Thursday, August 29, 2013

Sometimes They Teach You.

I have been trying rather sporadically to introduce Clara to the art of drawing with very little success.  She would wave the markers around and look at me as if to say: "This is supposed to be fun?  Lame, Mom."  The noted exception was Gerald's birthday card in January which Clara helped me with.

I love drawing.  I studied art.  I want Clara to love it too.  This morning as I was doing some work at my desk Clara came over and started pulling stuff off the bookshelves, as she is wont to do.  After a few minutes I looked down.  Clara had discovered a package of markers.  They were scattered around her and she was holding one in her hand, cap off, poised to draw.  

Amazed, I opened up a pad of paper for her.  I showed her how to draw with a green marker.  And that was it - Clara was drawing.  A dash of yellow, she would throw the marker away and grab another.  There were some stops and starts as she tried to figure out which end to put to paper and she colored her skin as much as the paper. But there she was - drawing.  She took a break to toddle around and try to eat the marker, then she went back for some finishing touches.

After she was finished with her matserpiece, she promptly went down for a nap.  I guess all those artistic brain synapses firing for the first time wore her out.

Yay!  We have art for the refrigerator!

The First Pass.

Finishing Touches.

The Masterpiece.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Clara, don't do this.

A short piece I wrote about my childhood was published in the 2013 Summer issue of The Southampton Review.  Reading it makes me remember at how much trouble my sisters and I got away with as children and in hindsight, it’s all extremely funny. But then I tallied  up all my bad kid karma points and  wondered when my “what goes around, comes around” karma will come back to haunt me.

And then it hit me.  Clara.

She’s a kid, like I was a kid.  I have been witness to the mischievous glint in her eye as she toddles over to the nightlight and contemplates pulling it out of the socket. Looking at me with a sly smile that seems to say: “You lady, just look over there for a minute, will ya’?” 

All I ask is that Clara waits a few more years before discovering how awesome matches can be.

Here’s the  story from my childhood. (Clara…don’t do this)

Water Bombs
By Jeannine Jones

A friend made on the other side of the building first introduced us to the thrill of throwing something out an open window.  Katherine would glob up a giant wad of toilet paper with her mother's Noxema face cream and throw that hellish snowball out the window onto unsuspecting passerby on Broadway. From her eleventh floor apartment we could occasionally hear the faint cries of outrage as Katherine's Noxema Bombs hit home.
            Back home in our ninth floor apartment, Becky and I lacked the courage to throw anything out the window that might actually hit someone.  Lucky us, our dining room overlooked a nearly-always empty courtyard.  The (almost) sure knowledge that no one was ever down there proved an impossible temptation to resist.
            Our weapon of choice began small - the foldable sandwich baggies we used to pick up our dog's poop up off the street, due to the recently passed Curb Your Dog law. One small baggie filled with water, dropped out the window made a satisfying PLIP. This was soon followed by two, then three, then even four at once - increasing the PLIP to a CLAP as the water made contact.
            Friends invited over for playdates and overnights would marvel at our daring.  Weren't we afraid of being caught?  The answer, simply, was no.  Located conveniently one apartment below us were two brothers, close in age, whose parents got regular visits from the doorman complaining of water bombs in the courtyard.
            Over the years, the sound of small, water-filled baggies striking the ground was no longer novel.  We graduated to plastic produce bags (THWACK!) and even to the larger bags our groceries came in (WHUMP!).
            One night, inspiration struck. I ran to the kitchen to get a trash bag.  Not one of those wimpy white ones for small apartment trash cans, but a HEFTY Lawn and Leaf bag.  With the help of my friend Rob, we filled it as far as we dared in the bathtub. Double knotted and too heavy to carry, it undulated across the floor like the Blob as we pushed it towards its demise.
            It hung there a moment, suspended in the sill, as if deciding which way to go. It slowly gained speed, oozed out the window and sailed into the night air. Endless seconds of silence passed.  Then - like a cannon firing off a shot we were greeted by a reverberating BOOOOOOOOM that rattled windows in their frames.
            We stifled screams and hysterical laughter and hid beneath the Dining Room table - safe in the knowledge, that in a few short minutes, the boys who lived downstairs would be getting a knock on their door.  I would like to say this was the juvenile act of a child.  I was 19.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Milestones They Neglect To Mention

For the most part I have tried to stay away from the books and blogs that inform you (in excruciating detail) what your child should be doing at this or that age, and whether the vaguely alarming rash on your baby’s butt means “allergic to laundry detergent” or “symptom of smallpox”.  I have to admit,  I have occasionally  flipped through my What to Expect in the First Year and gotten some good tips out of it. 
For example: I never would have thought to start playing catch with Clara as soon as I did had the book not recommended it. And I got some good ideas about how to transition Clara from our room to the crib.  Other than that – any other reading I do seems to be of the alarmist DON’T DO THAT! OH NO! variety and I try to avoid it.

Occasionally, though, something happens to me that I think they should put into these books because my 37 years on earth have not prepared me - in any way, shape or form -  how to respond.

