Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mothers of Three-Year-Old Girls: You Can Relax About the Princess Thing

Lately I've witnessed a lot of anti-princess hand-wringing by wonderful, smart, feminist, friends of mine. They are worried that their daughters' love of all things princess will infect their brains and turn them into aspiring reality tv stars. I really think there's nothing to fear.

Here's why: The princess thing is a phase. A blip. At three, my daughter wore a crappy purple Barbie princess dress over everything she owned. She adored the DVD Barbie and the Twelve Dancing Princesses, a hellhole of weird computer animation which made me want to gouge out my own eyeballs. Did I complain?  No. It made my girl happy, as did my husband's willingness to pretend to be a prince asking her to dance at the royal ball. He would even tolerate her tiny rage when she felt he wasn't acting "princey" enough. We endured Disney Princesses on Ice--twice.

Our son spent two whole years wearing a Bob the Builder costume and hyperventilating over diggers and cranes. It never made us think he might grow up to be a construction worker, or a member of a Village People cover band, not that we'd mind if he did. So why get all freaked out just because Violet liked Snow White and Sleeping Beauty and wanted to dress up? It seemed like totally age-appropriate pretend play.

During this period, Peggy Orenstein wrote her anti-princess New York Times story, and later a book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter. She worried that all the princess mania would accelerate body-image issues for her daughter and other girls in her generation. While I am certainly sensitive to that, I really don't think putting on a sparkly dress and plastic crown in pre-school is the gateway drug to anorexia.

By age 5, Violet was done with princesses, which actually made me a little sad. "Princesses are for babies," she told me. She moved on to many other interests, no harm done.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Being A Mother is Like Being Wallpaper"

I read this quote maybe 10 years ago in an interview with Brooke Adams, an actress who had taken time off to be a full-time mother. I think about it a lot.

Let's be honest: my kids don't really see me as an actual person. They love me, but they know my priority right now is to meet their needs. In a way, this is good.  I provide a healthy sense of security for them. I like being the mommy who is there when the school bus drops them off. I know that I am privileged to make afternoon snacks and show up at school for the pumpkin carving. I also am absolutely sure that I prefer being at home to the alternative, since I spent 5 frazzled years as a working mom with super-stressful jobs.

Yet. Often, if one of the kids is demanding my time when I am in the middle of a project, I find myself telling them: "I am a person." Sometimes I even have to remind myself that I still exist. When our new postal worker was delivering our mail, he asked if there were more than one names at our house. "No," I said. "Just Ross." He looked confused. "Not Kelly?" he asked. Oh yeah. Kelly. That's me. I am an entity.

One way I remind myself of that is by writing, on this blog, and for paying jobs. Writing makes me happy, when it isn't making me miserable, and I just need to do it. But my freelance writing doesn't bring in enough money to pay a babysitter, nor do I want a full-time babysitter. So I'm always fitting work in when they are at school.

That is usually fine, except if a child gets sick when I have a deadline (yesterday and Monday), or an editor wants to move a meeting to a time that makes it impossible for me to be home by 2:15 (this morning).  Violet was feeling a little under the weather Monday, and I had an assignment interviewing someone I had talked to 20 years ago and was excited to speak to again, for a magazine for which I had not written in 15 years. I let her watch a tv show during the interview. I had no other option. Then yesterday, she still felt crappy. I kept her home, but I was really worried that the constant distractions (can I have some water? can I watch a show? will you play with me?) were interfering with the quality of the piece. I was resenting her, and also feeling guilty for resenting my sweet girl.

I filed the piece, and they liked it, so that all worked out. When Violet woke up this morning and said she wasn't quite sure if she should go to school--no fever, mind you---I acted super cheerful, helped her get ready and poured her onto the school bus. She wasn't really sick, and honestly, I couldn't take another day trapped in the house. Then I felt guilty.

 At my yoga class, my teacher had to yell over the sound of drilling in the driveway. She talked about the concept of dharma, and following your heart. You don't neglect your responsibilities, but you need to find a way to your heart's desire. It's better to follow your own dharma imperfectly than someone else's perfectly, she said. It was exactly what I needed to hear.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mommy, why do women wear bras?

When Violet missed the bus this morning, I threw on a thin t-shirt and yoga pants to run her over to school in the car. I did not have time to put on a bra, because my kids both have a deathly fear of being "tardy." I think it is the old-fashioned formality of the word, or perhaps the desire to be punctual is genetic (paternally).

Driving at my usual glacial pace, I wondered aloud whether I should do the car line, or park and walk to the door. I dislike the car line, but with the principal standing in front of the school, should I really saunter up braless?

"Mommy, why do women wear bras?" asked Violet.

"That's a good question." I answered.  "I think because society expects women to wear bras."

"But why?" she persisted.

"I guess people don't want to see women's breasts bouncing all over the place." There was no other way to say it.

Violet found this hilarious. I parked and walked her to the door, because my bosom is not so remarkable that anyone would really notice that I didn't have a bra on. Or at least that's what I choose to believe. She was not tardy.

Then I came home and read The New York Times article about the fashion expectations for city moms at drop-off, and I was thankful once again to be suburban

Monday, October 17, 2011


An accident has further maimed the one-armed Dawn doll from my childhood (I wrote about her last year in this post). I discovered Dawn's remarkable misfortune when playing Barbies with my daughter the other day. We were changing the many Barbies into new Playboy Mansion-inspired attire (has anyone ever found an outfit for Barbie that wasn't a Baby Phat-esque disaster?) when I noticed that Dawn's mini seemed glued to her behind. Attempting to disengage it, I saw that glue had dried in her hip sockets, and then--crack--Dawn split clear in half. It was truly macabre, a Boxing Helena moment.

"Why is Dawn covered in glue?" I asked Violet. She started to cry. "I don't know," she said unconvincingly, fear and guilt on her face.

I decided to drop that line of questioning. But it didn't seem right to throw Dawn out in her hour of need. After all, my grandmother had saved her in a drawer for decades.  I tried duct tape, thinking a jaunty silver belt might hold her together. It did not.

"What should I do?" I asked Violet.

"I think you should keep her in your room," she said. "I don't want anything else to happen to her." So that is where Dawn is. Lying in my thong-less underwear drawer. I did not think I should photograph her for this post. It seems violent and indecent, somehow.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Confirmation: I am "unremarkable"

You may believe that you are unremarkable, but do you have actual proof? I think not.

I don't know what surprises me more: that someone once bothered to create a Wikipedia page for me, or that another industrious person took the time to delete it.  (You can get to this proof of my non-existence if you click on my name in the entries for any of the magazines I worked for, or for Jane Pratt's page. She actually is remarkable.)

Also, just to clarify: I love this situation. My husband and I both laughed when we discovered it. I wouldn't want a Wikipedia page. It would probably be filled with factual errors that would annoy me, but not enough to do anything about them. And plus, I love the word remarkable, as well as its antonym, unremarkable. I think people should use them more often. I am going to try to find a place for these excellent words in every future post I write.

Furthermore, knowing that I am unremarkable really takes the pressure off. No need to finish that novel I've been threatening for 30-odd years. That sure is a relief, as the non-completed state of said book hangs over my head each day while I engage in procrastinating activities such as this one.