Tag Archives: parenting

Everyday sexism, preschool edition


So today Thing 1 was excitedly telling a story to some daycare teachers.  She often does this. Today we saw a snail on the way to get in the car to go to daycare. It was crawling along doing the snail thing. It was exciting for kids (as she often refers to herself in the third person). So Thing 1 launched into a charming story about how the snail was going to turn us into zombies, but we would be safe in the car, but then the zombies would get us anyhow. I know, being involved in the things she watches and sees, that this story is part based on her imagination, but part based on an episode of Spongebob Squarepants. Anyhow, we go to daycare and are dropping Thing 2 off in her area, and Thing 1 launches into a modified story about how we saw a snail and it was going to bite us and turn us into zombies and so on and one of the daycare teachers asked her if the older boys had come up with that idea.  Thing 1 said no and continued talking about it,  but I was pretty annoyed and not even sure how to respond. Girl has inventive idea, so it must have come from a boy? What? I feel like I’m being a little alarmist, but on the other hand, I found the daycare teacher’s response more than a little discomfiting. I often put up with sexism in some situations (because it’s just easier than arguing-for example the inlaws are coming to visit and I know I’m going to be sitting in the back seat so that my father in law can sit in the front- whilst my husband drives because the rental car is in his name-because FIL’s manhood gets threatened over stupid shit. I just look at me having to sit in the back so he can sit in the front as my father in law’s stupid insecurity, not as sexism. Though it totally is. Rationalization ahoy!), but I don’t want it ingrained in my kids. I want to be able to address unfair assumptions aimed at them. I still feel like I’m having an overreaction, but on the other hand I wish I had said something. Argh.

I mostly like the daycare, though I like the baby side (where Thing 2 hangs out and where this incident happened) somewhat less. I considered pulling Thing 2 out and finding her a different carer for a few months after I went back to work for assorted reasons. I have certainly seen other incidences of baby variety sexism from the teachers on that side. Teachers telling the boys not to hit girls rather than a generic don’t hit and so on.  I know my girl is a beast and will hit other babies. She doesn’t need any excuses made for her, she needs to grow out of it and learn not to do it. Part of me wants to feel like it doesn’t matter because the kids are under two years old, not particularly verbal, and not really cognizant of societal issues, but it does rub me the wrong way to hear things like that. I think a big problem is I’m not sure how to address it with the teachers, if at all. Let it slide because the kids are too little to know, address it and come off as a crazy bitch, what?  I’m glad I haven’t seen any of that sort of thing from Thing 1’s teachers or I really would have to step in.

I’m fortunate that I can be picky about daycare to some extent, so I guess this will go on the list of things to look out for in our next daycare. Gender equality? Check.


Working, or not


Right now I have a fantastic job. I get to do what I am trained for, I have lovely people to work with. The company is pretty good too. Sure I am sometimes bored and don’t always have enough to do, but I really enjoy my job and the break it gives me from mom-life. Soon though we are going to move, for a multitude of very good reasons, and I am becoming increasingly sad about leaving my job and what that will mean. I keep reminding myself that us moving is logically a good thing and really the only con, other than the (significant) hassle of moving, is leaving my job. I remind myself of that especially when my husband says that we could stay just for my job. I’m not sure if I believe he means it. It’s also a frustrating thing to hear because A. we’ve left my work for reasons related to him before (and I’m mostly ok with it these days because life turned out ok, but I was sad for a time) and B. I’m not the primary earner and my job does effectively come second to everything. Sadly, as the primary care giver to the kids because of my non-primary earner status, my job is more like a hobby that I get paid for. I’m first choice for kid sickness duty, errands and so on.

In short I would really feel guilty if I did make us stay. No one would be happy including me.

