 78% of our male counterparts’ checks). This is the camp that most of my friends agree is a more reasonable one –- after all, it is The Truth. It’s hard out there for an XX. When women say this, it usually comes from a place of personal experience, and their hope is to avoid being part of a process that inflicts more pain on another human being –- that is, giving birth to a girl. I can understand that.

What say you? Have you ever encountered this sentiment, or felt this way yourself?

In other news, Davy Jones of The Monkees died yesterday. I loved Davy, loved the Monkees, could not get enough of the reruns when I was a kid and know all the words to “Daydream Believer.” Here’s a lovely piece by a journalist who met and interviewed Davy last year. May he rest in peace.

What’s on your mind today? Chat away!

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Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

First, I want to wish our Cynmill — and Laura! — a very happy birthday. Here’s to a fabulous day for a fabulous trio!

In case you missed it, Newt Gingrich won the Republican primary in South Carolina this past Saturday. Here are detailed results courtesy of AP.

Brain, Child magazine ran a bittersweet story on the complicated history and nature of sibling relationships.

This blog post at BlogHer, in which a new mom claims that “parenting isn’t hard” and that yelling at your children in public is tantamount to abuse, perhaps not surprisingly, garnered a lot of reaction in the thread.

A couple in the UK that refused to reveal the gender of their baby for five years, just announced to the world that they have a boy, according to Yahoo Shine.

Parents magazine published a comprehensive story on the lack of paid maternity leave in this country. MomsRising executive director Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner was quoted in the second half of the story.

Actress Jessica Alba launched an organic diapering service called Honest.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?

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Tuesday Open Thread

Happy Tuesday!

Have you heard about the Swedish preschool that aims to be gender-free?

The Egalia Preschool in Stockholm rejects gender identity altogether, choosing not  to address children as either “him“ or “her“ and using toys, books and other school materials that strictly avoid gender stereotypes.  Traditional children’s stories like “Snow White“ and “Cinderella“ are banished from the school’s bookshelves.

One teacher at the Egalia School explains in an AP story, “Society expects girls to be girly, nice and pretty and boys to be manly, rough and outgoing. Egalia gives [the preschoolers] a fantastic opportunity to be whoever they want to be.“

It’s an admirable goal, no doubt. And there’s even a wait list. What do you think?

And is it me, or do holiday weeks sometimes feel like they drag on longer than regular old weeks? I think I’m suffering post-BBQ exhaustion :-)

Chat away!

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Tuesday Open Thread

Happy Tuesday!

So, what do you think about the media storm over Storm, the “genderless baby”?

In case you haven’t heard, the gist of the story is that a Canadian couple announced to friends and family that they weren’t revealing the sex of their third child – even after the baby’s birth.

“When the baby comes out, even the people who love you the most and know you so intimately, the first question they ask is, ‘Is it a girl or a boy?’“ says Witterick, bouncing Storm, dressed in a red-fleece jumper, on her lap at the kitchen table.

“If you really want to get to know someone, you don’t ask what’s between their legs,“ says Stocker.

Um, OK.

I get what this couple is trying to do. They are challenging gender norms and trying to see if this child can be allowed the freedom to grow up and announce his (or her) gender, rather than having society force those expectations on him/her.

But it seems to me like it would take entirely too much energy not to slip and describe baby as “he” or “she.” Their young sons, ages 2 and 5, know the baby’s sex, but also keep that information private (what if they let “the secret” slip?). And what if mom or dad have to change the baby’s diaper while out and about? Do they go hide somewhere? Will grandma and grandpa not be allowed to babysit lest they get a glimpse of the baby’s goods? (And no, the grandparents do not know baby Storm’s sex).

I tend to agree with psychologist Diane Ehrensaft, who “worries by not divulging Storm’s sex, the parents are denying the child a way to position himself or herself in a world where you are either male, female or in between. In effect they have created another category: Other than other. And that could marginalize the child.”

And I think Anna North over at Jezebel makes a great point:

Witterick and Stocker appear to have made gender nonconformity the center of their kids’ lives in a way that may actually make gender more of an issue than it would’ve been if they’d taken a more laissez-faire approach. Hopefully as they grow older, they’ll be able to find their own comfortable relationship with masculinity, femininity, and everything in between, without being pressured either to stand out or to fit in.

