Category Archives: L'il Boo

November

Well, I’m still here, still writing my pledged post a day.

I’m thinking that regular readers have already noted the decline in quality that has accompanied the increase in quantity.

Over the last 20-odd days I have learnt the following:

– posting every day is a complete pain in the bum; jesus, the pressure for something that matters not a jot!

– on the other hand, it is good for me to set myself goals and this one has been no exception.  I cannot do anything without a TARGET.  I am a prevaricating meanderer, yes, but there has to be a POINT, however useless or, er, pointless.

– there really is a lot to be angry about, but for a lot of stuff, my anger needs to ferment like a fine wine – i.e. I need a few days to process what makes me really, really frickin’ furious and what merely makes me want to kick the nearest Tory.  Do fine wines ferment?  Or is that beer?  I’ve no idea on how to make alcohol.  I would, in fact, be useless in all ways in prison.

– I don’t write enough about my kids, especially L’il Boo, who is just starting to get interesting, but only in that ‘fucking ‘ell, could that kid be any fucking cuter’ sense, rather than the ‘that fucking kid is gonna be a gender WARRIOR!’ sense.  Seriously, he’s cute as marshmellows melting softly on a spring day.  A fact unfortunately not at all interesting unless you’re related to him.

– the main thing I’ve learnt is that when you’re down to the last 30 seconds you’re going to get anywhere near a computer for the rest of the day, you just have to click publish.

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Christmas is Coming!

In 6 weeks from today, in fact!  I don’t know what it is this year, but I am sliding into the idea of the festive season with quivers of excitement.  Normally, I’m pretty Christmassy, but never in November and never so much so that I look forward to the process of buying presents.  But this year, this year…

I think it’s because L’il Boo is clearly going to be a full and active participant in the whole thing this year.  Last year, he approached his pile of presents with a cool indifference and opened them at a pace that frankly maddened Boogie.  Even on his birthday in June, he was only vaguely interested in wrapping paper removal.  By Boogie’s birthday in October, however, he’d clearly realised what possibilities could lie underneath each layer of wrapping.  In a stunning display, he managed to open most of Boogie’s presents faster than she did – and the girl’s a house record holder for the fastest unwrapping of presents.  In an even more stunning display, Boogie took the entire thing entirely in her stride, saying – and apparently even meaning it – that she didn’t mind at all.  Eh?

So this Christmas morning is going to be FULL ON and I can’t frickin’ wait.

This is my kids’ normal morning routine:

– Wake up, charge into parents’ bed.  Jump on parents in turn until one finally gets enough breath back to shout ‘get the bloody hell off me you pesky kids!’ (yes, we both swear and quote Scooby Doo a lot in this house; I make no apologies)

– Keep jumping until somebody (normally me) gets kicked in the head in the general melee.

– Hurtle off bed at light speed as soon as I announce it’s time to get dressed, hurtling, naturally, in the opposite direction to where the clothes are.

– Get rounded up and stuffed into clothes, one item at a time.  Between each item, charge up and down the hallway, laughing maniacally.

– Get herded into kitchen for breakfast.  Give parents’ ears a rest for five minutes (on a good day), or (Boogie only) have head fit because an imaginary drop of milk has touched sleeve of dress. (Love her – the girl has issues)

– Request to leave the table, then (Boogie) shout Bear! and run round and round in circles, growling (L’il Boo) and shouting (Boogie) and laughing maniacally (both), whilst parents drink hot beverages and successfully totally ignore the noise and the carnage.

– Rouse parents by saying something un-ignorable like ‘let’s do back flips off the sofa, you go first L’il Boo!’

– Resist parents’ entreaties to ‘get a move on!’ until bodily carried (one per parent) to the toothbrushing area.  Squeal like stuck pigs the whole way.

– React to teeth/hair brushing like they’re medieval torture devices resurrected by parents for pure sadistic pleasure

– Escape sadistic torturers and run up and down hallway (again) with towels on heads shouting ‘Superhero!’

– Try to escape capture by climbing up the outside of our metal staircase.  Give BoogieMeister a heart attack as L’il Boo suddenly appears at head height, ta-dahing off said stairs like a drunken Chinese acrobat.

– Get trapped by net and have shoes forcible attached.

– Get kissed/cuddled/shoved out of door by me in one smooth motion.

So when I say Christmas will be full on, you can see how much fun it’s going to be!  I seriously cannot wait!


Boy, 2, Invents Own Fart Joke. Finds It Hilarious.