In looking around for work at our new location (we have been planning for a while) I certainly see things I could do that are full time. Did I forget to mention part of what makes my job so fabulous is that it is part time with the option to change my hours? So yeah, fulltime is easy enough to come by. Now, I’m not looking at this from any kind of financial perspective, because I have privileged people problems and I don’t need to work. Essentially my job needs to cover child care and a bit extra. But full time means I do give up daytime activities with my kids, and I think more importantly, fulltime means I would lose some ability to cook proper dinners. Right now at 60%, or 3 full days per week, I premake a lot of food and dish it out and heat it up on my work days. Small children don’t want to wait for me to cook something. I could do without tanties at the kitchen gate. Not that what I make gets eaten with great gusto or anything, because uuurgh, picky kids,  but I do like making food for my family.  It seems like a small thing but apparently it’s big enough to have me considering not working at all. Another factor is of course the days I work I feel so rushed. I get home, feed kids and prepare their daycare bags for the next day and then we have about an hour or so before it’s getting toward bedtime for them, then bedtimes and then bedtime for me. Right now three days in a row of that has me ready to be done by the end of the third day. I don’t think five days of that would be great. Then the weekend rolls around and I spend all of Saturday catching up on the house stuff I didn’t do the three days I was working so the weekend is not very relaxing in any way.

My other option is not working at all. Right now if we have a 3+ day weekend that cuts into one of my work days and I end up with five or more days off I start to get very antsy. On my regular four days without work (weekend and 2 weekdays), we do at least one out of the house toddler activity on a weekday and a family activity on the weekend. I don’t feel like I would cope well with no work days. I find  working is also very important for my mental health. I think if I did do this things would have to be very regimented and planned out in advance so we had a schedule all the time. Of course the no working at all is bad in other ways. If I get a sizeable career gap I will have a much harder time finding work in the future. This concerns me because of our plans to have a further baby. I could be looking at  at least 18 months where starting a  new job is not feasible (9 months of pregnancy and 9 months of baby care before back to work). If I had a job before this it would be different, but it’s a tricky time to be job hunting. Or baby making. I do plan to go back to work full time at some point when the kids are older and all in school, but not when they are toddlers and preschoolers. And of course with me not working we won’t have my extra income. It’s not much after daycare and travel expenses, but it is nice to have.

Right now I just plan to keep looking for new work. I have a kinda-sorta request in for transfer, but realistically I’m 0.6 of a job so it’s not impossible, but not likely either. I have a fantastic CV and experience, so I’ll be a good contender for anything I apply for.

Traditions: Halloween


This is the first in a small series on Traditions. Since we live far away from all our family we are free to reinvent any and all of our family and holiday traditions.

I loved Halloween as a kid. Favourite holiday hands down. New Zealand does not love Halloween.

I’ve seen people talk about how they leave their sprinklers on all night, leave their dog tied to the gate and so on. To me it’s similar to people blithely talking about kicking puppies. I’m horrified that people hate it so much.

Arguments I have heard against it:

Why are we teaching our kids it’s ok to beg for candy from strangers when we teach them the rest of the time that candy and talking to strangers is not ok? First of all, just what?The idea that it’s begging baffles me honestly.  But Christmas and presents are ok, and celebrating Guy Fawkes is A-OK? Nah, that argument is feeble.

It’s American commercialism being forced on us. It’s about  the least commercial holiday I can think of and the DIY option has always been popular for costumes and yard decorations. Candy not so much, but it’s nothing compared to Christmas, Easter (present baskets are a common thing now, it’s not just eggs and candy), or Valentines Day.

It’s not seasonal. Valid, but yeah, neither is Easter and that’s a 4 day weekend here where things are significantly less religious than the US.

People aren’t used to it so it can be alarming, especially for older people. This is one I can respect. I’m not about to go foisting my preference for Halloween on unsuspecting people. If/when we do get to a point or neighborhood where trick or treating seems ok I will be doing the send a letter around with balloons people can put on their mailboxes if they want to participate thing. I like the idea of letting people opt in.

