Thursday, March 31, 2011

toddlers' obsession with sex

Free to Be You & Me
Free to Be You & me
This isn't about the toddler's interest in exploring her genitals that I've posted about earlier; this is about the toddler's obsession with identifying and categorizing everyone around her according to their sex. As I'm eager to nurture a new generation of little women and men breaking out of conservative and confining gender roles, I often pause to think about how best to respond to Lilly's repetitive "she's a girl and he's a boy and mama's a woman and papa's a man." 

When I brought this up in a conversation with some mama friends of mine, one said her mother, who ran a daycare for a number of years, had said that the boy-girl topic was the most prominent of all among the children she'd cared for over the years.

Sex educator Debra W. Haffner, author of From Diapers to Dating, seconds the significance of this topic. By as early as six months of age, babies can pick out male and female voices, and children learn to divide the world into "male" and "female" before they reach the age of two. Depending on the behaviors they see in their homes and preschools, they will identify certain behaviors as male or female.

Haffner encourages parents to stimulate non-traditional gender roles by positive gender equal role modeling. But as she also points out, even children in less traditional homes will still divide the world by gender based on the models they see. Raising her children in the spirit of Free to Be You and Me, Haffner nonetheless remembers how her two-year-old son told her one that that he wished he could be a doctor, but he knew he couldn't. When Haffner asked him why, he, "thinking of his own woman pediatrician, said, 'Mom, only ladies can be doctors!'"

Sunday, March 27, 2011

you know how kids on airplanes kick their feet into the seat in front of them?

Leighton went to a Montessori workshop a couple of weeks ago where a presenter talked about the importance for children of having size appropriate furniture, such as chairs that allow their feet to reach the ground. To achieve this, the presenter recommended the child eating by a separate lower table next to the adults' dining table. I'm not crazy about that idea. Maybe if we had more than one child. For now I like to have Lilly "with" us at the table when we have dinner.

Feet grounded
However, this presenter's emphasis on children's need to have their feet reach the floor to feel grounded has caused some conversation around here. Might it explain her (very annoying) pushing of her feet into my driver's seat? Or her kicking at the table during meals? And the coffee table when we're on the couch, crunching the rug into an accordion? Or does she do that because she wants to have her feet on the table like I do?

But how about in bed? While she will sleep calmly and snuggly next to me, she has this thing of pushing her legs into my body when she wakes up in the morning. If we don't get up right away, that is.

Like yesterday morning. So it's Saturday and I'm down with a cold and I don't feel like getting up when she wakes up before 7. So I lie there, feigning sleep. As she squirmingly and relentlessly persists in kicking my body. What's up with that? While she has the decency not to "wake" me by speaking until I actually turn around and open my eyes, she just kept on like that for the entire hour and a half it took me to feel like I could "start" the day.

Of course, by then I was so frustrated that I poured all that crap out on Leighton. And I remain wondering, what's the deal with the kicking?

Friday, March 25, 2011

ever feel like you're being stalked by a toddler?

I love sharing my bed with Lilly, but in the morning I'm in serious need for some space to myself. To at least make coffee. Have some breakfast. Ideally check my e-mail real quick.

Yesterday morning, I was at my wits end; not only was I being stalked by my toddler, she was literally standing on my slippers at one point as I was trying to pour myself a cup of coffee. Being sick with a banging headache, I didn't feel much like the scream and feel better approach. Instead I texted a mama in arms: "Ever feel like you're being stalked by a toddler?" Right away a text popped up in return: "You have good timing. I was about to scream, you made me laugh."

Perhaps sometimes a text message is all you need to regain some sanity.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

with financial crisis, what's a good time for a second child?

I couldn't help feeling mixed when a close friend announced last summer that she was pregnant with number two. For about a year we'd been talking about how neat it'd be to conceive our second child around the same time, to go through pregnancy, child birth, and the parenting of an infant side by side. And when she shared her happy news with me, I was still sipping my red raspberry tea on a loyal daily basis, seeing as how it promised to support my female system.

