Wednesday, December 14, 2005

What's Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander...

My daughter is going to her first birthday party!

A young girl from Russia is in her preschool this year and she has invited Isabella to her party.
I have been thinking long and hard about which gift to get her. Should it be educational? Should it be a toy? Should it be a typical gift that I have seen other people get for preschoolers? Then I thought about the culture that she comes from. What if her parents don’t want to indoctrinate their child to the American merchandising craze?

I picked up a Disney Princess book that has little disks to you can hear the narrator tell the story. I thought ‘This may be a good compromise”. Then I looked at the pictures through a new set of eyes. I looked at Arial with her seashell top and exposed midriff. I saw Princess Jasmine with very low cut harem pants and revealing top. Even the three “admirers” in Beauty and the Beast are well endowed, throwing themselves all over the villain of the movie.

It made me uncomfortable. Was I being a prude?

I decided not to get the book. And then it occurred to me: If these stories were not good enough for this little birthday girl, why were they okay for my own daughter?

Isabella has been going through a Disney Princess faze and although I see it as fostering her imagination I can’t help to feel that I am conditioning, even condoning this type of image. No matter how “strong” these heroines are they are still portraying a sexy image which shouldn’t even be brought to a child’s attention. In addition, my sister brought up a good point at how sanitized the Disney stories are. For instance, in the real story of the little mermaid she ends up dying and endures great pain during the story. The story also has a point about the consequences when she doesn’t listen to her father. How does the Disney version end? The father accepts the choices she makes even though she defies him, she gets what she wants and it is all happy in the end. What does that teach a child? (I will stop there as I sense a rant coming on…)

I spoke with my husband last night and he agreed with me. My only challenge now is how to start weaning Bella off these images. There must be a better way to foster her imagination than to subscribe to the entire Disney package.

What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Duck Sweater...

My mid teenage years are the reason my parents have gray hair today.

I went through the “usual” period of self discovery, sharp tongue and self “expression”. It was a time of adjustment, finding a way to belong and this often happened at the expense of my parent’s sanity. There was a clash between what my peers did and what was expected of me as a member of the family.

I would leave the house in grunge attire, as was the fashion at the time, and my mother would often offer some of her clothes to spiff me up a bit.

One of the articles often offered to me was a sweater. It was oatmeal colored cardigan with round silver buttons with snowflakes embossed on them. The sweater was adorned with a few apples, ducks, spinning wheels, Amish people and stalks of corn. (It sounds busy but believe it or not it is pretty tasteful looking.) I hated it at the time and would ignore my mom’s requests to put it on, seeing it as “lame” and so “Mom”. I continued to wear my dark clothing for a couple of years.

Later on I ask my Mom to wear it and she said no. Over and over again she said no. I let on like it didn’t bother me, after years of her trying to make me wear it, but I didn’t understand why the offer was now refused. Why couldn’t I wear what I had now labeled, “The Duck Sweater”?

One Christmas we were going light on gifts. Every family has "tight" Christmas seasons and this was ours. Although, looking back on it we were always blessed and my parents so very generous. I opened each gift, thrilled with each one. My Mom handed me a box and I tore through the wrap with excitement that can only be brought on by Christmas morning. As I opened the box and unfolded the tissue paper I found the beloved duck sweater.

It was a gift of understanding, a personal and meaningful gift.

I sit now wearing my duck sweater, many years later, and am grateful. I am grateful for my Mom’s generosity and also for sticking by me during those years where I had been difficult and contrary.

As I put on my sweater, as my son plays with the snowflake buttons, I think of Christmas’ of past and how blessed I have been. I am also grateful to both my parents who never gave in and never up on their little girl.