What do you think? Are you annoyed by society’s insistence on gender norms? Would you be willing to attempt such a radical social experiment? Why or why not?

What else is going on? Do tell!

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On The Loose

“Mom?“

“Yes?“

“My boob is on the lawn.“

“Seriously?“

“Totally“

Alice is peering out the bedroom window, her expression obscured by a filmy pink curtain. Her tone suggests that she hasn’t yet decided whether to laugh or cry. I walk to the window and peek out like an inverse Peeping Tom.


My husband Jay stands in the center of the yard, his arms crossed over his chest. Beside him, our landlord Jermaine mirrors his posture. They are facing away from us, and Jermaine’s children run in circles around them. All three of our dogs bounce and bound excitedly in a secondary orbit around the children, eliciting shrieks and giggles, which seep in through the glass separating us. The boob in question, a perky bit of pale pink silicone, rests nipple-to-the-sky halfway between the spa and the tool shed. No one seem to have noticed it. Yet.

“Wow“ I say.

“Yeah“ she says.

We stand silent for a moment, transfixed by the lone bra-buddy glistening in the sun.

“We’ve gotta go get it.“

“We?“

“That’s twenty-five bucks just laying in the grass.“

“I am so not going out there.“

“You’d go if it was cash, wouldn’t you?“

“Maybe Mouse’ll do it.“ She brushes back the curtain and implores with pleading eyes, but her mouth is twisted up to one side in a tight little knot, like she’s fighting back a smile.

I go to the doorway and crook my head around the corner into her brother’s room. Mouse is lying on his bed with a sketchpad and charcoal pencils spilled out in front of him. “Hey“ I say, “you wanna go rescue Alice’s falsie from the backyard before the kids and dogs start playing fetch with it?“

“What?“ He comes up off his bed and lopes into the room, looking out over Alice’s shoulder. “Where?“

She points.

He laughs.

She laughs.

Alice is sixteen now, and four months into her transition. At five ten, she’s the same height as her brother, though the recent growth spurt has thinned her to near-wafishness. Her hair has grown past the tips of her ears and is currently a brassy bottle blond in sharp contrast to Mouse’s shaggy blue-black locks and first attempt at scruffy sideburns. They are an oddly beautiful sight, these two with their heads together, noses pressed to the glass, and not for the first time, I am awash with the selfish delight that they are mine.

I join them at the window and watch our collie Chloe roll onto her back in front of the men, begging for a belly-scratch. The greyhounds have wandered off in search of things to pee on or dig up and one of them is getting dangerously close to the hooter-at-large. It is only a matter of time before a game of keep-away breaks out.

The breastforms were serious stuff back in the Spring. Like the makeup and girlie clothes and pointy shoes, they were an important part of the art of artifice. We ordered them from some dodgy website in early March and they arrived at my office in tidy cardboard box with an innocuous return label. Alice was beside herself with glee when I arrived home with the box. However, the excitement crashed into despair once she tore away the cardboard and bubble-wrap and held them up for inspection.

They were all wrong, right from the start. Instead of being a solid oval, they were concave on the underside, designed to enhance curves and cleavage rather than create them from scratch. And far from the advertized “one size fits all“, they were clearly full C-cups, much too much to seem natural on the slight frame of my 105 lb. daughter. After an excruciating evening of trial and error, Alice and I figured out that we could back-fill the faulty faux-breasts with tissue, but the whole process of securing them then in a proper bra with the right amount of cushion and a minimum of wiggle room was a painstaking chore.

When she came prancing out for dinner with the girls tucked into her eco-friendly “Think Green“ baby-doll t-shirt, we all did our best to ignore THEM without ignoring her. Its not like a haircut or a new dress, because as far as I can tell, there is actually no appropriate way to compliment your child or sibling’s newly acquired breasts without feeling or sounding or just plain being creepy.