(Baby belly number 1)
Well, I'm still sipping that tea and no ovulation in sight. You might think it'd be nice not to have had a period since August 2007, but frankly I miss it. I mean, it's always been an irregular visitor; so whenever it did show up I felt proud about my body and what it was capable of. Nursing gives me that sense too, of course, and I'm not feeling ready to wean just to see if that could help boost my female system in other areas.

Now that we're delving into the entrepreneurial line of work after our countless failed job searches, the grief around the unconceived second child has waned significantly. With barely any income, a second child just does not seem opportune at all. And feeling like I've found the kind of work I really want to do, more than anything, I want to devote any free (and not so free) moment to our LOVE, SEX, AND FAMILY resource center, not to see all my time consumed by taking care of a little baby.

There's already too little time to work, now that Leighton is so busy with some extra work hours, adding development training and an internship on top of that, pushing his thesis work to the side more and more. But I am claiming some time, and our LOVE, SEX, AND FAMILY site is steadily growing. And I am (not so) secretly looking forward to Lilly beginning Montessori preschool for three hours a day Monday through Friday this fall, and feel excited about the prospect of having her in Montessori''s summer program this June for three hours a day.

So then why, after a few days of feeling particularly lusty for my hubby--despite us all being sick around here; runny noses typically sapping my libido--do I find myself wondering with some anticipation: Could I be ovulating? Might we be joined by a Christmas baby?

Biological instinct? Psychological urge? Emotional sentimentality? It sure doesn't feel like it's rational reasoning in any case.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

teaching my toddler about her yoni

(Photo: LesleyS)
I took the time to shower after lunch today. I figured it had been since Monday and I'd been to the gym both Tuesday and this morning, so I figured it was about time. Showering with my contacts on, I could see it was time for other grooming too. I shaved my legs and armpits and when I'd dried off, I positioned myself somewhat awkwardly hovering over the toilet with our nail scissors in hand. At this point, Lilly decided to join me in our minuscule bathroom, studying me intently. As I always do when she sees me naked, I pointed out what's different, how mama has hair around her yoni and when she grows up she will too, and while it's not necessary to trim it, mama sometimes thinks it looks nice.

As it turns out, trimming one's yoni hairline half crunched over, I also get a not so flattering view of my formerly intact and plump labia drooping down in slivers of skin and flesh. It caught her eye too, and figuring this was as good as any time to take the education a step further, seeing as I've been blogging about the importance of talking to our children about their developing sexuality and all of their body parts over at lovesexfamily, I explained in my most upbeat voice that our vulvae have inner and outer labia, hers does too just like mine. This got her very curious and we finally got her pants and panties off and sat her down on a stool so she could see for herself.

From Diapers to Dating: A Parent's Guide to Raising Sexually Healthy Children, Second EditionMy little toddler girl was so proud when she found her labia. Wow. And now let me just point out that pronouncing "my labia!" in Norwegian (kjønnsleppene mine!) over and over again is quite the feat. Seeing that it was almost naptime, she kind of zoned out touching her labia (as Haffner points out, toddlers often touch their genitals to calm themselves before sleep). - It feels good to touch one's labia, doesn't it, I said. She nodded, gaze glazed. And then I said the most extraordinary thing: - That's because our yonis are a very special part of our bodies. Imagine, it's through my yoni that you came out of my belly and into this world! - Lilly used to live in mama's belly, she mused.

I can't imagine a better way to round off this little lesson of ours. Not only did it empower her, it renewed my relationship to my yoni. It may not look the same, but it sure is an amazing part of me.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

with separation from child: most say allow some crying

The results are in from my poll on separation and crying with the majority saying they are in favor of allowing some crying: 

To the question: "with separation from child: allow no cry, some cry, or let cry?" 9 % checked no cry, 81 % some cry, and 9 % let cry. The results from the previous poll on children's sleep and crying were 12 % for no cry, 31 % some cry, and 56 % let cry. 

I think it's interesting that less were inclined to leave their children crying in terms of separation while the majority was in favor of doing it for sleep. To me, both seem equally vulnerable times for a child.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

finding my time for sanity

I'm beginning to feel a little better over here, hunkered down at home. I made a point to shower and get dressed yesterday; the last couple of weeks have seen me mainly in sweats, rarely freshly showered. I've spent every free (and not so free) moment working and am beginning to feel a little more on top of things in that department. 