Yes, yes, I know what I’ve just said, but this little gem just couldn’t be missed.  L’il Boo, on breaking wind, throws his arms up in the air, shouting ‘Bubbles!’ before crashing his hands together and shouting, ‘Pop!’  Before dissolving into hysterics.

I’m taking it as a sign of latent genius.


Chit Chat and All That

L’il Boo is not a chatty toddler; well, not intelligibly.  Oh, sure, he waffles on and on about blah, blah, woog, woog hiddle pie sheep, hilpy – which I know is something about Boogie’s pirate ship (‘pie sheep’ being ‘pirate ship’ – obviously), but exactly what I have no idea.  So I guess I mean he is very chatty, but not a great conversationalist.

I recently went to an informal chat by a speech and language therapist and learned that by two (which he now is, by god, how did that happen?), he’s ‘supposed’ to have at least 50 words and be using some double word phrases.  If I’m being uncharacteristically generous, I’d say he’s got, ooh, 5?   I mean like actual words that the fabled person on the Clapham omnibus could understand (English legal joke, not very funny, but that’s English law for you).   Though I did read something that said even unintelligble words count – which left me with the immediate thought: how am supposed to have any idea how many words he’s got then?  The boy could be re-interpreting Shakespeare in Finnish for all I know and I’m just not translating properly.  The boy could be a feckin’ genius.

What’s been striking is that when I discuss L’il Boo’s speech development (yes, I know speech and language are two different things, but it’s such a bugger to type the whole thing…), the first thing that any parent, or teacher, or innocent bystander will tell you is that in speech development ‘boys are slower than girls’.  This is often accompanied by a knowing smile, or a little comment to the effect of ‘course they are, girls never stop talking, do they?’

But ignoring the stupid stereotypes, it started to seem as if (erm, whisper it) they might be right.  Seemingly all parents of children of both sexes I know will say the same:  my XX was much quicker than my XY, oh, yes.  From my own personal experience, Boogie’s speech development left her brother’s eating dust; I don’t know about girls in general, but blimey, that girl couldn’t wait to talk – mainly, or so it seems lately, just so she could tell me exactly why I know jack shit about everything (she’s 5 – it’s a challenging age, or so I’m telling myself).

I’m not mis-remembering her development, either, because one of my many follies is writing a little letter to each of my children twice a year – y’know, just telling them what they were doing, what they liked, exactly why they were super-cute at that particular time, that sort of stuff.    So I have it in black and white.  So then I started to think that (don’t even whisper this!) that maybe Cordelia Fine was wrong; maybe there are inherent sex differences in the brain…?

And then I smacked myself about the head for being such an idiot.

Cordelia Fine wrong?  My neuroscience goddess?? Are you kidding me??!?

How could I for a moment have forgotten the influence of both gender expectations and interactions on developing children and the hugely suspect impartiality of any scientific study undertaken which involves possible sex differences?  I’ll be reading The Daily Male without crying next (although not the News of the World, which I cannot honestly say I’ll miss at all).

Looking around the ‘net, on parent sites and such, unsurprisingly, boys being later is taken as a given – everywhere.  It’s just one of those it’s-so-true-I-forgot-to-bother-to-check-it things.  Y’know, like, it’s well-known women are more intuitive, or, it’s understood by everybody that men think with their genitals.  That kind of thing.

I didn’t undertake a full search of the scientific literature (hey, it’s wash day, you know), so i just found this by somebody called Carney Sotto, who seems like my kind of woman:

Q: Some parents believe that girls will learn to speak before boys. Is there any truth to this?

A: Yes and no. In general, researchers have found some differences between language development in girls and language development in boys. They’ve found that girls acquire certain words before boys and perform better on tests that focus on expressive language, like “more,” “please” and “bye-bye.”

But they’ve also found that parents tend to talk differently to girls than boys, using more open-ended questions and longer, more complex sentences with their daughters. So it’s not necessarily about innate differences between boys and girls-they are much more alike than different.’

Aah, the old gender expectations on and interactions with developing children bias!  Girls are expected to talk earlier and talk more, so parents talk to them more, and in more complicated ways, earlier than with boys.  Neat, huh?

That’s good enough for me.  My adoring faith in The Fine is restored.

So did I?  Did I use ‘more open-ended questions and longer, more complex sentences’ with Boogie than with L’il Boo?  Jeez, you know, I never wrote that down.  So I have no fucking idea.

I tell you what though, I’m going to really think about this shit when I talk to L’il Boo tomorrow.