So suffice to say it’s not really a thing here and while it’s trying to catch on (driven by a retailer or two)  it seems a lot of people are strongly opposed to it. So that sucks. For the first few years of Thing 1’s life we could get by with not really doing anything because there was (and is) nothing much to do and she was little and didn’t know about it. So mostly I was just sad that it’s not acceptable to dress up, and that trick or treating is frowned upon.

Anyhow, this year is different. I’m cautiously excited that we can do something and I won’t have to be sad that I’m ignoring my favourite holiday because it’s not done here. In her three year old wisdom, Thing 1 has cottoned on that Halloween is a thing. And she is excited (because it’s awesome!). So if we lived somewhere trick or treating friendly we would do that. But we do not. I’m not even sure if there are any trunk or treat or other activities on. I’ve seen some non scary costume school fairs and an Indian light show thing (Diwali) that people around here think is somehow equivalent or related (I don’t get it), but nothing free or casual like trick or treating. So she will dress up for daycare.

But what about the candy? Thing 1 came up a few weeks ago with the gem that the monster under her bed would leave her candy. At first I was all D’aww, how cute and misunderstood. Then I thought about it and decided it was a cute idea I could implement. So I have some little pumpkin buckets with a small amount of candy and some glow sticks in them. I will leave them under her bed and she can find them in the morning of Halloween. I think it’s a neat new tradition.


Have to have two for jealousy control.

Knowing a parent and what makes kids be good people


Do you ever really know what kind of people your parents are when you are little? Now in my 30’s I’m finding out. I think in a family that had more contact I might have figured this out earlier, but due to recent circumstances I’m seeing  previously hidden depths to a family member that I already didn’t like but didn’t really have an active dislike for.

So, my grandfather died recently and there is some inheritance business. As my grandmother had died some years previous, he had intentions to change legal wording so that me and my siblings would be covered but didn’t get to it in time. Things are still up in the air (and thus I’m not publishing this until I get a copy of the trust myself), but last-minute legal changes were made. It’s a fingers crossed situation that my father won’t contest the new legal wording which will deprive me and my siblings of being covered under the inheritance. I’m not bothered whether anything comes my way or not. We are financially fine. My siblings could probably use it though. It’s just the intentions I guess. Relative intended (but procrastinated) for us to be covered. And my father may very well intend to deprive us of any cover.

Now I should have figured out my father wasn’t a great person from him leaving his wife and three children to go off and play happy families with someone else. But I’m not even mad anymore. I’ve been living with a pronounced sense of indifference to him for some years now. I guess I could, not like or understand, but accept that fathers leave families and that’s one level of scummy. But finding out that my father was more concerned with financial gain from his parent’s death than the actual death (and also depriving his first set of children further) is a bit jaw dropping for me. I think for my aunt and uncle as well. It makes me wonder what happened in his parenting that made him like that. My aunt and uncle are great people and their kids are all great as well. Moral, responsible, successful, working toward happiness and so on.

Of course it might not be anything. This has been weighing on my mind lately as my children get older. I don’t get on well with my mother and I am trying to figure out what she did to drive me away. I am so jealous of my cousins relationships with their mothers. I will never have that with my mother. It’s just too awkward and uncomfortable even if I were to bravely fake that level of camaraderie. I can hope and work to have that with my children though.

From all accounts my mother and I had a great parent-little kid relationship. At some point I grew to distrust her and dislike her and we will never be friends. I’m sure the things she was doing during the divorce didn’t help my opinion (she apparently knew my father was leaving her so she started enthusiastically sleeping around. Of course I had no idea what was going on in regards to my father and so I thought she was just being a bad person), and she did not deal well with my teenage years (I had little boundaries or discipline and nothing to rekindle trust in her. Frankly the only reason I turned out as ok as I did is because I had goals and I knew a pregnancy or arrest would interfere with my goals), also post divorce we were on welfare and poor, sometimes homeless. I have heard that girls drift from their mothers in their early teens and grow closer in their later teens. I had a tumultuous time with not understanding what my mother was going through in my early teens and then her not being relatable (I didn’t trust her, I would have never wanted to talk to her about anything scary or important. Still don’t really) in my later teens. I guess sometimes it can just be circumstance and a lack of following up. Of course I have heard tell that my father was a terrible teen and my grandparents kicked him out at one point. But all the time I was 12 and under we would go to my grandparent’s house and hang out with the rest of the family. So it’s not like he grew up and didn’t like them. Something eroded the closeness (in addition to distance) as an adult. Or perhaps he just chose his second family over his parents and siblings.