Take this example.  The other night I was giving 13-month old Clara her nightly bath while Gerald put the dinner dishes away.  She was happily splashing and drinking bathwater out of a cup.  I was sitting on the edge of the tub talking to her. She moved into a semi-crawl position, and I chuckled to see a tiny air bubble fart rise to the surface and pop.  Before my chuckle had a chance to fully emerge from my throat – tiny baby turds started shooting out of Clara’s butt with machine-gun rapidity.  Suddenly she was surrounded by at least twenty, floating poop balls.  I shrieked incoherently for Gerald and stood up – flapping my arms in horror. Gerald arrived to help.

 “What?” He asked.
“Poop!  There’s poop!  Grab a towel!”

I scooped up Clara and handed her off to Gerald and the towel.  Clara’s shrieks of displeasure at a bath cut short faded away as Gerald carried her off to her room and I kneeled down and spent the next ten minutes fishing poop out of the tub with my hands.  Yes – my bare hands.  I wasn’t thinking – I was operating of some basic animal instinct to clean.  I guess. Where is that in a book, What To Expect people???!!!!  I would have like a little heads up for this horror show.

But after I gave myself a chance to stop hyper ventilating, I began to think about what had just happened.  In a weird way – it was kind of awesome.  Here is this little baby – totally uninhibited -  totally incapable of controlling her bowels – but she doesn’t care.  She’s cool with it.  It’s Mother Nature, man. 
When was the last time you felt uninhibited and relaxed enough to poop in a pool of warm water? (A long time, I’m betting)  Here I am – someone who would rather die holding it in than go to the bathroom in the woods – and I have a little girl who just rolls with it.  Good job, Clara.  Never be embarrassed by anything.  I mean, please don’t poop in the tub again, but don’t get held back by societal inhibitions! 

Thursday, August 01, 2013

High Heels for Little Girls - what are we teaching our daughters?

While sitting down and watching Spongebob with my one year-old daughter, Clara, I saw 2 advertisements for Skechers shoes – one aimed at little girls, one aimed at little boys.

The advertisement for girls featured little girls pretending to be rock stars while wearing sneakers that hid a 2-inch wedge heel.  So these little girls could be taller and no one would know. The ad starts by saying: “Do you want to get taller?” and “have a secret wedge that only we girls know about?” Throughout we watch cartoon girls in short skirts sing on stage.  This is it: Skechers Wedge Commercial

In the next commercial block I watched a second Skechers ad for Air-Mazing Shoes.  It shows cartoon boys doing all kinds of stunts and sports.   It asks: “Are you a kid who runs fast, jumps high and plays hard?” At the end of the commercial two girls dressed as cheerleaders swoon over the boy in the cool, athletic sneakers.  This is it: Air-Mazing Commercial.  

This prompted me to visit the Skechers website to find out more about these shoes.  The Air-Mazing sneakers are only available in boys sizes – preschool through grade school.  The Secret Wedge Seakers are only available to girls – preschool through grade school which sport a 2-inch hidden heel.  There is also an adult woman version with a 3-inch heel.

Does anyone else have a problem with the fact that Skechers is marketing shoes to little girls by asking them if they want to be taller?  I know that as a parent I don’t consider teaching my daughter how to navigate in high heels as a toddler a priority or something that should be encouraged. Doesn’t this feed into the media obsession with super tall, size 0 models – an ideal that is almost impossible to imitate?

I was equally disturbed by the fact that Skechers is marketing an athletic sneaker solely to boys.  Aren’t there plenty of little girls who can run fast, jump high and play hard?  This commercial also sexualizes the boys by showing scantily clad cheerleaders swooning over the boy.  Clearly sending the message that if you have cool shoes, pretty girls will love you.

I would have less of a problem with the commercials if they were more inclusive.  I am sure as a teenage girl I would have liked the idea of a wedge sneaker but I also would have wanted a real sneaker to play basketball in.  And why isn’t there a male version of the wedge shoe for all the insecure boys out there that wish they were taller?  You might laugh at that marketing campaign but I would argue that we should be laughing just as hard at marketing a wedge sneaker to little girls.

In both commercials the girls are dressed in close-fitting outfits that show off incredibly healthy curves and busts for pre-pubescent girls.  Conversely the boys are depicted wearing comfortable clothes appropriate for playing sports.

As a woman who played sports as a little girl I am offended by this marginalization of young girls. I guess only little boys can be “amazing,” the little girls have to worry about learning how to walk in high heels.

In a discussion on this very subject it was pointed out to me that Skechers is only selling what the consumer will buy.  They wouldn’t be selling the shoes if people weren’t buying them.  True.  I think we as consumers have to consider what we are exposing our children too – especially our little girls.  If we didn’t buy the products they wouldn’t be made.  But I think these companies have to be more aware of the narrative they are telling with their product.

I remember that talking Barbie doll that said: “Math class is tough,” reinforcing the stereotype that girls have trouble doing math.  When consumers complained, Mattel removed the doll from the market.  We are all responsible for what we expose the malleable minds of children too. I would hope that Skechers might feel the same way.