Days later, when Alice wasn’t home, Mouse blurted out, “Ok, I get it. But do they have to have nipples?“

“Yes honey, I’m afraid they do.“

What followed the arrival of the falsies, were weeks of weeping and thrashing and a mounting mountain of Kleenex, what with all the stuffing and snotting and tears. Alice’s bedroom floor was literally littered with those balled-up bits of tissue for months. And then, at some point, and without explanation, she just kinda gave up on them. I say kinda, because they still made appearances at special occasions or with certain outfits, which apparently begged for bodacious tatas. But by mid-June, they had become more accessory than necessity. We were back, on most days, to the pretty little padded bras that required minimal engineering and no one was more relieved than I.

Back at the window, we are still weighing our options when Jay turns and catches sight of us. We immediately duck behind the curtains and below the sill, then take turns peeking out again. Jay’s face squinches up with curiosity and he continues to stare at the window. Finally, I swipe away the curtain and wave.

“I’ll do it.“ Mouse sighs. At eighteen, he is equal parts angsty introvert and charming court jester, alternately channeling Kurt Cobain and Buster Keaton. Luckily, it’s his Keatonesque self that slips through the sliding glass door from the living room and out into the yard. He plucks his hat from a post on the porch, pops it atop his head and proceeds to dip and skip and twirl his way across the grass. Jay and Jermaine glance at him but continue their conversation. The children stand transfixed as he goes whirling past, now trailed by our three-pack of excitedly barking dogs.

Alice giggles. I cover my face with one hand, peering out from between my fingers just as Mouse pratfalls onto the precise spot where the escaped bosom had been previously abandoned. Immediately, he jumps up, dusts himself off dramatically and resumes his dance. And like he’s some kind of magician in a black felt bowler, we realize that the deed has been done. The shiny bit of silicone has disappeared. The men and children are none the wiser, though one of the dogs, the naughty one, seems to suspect that a great injustice has just been done, and he stands and glares right there on the spot, as Mouse rewinds his way back up to the house. Jay turns towards us once more. This time Alice waves. We hear Mouse closing the slider and turn away from the window.

“Here’s your boob, dude“ he says, tossing it like a Frisbee through the doorway.

She catches it and grins.

Go ahead.

Its ok to laugh.

Boobies are funny sometimes.

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The Boy Suit

My daughter Alice was not always called Alice. Until the age of fifteen, she was mostly Jory. On paper, she was Jordan. Often and alternately, she was called He or Him, both Son and Brother. On the hospital nursery wristband, tucked away now in the drawer of treasures beside my bed, she was likewise mislabeled.

Alice spent the first fifteen years of her life hidden away inside a Boy Suit, not unlike an inescapable pair of footie pajamas, which seem perfectly fine and comfortable at first, but grows less so over time. At the age of ten, a single toe poked through. By eleven, the armpits had gotten too tight. When she was twelve the broken zipper’s twisted teeth scraped her here and there, a constant rash of  irritations. At thirteen it had grown so uncomfortable and restrictive that Alice secretly set out to shred the whole damn thing.


By age fourteen she was well on her way to that destruction, slashing away at her Boy Suit with a hundred little razor cuts, waging war on it from the inside with pills and pints and powders, anything she could get her sticky-fingered hands on. She ravaged it and raged inside of there, lashing out at everything and everyone within reach.

Then came the long line of doctors and therapists, psychiatrists and specialists, each one armed with a new set of methodologies and medications, more pills to pop on top of the ones she was already popping, more mind-numbing, probing questions about her family, her  school, her past and bad behavior.  Nothing seemed to help. Nothing made her feel better, behave better or stop the intentional self-destructing. “I’m not like other people“ she’d say, but pressed for further explanation, she couldn’t or wouldn’t say more.

Alice didn’t tell anyone about the Boy Suit until she was fifteen. Maybe it took that long to find the right moment or the right words, which were honestly, beautifully simple. “I am always angry because I am always sad. And I am always sad because I am a girl.“ She didn’t say “a girl in a Boy Suit“, nor did I think of it that way back then, because of course, the Boy Suit was all I’d ever known.

Later that same night, she told me her name.

There was no time and no way anyway to prepare for the fragile female who peered out at me with all anxiousness and expectation. Everything about her was askew, strangely unfamiliar and downright delicate. What did I know of daughters? How to love one, how to raise one, most of all, how to help this unexpected one of mine flourish and bloom?