I just remember being three and a neighbor kid asked me if I liked my mother or father more, and when I was told I had to choose (kids can be mean) I cried because the idea of loving one of my parents less was too hard. I want my kids to have that forever. Oh I know that one or even both parents will go out of favor at times, but I want both of us to be important to them into their adulthood and beyond. Just today Thing 1 told me she wants to sit and cuddle with me forever (as I was grumbling at her for putting dinosaurs in my shirt and snuggling my arm while I was trying to eat breakfast). I hope I don’t take it too personally if she hates me every day during the teen years  (the closest she’s come at 3 is telling me that she’s not friends with me right now).

How important is no?


When I was a kid I was tickled mercilessly. I would scream and shriek and try to get away. I would be held down. Sometimes I would struggle to breathe, and even vomit. I eventually learned to turn off my ticklishness so that I could just lie there. So it wasn’t fun any more. I stopped getting tickled. My turned off ticklishness persists even now. What I learned, consciously or unconsciously, from all that was that my saying no did not matter. From that I learned that other people saying no was more of a suggestion and if I persisted they might stop saying no. I learned that people would stand by and watch me expressing my displeasure and not do anything to help me.

My mother later said to me that she felt like what I was going through was abuse by my father. She never did anything to stop it though. I remember her watching and biting her lip but never saying anything.  You don’t really know what kind of people your parents are when you are a kid. If they are strong, or weak or what psychological hang ups they have. I think I would have less of a negative opinion of her actions if she hadn’t told me, when I was older, she thought I was being abused but did nothing.

Even though it was just tickling I developed similar behaviour issues and patterns to someone undergoing other types of abuse. I daresay I was probably abusive to others when I was younger. I didn’t necessarily take no for an answer, especially for the sort of things one isn’t ‘supposed’ to refuse. Like tickling, because being tickled is fun, otherwise why are you laughing, right? I, in turn, never expected anyone to respect my no’s so I never bothered saying them. I’m much better about it now, though I have determined that my children will have their no’s actually mean stop. That’s a tricky implementation though when I feel hypersensitive about how important this might be.

Sure our kids scream no when tickled. And we stop. Thing 1 for sure comes back for more, but the instant she does anything that might indicate she does want to stop, we do, and it’s her choice how she wants it to continue. Thing 2 is not ticklish currently, though we try, and stop when she pushes us away. But when we have to change them, or bathe them there are screams of no’s. And we, as parents, have to soldier right on through that. Thing 1 getting her hair washed is a terrible thing. We have to hold her and she thrashes and it’s miserable for everyone. There were nappy changes that were similar. With Thing 2 as well. I’m pretty sure those screaming nappy changes are an unfortunate reality for everyone. I hope that because we apologize when they are visibly upset over something we needed to do for their own good, and as they get older they get more tractable and rational that these will not be experiences or memories that cause them to feel like no has no meaning or power over them. I hope there’s some way they can differentiate things we do for them for their own good and things we do that they may not like because it’s meant to be fun. I hope it’s enough that if something is optional, we do stop.


On another side of things I feel like permissive parenting, that is-a lack of firm denial, can also set up this problem. When no doesn’t actually mean anything, when wheedling, whining and tantrums can turn a no around, then how is anyone to learn what no really means? Instead people learn that  no is what people say first and that what people say first is changeable with pressure.