Did I mention that this feminist parenting thing is exhausting?  It’s so much easier for non-feminist parents.  Really.  A non-feminist parent will think, ‘oh, Boy is not speaking as much as Girl was at his age…hmm, should I be concerned? and will trawl the net or even speak to a real-live doctor or assorted friends and strangers.  And they will read/hear the words, ‘Boys speak later than girls, doncha know?’  And that’ll be the end of it.  Case closed, mind put to sleep.  For me, that’s just the start of the really worrying part.

When will the thinking end??

Because I for one am getting a headache.


The Pressure, The Pressure!

Boogie had a play date the other day at our house.  The datee in question seems perfectly nice, or at least as nice as I can find 5 year olds (did I mention kids generally scare me?  Well, they do – they can be so…emphatic).

Well, if this kid queried Boogie’s and L’il Boo’s toys once…well, she did it a lot.  Talk about the gender police!  Who’s was the helicopter?  Why was it Boogie’s when it was a boy’s toy?  Why was L’il Boo playing with a doll?  Was it at least a boy doll?  Why did L’il Boo want to put the fairy wings on?  Fairies are girls!  Why did Boogie have a pirate ship?  Pirates are boys!  And on.  And on.

I was finding this fairly trying and was starting to well, get a bit annoyed.  Admittedly, I haven’t put a sign on the door saying ‘No Gender Police!’ but given the choice, I wouldn’t invite them in.

And then I faced facts.  I do invite them in.  About once a week on average, which is how often Boogie has a play date.  Once a week, we invite a series of Gender Detectives in to peruse our little piece of earth.  And, generally, they find something wanting.  And I let go of my anger towards this small child because I know it isn’t her fault, either that she’s been invited in or that’s she’s obsessed with gender.  They all are and they’re taught to be obsessed by everything and everyone around them (‘Good morning boys and girls’ anyone?).

This really hit me when I considered the look on her face when she was conducting her gender interview.  When each question came out of her mouth she was puzzled.  When she got my answer, puzzlement turned to real, genuine confusion, with a side order of fear.  She genuinely just didn’t understand what she saw as the gender discrepancies in my kids’ toys and, when I didn’t help her out of her confusion with some explanation as to why the discrepancies had arisen, instead saying (effectively) there were no discrepancies, she was all at sea.  I’m guessing that my answer to her first ‘gender’ question helped propel the others to come forward – in a ‘What do you mean, there’s no discrepancy, that all toys can be for either gender?  You’re kidding, right?  I’m just gonna check by asking you about another toy..’ kind of thing.

The other thing I had to face was Boogie’s reaction.  She said nothing to the first couple of queries, but looked squarely at me while I answered them.  Eventually, when the helicopter status as a boy’s toy was mentioned, she nonchalantly answered ‘It’s just a toy and toys are for anybody who likes them.’  Attagirl!  Unfortunately, this didn’t come until after, in response to the lead-in question of ‘Who’s toy is this?’ Boogie, aware no doubt of what was coming, had squarely disowned the helicopter by saying it was her brother’s.  Which was news to me.  ‘But it’s yours, isn’t it?’ I asked.  ‘Yeah, it was,’ she replied (in an oh-too-casual manner), ‘but I gave it to him because I don’t play with it anymore.’  Which again, was news to me.  I didn’t press her, though.  Tellingly, when asserting that ‘toys are for anybody’, Boogie’s eyes were firmly on mine; when she was busy disowning the toy, she resolutely refused to look at me when answering my query.  It doesn’t take a psychologist to see that in the former she was looking to check for my approval; in the latter, she wouldn’t look at me because she suspected I wouldn’t approve of what were, essentially, big, fat fibs.

Bless her, I could see her dilemma.  Oh, could I ever.  The poor kid was trying to tread the fine line between pleasing me and staying on-side with her friend’s clearly expressed ideas of gender.  A tricky line for a five year old.

I’m currently reading Cinderella Ate My Daughter, by Peggy Orenstein (which is being reviewed chapter by chapter over at maternalselves, if you’re interested) and the problem that keeps leaping out of the book (and attempting to kill me through brain fatigue), is: how do you raise a girl to be outside the girly-girl, appearance and consumerist-driven culture they’re being spoon-fed from every angle without making her an outsider to her own sex?  Ah, a classic double-think problem!  I did think I’d posted before about the endless double-think you have to do when raising a girl, but I probably dreamt it cos I can’t find anything.  Essentially (for present purposes only), it can be boiled down to: how can you teach a girl to not relate to the hyper ‘girly-girl’ model and yet still enable her to relate to, and fit in with, girls who do?