My daughter Alice spent the first fifteen years of her life hidden away inside a Boy Suit and together, we spent every day of her sixteenth year trying to dismantle it. Naming the thing didn’t magically melt it away. Adorning it with a patchwork of glittery girlie whatnots was occasionally, momentarily satisfying. But the painstaking work of deconstructing the suit, stitch by stitch, was agonizingly slow.

There were others along the way, who with the worst case of good intentions, would try to mend the seams or force the zipper up past stubbornly twisted teeth. So many days we had to start the disassembling all over again. Those days wore on Alice and I’d find her, all too often, back to slashing and raging, waging war from the inside. Old habits die hard and the stubborn suit of gender, even harder. In the end, three months shy of her seventeenth birthday, my beautifully blooming daughter freed herself the only way she knew how, leaving a grieving mother and an empty Boy Suit behind.

There are so many ways to tell Alice’s story.
This is but one of them.

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Saturday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Laurie Puhn at the Expecting Words blog wrote a thoughtful column on having boys and secretly wanting a girl. She made, what sounds like, a great book recommendation on raising boys.

This is disappointing: Virginia’s newly elected Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell just reinstated “Confederate History Month” for April 2010, according to the Washington Post. On the upside, both the Washington Post’s poll and its commenters deemed the move racist. Go WaPo readers!  

Hybrid Mom magazine doled out tips on how to manage your time when you work from home.

Here is yet another study I dug up, this one on trans fats, which are commonly found in fried and processed foods. According to an article on MSNBC, women with coronary heart disease who consume trans fats are three times more likely than other women to die of a heart attack.  

The number of babies born to teenagers has dropped 2 percent from 2007 to 2008, according to the Washington Post. As the article pointed out, this is welcome news after two years of steady rises in the teen birth rate.

In related news, ABC News ran a profile on Bristol Palin, how she is handling teen motherhood and what is she doing on the advocacy front.

Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar’s 19th child is home from the hospital after being born three months early, according to Reality TV World.

This is a surprising and kind of sad celebrity split. Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy just ended their five-year relationship, according to People magazine.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?

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Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Volunteering in Ari’s classroom was fun. The English teacher broke up the kids in groups of four and had them work at various stations. At my station, I read the kids a book and then had them complete a writing and art project. Basically, they cut the book’s title into words, glued the words on a piece of paper and then drew pictures of what they remembered from the story.

Before we started, Ari’s teacher pulled me aside to show me a “story” he had written. It was a vivid drawing of his new play structure with a Bakugan battle bot descending on it. Yup, that’s my son.

Working Mother magazine just put out its guide of the 100 most family-friendly workplaces in the United States. Also in Working Mother: Here is one staffer’s take on LaNisa Allen’s court case. Allen was the Ohio mother who unsuccessfully sued her company for taking “unauthorized breaks” to pump milk.

I was just catching up on my mommy blog reading and popped over at Batmom’s website to see how she is doing. She is the Berkeley mom of three who is courageously battling liver cancer, too. After a 76-day trip with her family, she is about to undergo surgery to remove the cancer left in her liver. Let’s keep her in our thoughts and prayers.

Our Christina started a good conversation at her blog Trees and flowers and birds: Have you ever felt dismissed because of your gender?

For those of you in the “sandwich generation” — caring for children and elderly parents — check out this post at Silicon Valley Moms Blog.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?

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Tragedy, modern gender roles, and plenty of blame to go around.

Sorry to bring up this painful topic again, but the recent tragic story about an El Cerrito father who forgot his baby in the car has led to a flood of discussion about similar cases and how to prevent them.


Today’s Chronicle has an interview with a woman (who has got to be the oldest 29-year-old I’ve ever seen; I understood why when I was done reading) who forgot to drop her baby girl off at daycare, only to find her at the end of the day when it was too late to save her. The woman was convicted of misdemeanor child endangerment, and now gives talks about her sad experiences. She has also gone on to have another baby girl.

Now, onto my point. I found some of the comments on the story rather, um, interesting…

Here’s the solution: if you are a woman who has a child you are now a mother. This is a full-tme occupation. You stay home with that child until he or she is fully grown. That’s it; that’s your job – being a mother. Do that and nothing else.