I don’t like the trend in parenting of trying to avoid saying no. I know it’s been going on at least 30 years since I remember my mother being concerned about it in regards to my siblings. It’s something that still goes on today with parents worrying that children’s first words will be no. Unfortunately no is something you need to say and a concept you need to impress on children. I cringe when Thing 1 parrots back to me, “I said no”. I’d rather not have arbitrary limits for the kids, but structure, focus and knowing that I have limits is important to their development as people. Sometimes I just want to (and ok, sometimes I do. I’m mostly consistent though) just say, “fine, whatever”, and let them run rampant because I’m tired or drained. Most of the time I don’t though. Also, they are kids and they don’t know why I do what I do. Big old meanie me, encouraging dinner eating, bath taking, hair brushing and bedtimes. The horror. Also limiting unfettered candy eating, unlimited TV watching and keeping them out of the street. Gosh.

Sure, at younger development ages distraction works heaps better than abstract denial. But no, stop, don’t is an important concept that people need to learn.

I had to remove myself and Thing 1 from a parent group since there was a mother who was very into the no yell, gentle parenting business, because she did not teach her child that no was something important to listen to. It took me awhile to figure out. I initially left because Thing 1 was getting injured and this reasonably well behaved (not overly violent or tantrum throwing etc) other child was just a bit too rampant and a little too undisciplined. He was acting like a kid. But then I realized the issue wasn’t the kid, it was that his mother wasn’t acting like an adult. She was trying to live up to some no-conflict ideal that she probably read about on the internet. You can actually say no and impress upon people that respecting a request to stop is important without yelling. People just often think that gentle parenting and no yell means not teaching or enforcing limits. When she would try to explain to her child that he was doing something he shouldn’t have been doing she would do so in soft sing song tones and he would not pay attention or seem to particularly care.  It was apparent to me that her approach was not working to correct his behaviour. This was after Thing 1 had told him no, stop and tried to get away from him.  This mother would also say stuff about ‘boys will be boys’, so fair to say she got my goat in a variety of ways.

We talk to Thing 1 about how she should say no, how to escalate (say no, stop, try to get away, tell someone, hit if nothing else works), and how she should listen when other people say no. We aren’t into ‘that’s unfaaaair’ territory yet in regards to what Thing 1 sees other children being permitted in regards to denial. I often explain to her that I say no for good reasons. Because I want her to grow up healthy, strong and safe. I don’t think she gets it yet. Someday I hope.

Pivotal moments


There are those moments from childhood where you remember clearly something you were told and whatever you were told stuck with you. I find about half the stuff that stuck with me is because I had a WTF reaction to whatever my parent was telling me at the time. My mother in particular tried to get hippy-mystical about some topics and to this day I am still not sure where she was going with some of the things she told me. Nevertheless those moments are coming up between me and Thing 1. The kicker is I don’t know which moments they will be. So I have to be on form as much as possible.

The other day Thing 1 with a resigned sigh said:” boys like me”. (This on the back of a 2 year old her saying something along the lines of “I like boys”. Cue parent of girl ingrained panic. However, when we make an effort to see beyond the boy-crazy and lock up your daughters archetypes pushed at parents, it’s not so bad. Just a statement. Though apparently she does recognize the difference between boys and girls. And doesn’t make similar statements about girls. Hm.) So being a thoughtful parent I didn’t say anything like “oh, because you are pretty”. Nope. I was prepared. I said “oh, because you are fun”. She considered this and nodded, satisfied. Parent victory lap! As an afterthought I added in that she was strong and smart too but fun seemed to cover whatever caused her to voice her concern in the first place and she lost interest in the conversation.

Not to say we don’t ever tell her she is pretty. Because we do. But it’s something she gets praised for after being groomed or dressed. Especially after hair brushing because brushing hair sucks. God what an awful mother-daughter interaction. I had it with my mother and I think all mothers and daughters (with hair) must have that struggle at some point. We also use words like neat and tidy, but she gives us a surreptitious smile for pretty. She also likes fancy (though amusingly enough she also equates fancy with fat. Like, fat-suit fat. We discovered that while watching Weird Al videos, mainly Fat, but she also calls Weird All the Fancy Guy because of that video, and in Shrek 4 she referred to Puss as a Fancy Cat. This makes us snort with hilarity). Perhaps we are inadvertently teaching that pretty is something you work at, it isn’t a basic quality. I’m ok with that.