My work time is my time. And my working out time is my time too. Leighton made a comment the other day about how much I've been heading over to the YMCA lately, that I'd be getting really fit here soon. The point, however, isn't just or even primarily physical fitness. Through exercise and particularly yoga, I find strength and balance. Now more than ever, I need that. 

When I was pregnant with Lilly, practicing yoga was the only exercise I could do till the end that didn't hurt or feel uncomfortable. This is me just days before labor started practicing pre-natal yoga with Shiva Rea.

After 64 hours of labor even walking hurt for months. But yoga still felt good, and so I continued with Shiva Rae's post-natal yoga.

YogaKids, Vol. 3: Silly to Calm
Now I'm trying to nurture an appreciation for yoga in Lilly, practicing yoga with her along the instructions of Marsha Wenig in Yoga Kids: From Silly to Calm. I don't want to push it; that would be very un-yogi and really just kill the joy of it. But Lilly is getting more and more into it; sometimes she'll break into some of the poses spontaneously and I love that.

I originally started practicing yoga as a grad student back in the mid to late nineties. I started practicing then to find my body which I had fallen out of touch with. My life evolved around thinking and writing fueled by coffee and cigarettes. I was underweight and overworked, my back and shoulders constantly aching. 

I stopped smoking and started exercising as a college professor, still overworked, but also dealing with a difficult relationship. Becoming strong physically helped me find strength to put that relationship behind me.

I was never one to eagerly race to the gym, however. Not until I became a mom. Now more than ever I need to work out. I need to stretch my back and shoulders aching from carrying. To tread out frustration. To zone out on the elliptical machine while thinking through things, preferably to some upbeat tunes on my ipod. To feel awake again.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

happy international women's day!

It's a day to celebrate:
  • Women Keep House (and Maybe Senate?) Better Than Men (New York Times)
    "In honor of International Women’s Day: A new study finds that  Congressional representatives who are women outperform their male counterparts, perhaps because the bar is higher for them to get elected in the first place."
  • International Women's Day (Homepage)
    "2011 year marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day.
    The day was commemorated for the first time on 19 March 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, following its establishment during the Socialist International meeting the prior year. More than one million women and men attended rallies on that first commemoration.

    In 1975, during International Women's Year, the United Nations began celebrating 8 March as International Women's Day. Two years later, in December 1977, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women's Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions. The Day is traditionally marked with a message from the Secretary-General."
  • 100 years of empowering international women (The Telegraph)
    Figures released to coincide with the 100th annual International Women's Day (IWD) show there is still a considerable gender pay gap across the globe."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

mamas on the verge of a nervous breakdown

I received an email from a friend this morning, reporting on research that stresses the importance of concentrated focus despite the creative rewards of daydreaming: "Lose Focus, Lose Happiness." Perhaps this has been my problem lately. I've mentioned that, while developing my new business, I've been assigned to take inventory of my strengths and weaknesses. Topping the latter is: "desire to do all at once." To compensate for this, I've drafted a plan for what to do when, but it doesn't seem to be working for me. There's just that competitive urge in me to beat the list, and to get more done than it believes possible. To get more done sooner means to get more done at once. So then there's juggling work on my feminist porn book, which I'm translating from Norwegian to English; and my article on sex among youth that I'm revising to submit. And there's blogging both here and there. And there's developing LOVE, SEX, AND FAMILY.

All this as a full-time mama of a toddler who is not fond of sleep, leaving me no time at night (since I go to bed with her) and only a measly hour or so in the afternoon when she naps.

  1. Attempt enforcement of quite time after lunch while she looks at books, draws, or plays quietly as I get some stuff done on my computer. 
  2. Sneak away to my ad hoc desk in our bedroom whenever Leighton's around and I'm not busy cooking or cleaning.
  3. Get up in the middle of the night after my nocturnal bathroom run to write in a sleeping house.
It's not working out to much satisfaction. And as a result, I find myself prone to thoughts and emotions I'm not proud of. I'm definitely not in my finest days as a mom.
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