—–

Why not just call it the “I was so terribly busy, and life is so frenetic and stressful … I completely forgot about what’s-his/her-name” Defense.

Also, should the benefits of this “I was so terribly busy, and life is so frenetic and stressful … I completely forgot about what’s-his/her-name” Defense be extended to men, or just be available to women ?

Thanks. I’ll take my answer off the air.

—–

Tragic, but stop making excuses for the woman…”I was using a different car; we were using the fuel efficient vehicle…there should be monitors in the seat.”

Excuses, excuses, excuses. There is none. Your child suffered horribly because your job meant more to you than she did.

Sorry if that is harsh, but it’s time to stop the humanizing and continue the demonizing. Selfish and stupid is not something that can be avoided.

The fact any child is left in her care is very scary…

——-

I have twins. I was very, very, tired on many occasions during their infancy. We weren’t expecting to have two kids, it was rather a surprise. I was working two jobs to pay for diapers, and my husband and I were worried about money, and how we’d parent not one, but two kids. Still, we never once forget either of them in the car (or anywhere else.) I just hope this female can recall where the new baby is at all times.

Sometimes it feels like some people are just waiting for mothers to screw up horribly, so they can pounce and say, “Aha! This is your punishment for stepping outside of your predestined role!” The first commenter exemplifies that best, I think. How dare any parent – ESPECIALLY A MOTHER – use daycare? This is apparently their punishment, though what kind of death penalty only targets the offspring, I have no idea.

The last commenter is a bit more subtle. I’ve been there myself, she says. But I’d never do such a terrible thing! Unable to bring herself to use really nasty language, she still makes “this female” sound like an insult.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into this. The comments against the El Cerrito dad were also quite nasty. Perhaps deservedly so. We adults supposedly have conscious control over what we do, and we need to be super-careful when we’re entrusted with the care of a helpless infant.

I would like to think I’d never make such a horrifying mistake. Knowing that I am a total space cadet, I’ve had to get in the habit of always looking in the back seat when I get out of the car, and making sure I know where my car keys are, whether I have my child with me or not. Unconscious habits will stay with you whether you’ve had enough sleep or not.

Another longer article on the topic quotes a researcher:

“”The quality of prior parental care seems to be irrelevant,” he said. “The important factors that keep showing up involve a combination of stress, emotion, lack of sleep and change in routine, where the basal ganglia is trying to do what it’s supposed to do, and the conscious mind is too weakened to resist. What happens is that the memory circuits in a vulnerable hippocampus literally get overwritten, like with a computer program. Unless the memory circuit is rebooted — such as if the child cries, or, you know, if the wife mentions the child in the back — it can entirely disappear.”

Maybe it’s more fun to rail against tired working moms, or stupid parents (and god knows there are plenty of both out there), but wouldn’t it save more lives to use what tools we can to help make sure stupid mistakes aren’t fatal ones?

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Same- and Opposite-Sex Couples May Have Different Adoption Preferences

Many prospective adoptive couples don’t care about the gender of their children, found Dr. Abbie Goldberg, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Clark University, in a new study. Gay men are, however, more likely to have a preference, and heterosexual men are least likely. Opposite-sex couples are more likely to prefer girls than those in same-sex relationships.

The interesting part of this study for me is that there seems to be no strong correlation between the gender of the parents and the preferred gender of their child. Some lesbians wanted girls, others boys, and the same for gay men. (News coverage of the study is sketchy on the exact numbers, however.)

Goldberg also noted, “This study represents the first investigation known to date that explores the child gender preferences of both heterosexual and sexual minority preadoptive parents.” I commend her for looking at both and tracing our similarities and our differences, giving us a fuller view of parenting overall. I’ve seen far too many parenting studies that assume heterosexuality but look at areas where one might hypothesize that sexual orientation makes a difference.

Goldberg’s previous work (see my 2007 interview with her) looked at how biological and non-biological lesbian moms negotiated their family roles and how couples were successful in doing so. She has also studied adults who grew up with at least one lesbian, gay or bi parent, and in particular, how they come out about their parents.

(Crossposted at Mombian.)

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