She is a pretty girl though, and kids in general do seem to like her because she is attractive. But she’s wild and fun, as mentioned, and instigates activities as well. And at 3 I’m sure that boys, and that could easily be amended to kids, like her because she is fun. But it’s my job as a parent to have good answers to her statements and questions. Even things I incidentally say might stick with her. It helps that I am fairly secure in myself. I don’t gripe where the kid can hear about my weight or my diet or my body. I do want to lose weight (and am more or less) and I don’t particularly like the way I look but I am very mindful of how insidious such statements can be. I told my mother I was fat for the first time when I was 3 (and I got a lecture and she was worried and that made the memory stick with me), and I probably got it from her, or some other relative. So if I talk about losing weight or eating or anything to my husband I do it after the kids are in bed. I tell Thing 2 how delightfully chubby (She’s not really. She has chub but she is not a very chubby baby. I’m just proud of her chubs) she is all the time though, but I frame it as a good thing for babies (which it is!), so hopefully Thing 1 is not feeling negative about that.

Keeping control of those pivotal moments is mostly about viewing the world how you want your kids to view the world. Sounds simple, but it’s a bit of a tall order in reality. All your snap answers needn’t be meticulously thought out …if you are secure that those snap answers are going to be the ones you want to give your kids.

Of course she’s probably not going to remember that conversation and instead the one that will stick in her head will be the one about frog farts she had with her dad…

Children: little animals


As Thing 2 gets older and we attribute more humanity to her actions I wonder how much we really do anthropomorphize babies. Of course it’s not strictly anthropomorphism since she is human (her nickname these days is beast. She’s prone to roaring, growling and roughness), but attributing rational emotions, thoughts and feelings to a distinctly irrational creature. I find myself saying things like, she likes this, she wants that, she means this, when in reality I do not know any such thing to be the case. Certainly she has animalistic urges, she is hungry, tired, curious, happy, and she is at the age where she has learned some good mimicry of gestures and even sounds, but she is still very undeveloped as a human and I wonder what the technical difference between her psyche and that of an intelligent animal is at this point. When people assert wishes and traits to pets they are deemed to be anthropomorphising them. I certainly am guilty of this myself. When we rehomed our dogs I attributed analogues of human feelings to them when they really had their own alien animal inclinations. I wonder if the same is true of babies? While babies are tiny people in training, they are not at all rational and much closer to animals than a rational person. Of course babies grow into slightly more rational little people and eventually into adults, whereas animals do not.

So is it accurate to attribute rational human emotions to babies or even children? I don’t think it is, but within reason. Since we are (hopefully) raising children to be functional adults, teaching them our mores and morals, we come to expect them to behave in certain ways. Of course I think (as someone who does not get out much and admittedly lives in a bubble of intelligent educated person privilege), that adults can, and often do, lack higher rational capacity as well. People act without considered thought, often on impulse and urges.

Of course it’s natural to want to frame things in terms and feelings we can understand. Bring people in from otherness and align them with our internal monologue. Give meaning to their actions. I would do this because of that, thus they are like me. I understand and empathize. All that is why we attribute more complex thought and rationalization to immature instinct and impulse driven small people. There’s no harm in assigning them desires and feelings, though there is harm in assuming they can make rational connections and understand our actions.  Which is why punishment is pointless before a certain age.

It’s so natural that Thing 1 does it in relation to Thing 2. We often hear her saying “Her wants this (we are stuck on proper nouns of late)”, “Her says this!”  So Thing 1 is either doing a very good job mimicking us (not unreasonable, though I find Thing 1 attributing thoughts and feelings to Thing 2 much more frequently than we do), or is expressing a more rational expressive empathy with her little sister.  Meanwhile Thing 2 is still a small sociopath…