Because whilst I fervently want Boogie to step outside the increasingly limited model of femininity she’s presented with, I don’t want her to be, well, weird.  Are you feeling me here?  I’m trying to teach her to denigrate a model that the vast majority of her peers will believe in whole-heartedly, but I don’t want her to be the sad, lonely kid in the corner, amusing herself by putting her bogies on a passing ant.

And, sure, I can explain why her peers (and my peers) fall for all the gender shit that comes their way, but the fact remains that, on some level, the message must contain some implication that her peers are a bit stoopid.  I mean, essentially, it boils down to: they may fall for it, Boogie, but we won’t because we know better.

And then she has to go to school and relate to these stupid people that mummy has told her about.

Talk about fine fucking lines.


Where’s My Baby Gone?!

Boogie and L’il Boo had a haircut today.* L’il Boo’s first ever haircut.  The tradition is that the BoogieMeister attends haircuts.  It is a tradition that, as with all traditions that I find unsatisfactory, will have to go.

For the last three haircuts at least, the independent Boogie has professed her desire, despite being surrounded by a sea of long-haired female class mates, to have her shoulder-length hair cut short, arranging her hair into what looks like a pretty groovy page boy crop to make the point.  For the last three haircuts, she has returned home with a slight trim.  The BoogieMeister merely mumbles when I ask, what happened this time?  This time, therefore, I send him off with strict instructions that he is to allow her to have the haircut she wants.

L’il Boo, on the other hand, has no hair style desires, so he’s at my mercy.  I accept his curls need tidying up – after a nap he looks like Leo Sayer after an electricity accident – but, I tell the BoogieMeister, no more than that.  A trim is all he needs. He looks like a little cherub with his curls and damnit, he’s still only a baby!  I like my cherub!  BoogieMeister mumbles something before he leaves, but he also nods so I’m pretty sure he got what I was saying.

Arriving home, Boogie has had, at best, a trim; L’il Boo looks like he’s just been shorn by the man in the SpecSavers advert (and boy, is it aging – L’il Boo suddenly looks about, oh, two and a half).  Is it possible he just got them mixed up?  Or is something more sinister going on here??

*This whole post is a lie.  Well, it’s not actually; it’s all true except this sentence.  It wasn’t today, it was some time ago, but I forgot to hit post.  Duh!


I’ve Been Thinking a Lot

About the future.  Specifically, how I can get strategies in place to prepare for stuff that will come up as my kids get older.  Because the things that will come up, in the main, scare me shitless.  We live in such a patriarchal fog that virtually everything that is to come will bring with it shit that will intersect with my feminist mothering in a bad, bad, scary way.

What strikes me when I think about this stuff (in the nanosecond I think about it before I decide it’s ‘wine time’), is that for all my desire to parent my daughter and my son the same way,  that patriarchal fog gets in the way of even that.

I was talking about rape last time, and it got me thinking about the (supposedly) thorny issue of consent (which to my mind isn’t actually very thorny at all, but hey, I’m simple like that).

So I was thinking about consent and sex, and then about my kids journeying into the sexual arena (when they’re, like, 30 40 or so…) and how to teach them about sexual integrity.

And here are my initial, knee-jerk thoughts:

To Boogie I would say: Don’t do anything you’re not absolutely sure you want to do.

To L’il Boo I would say: Don’t do anything unless you’re absolutely sure that the other person wants to do it to.

Recognise anything there?  See that glaring assumption that my boy (my beautiful, sweet boy) will be the one who ‘wants’ it and my girl (my feisty, strong-minded girl) will be the one who isn’t sure if she ‘wants’ it or not?  Oh, Patriarchy, you fucker, you.

There, in a nutshell – the Patriarchy’s influence on how I view my children.  In my head almost (thank goddess for the ‘almost’) automatically, my boy will be, not the ‘aggressor’ (not if I have anything to do with it – and I do), but he will be the ‘leader’ of any sexual situation he finds himself in.  By contrast, Boogie will be the ‘follower’.  Bizarrely, these initial thoughts remain even if I assume my children will both be gay.

How fucked up is that?

It’s rapidly becoming ever clearer to me that nothing, not nuttin‘, can be taken for granted.  Not a single initial thought can be trusted.  Not a single thought can pass through my stereotype-primed brain without it then having to be filtered repeatedly  for Patriarchal crappiness.  My brain is becoming the human equivalent of a Fluid Catalytic Cracker (which, if you’re interested is this)

Did I mention feminist mothing is fucking exhausting?