Those Creepy Disney Princesses

Posted by on Nov 16, 2011

My daughter (The Princess) turned four last week and to celebrate her birthday, we hosted a tea party for three of her friends. Overall, it went pretty well. Yes, there were a couple of meltdowns, and yes, she did demand that every one leave and go home two or three times, but that's more or less what we expected. Once the party was over, we had a few hours to relax (i.e. clean) and then family came over and it was time for Party Take Two. I like keeping things low-key on birthdays. A small party or two is more than enough for us - something that commemorates the day but doesn't turn into a frenzy of presents and sugar-fueled mayhem. Regardless, I'm glad that its over and done, along with Sunday's soup swap and my own birthday yesterday. Now we can relax - and start on Christmas? Ugh, maybe I can take a nap in January... For the past couple weeks, I've been worrying about new toys coming into the house. Where will we put them? Will I approve of them? Usually I'm one of those moms who is really strict about what people buy, but in the past we've only had family over and I'm not sure I want my friends to know what a psycho control freak I am (my family is well aware). This year, I took a hands-free approach and it turned out okay. Better than I hoped. My biggest fear was that we'd be inundated with Ariel and Aurora and all the other Princesses. I'm just not ready to live in a Disney castle! Luckily, my daughter only received a handful of Disney Princess items - not bad at all. My house is safe for at least another month until we're assaulted by Santa who will inevitably bring us more Disney stuff, probably Christmas themed in some way. Since my daughter's birthday, I've been trying to figure out why I dislike the Disney Princess empire so much. In all honesty, I can't wait for my daughter to be old enough for The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast and Alladin. I loved those movies when I was a kid, and I predict that she'll have a hard time hearing the TV as I sing my heart out along with Ariel and Jasmine. So it isn't the movies themselves that bug me - there's got to be something else. Maybe it's princess culture in general. I've read all the popular parenting books (plus a good chunk of the required reading for my women's studies course), and I'm familiar with the theories that girly-girl culture teaches girls to be pretty - which switches to "hot" overnight when they hit twelve or thirteen. I also know that fairy tales usually feature a powerless, motherless young woman who is tormented by another woman until she is ultimately rescued by a man. Furthermore, I know that fairy tales teach that marriage is the ultimate prize rather than a lifelong commitment that takes work and dedication. I know that the princess-obsession isn't ideal for my daughter. Heck, I don't even need a book to tell me this - when I ask her my daughter what princesses do, she replies that they "give kisses and hugs" and "prance around the house in fancy dresses". Great, my child wants to grow up to be a house-prancer. How boring! But what is it about the Disney Princess brand in particular that really bugs me? I know that it's not just because, as Peggy Orenstein points out in Cinderella Ate my Daughter, they never look at each other when they appear together on cards, wrapping paper, or packaging of any kind, although that really is kind of creepy. (it's not creepy at first. At first you just sort of think "huh, that's weird, I never noticed that", but after 6 months or so of noticing it Every Single Time, it totally starts to get under your skin... seriously, why won't they look at each other?!) I've decided that there are a few different reasons:
  1. I hate that the Disney Princesses are on everything. I don't want my daughter to grow up in a Disney sponsored bedroom. I don't want the Princess faces to grace her pyjamas and her back pack and her bed sheets and her reading tent. I feel like she's just a Disney consumer at that point, dutifully demanding everything with a licensed character slapped on it.
  2. I hate that the Disney brand is so bland. I mean, the movies themselves are spectacular with the songs and larger than life characters and the amazing animation. The story lines themselves, on the other hand, are pretty boring. Take Cinderella as an example. In the Disney version, she basically is a passive observer as her Fairy Godmother transforms her so she can go to the ball. In other versions, the magic is typically a result of her own actions and so the story becomes much more interesting.
  3. The Disney Princesses are becoming too sexy. I'm fine with a little sauciness, but not for my four year old. For example, look at the picture above from a card that my daughter was given. Cinderella (in blue) is giving me her best come-hither look, and Sleeping Beauty/Aurora (in pink) is arching her back and sticking her chest out as far as she can. If I posed like that, my family would think I'd lost my mind. Honestly, I'm tempted to make up a Disney-style baby sticker and pop it on top to breastfeed, which would be more in line with our family's culture right now. I'm not against sexiness,  but I don't understand why it should be on birthday card for a child. And the thing is, nobody really notices it - they just see the familiar faces and grab the product without a thought. That is, nobody notices but the kids, who take in every detail and internalize it more than we realize.
Now, I don't want to go overboard and ban the Disney Princesses from our home. Like I write above, I love the movies myself. And I think that right now, my daughter cares more about the pretty dresses than anything else - I mean, she still has a hard time accepting that Drisella and Anastasia are cruel, despite their beautiful gowns. And she usually passes Pocohontas off to the baby - unless Disney bedazzles her outfit, I don't think she'll ever be popular around here. All children enjoy dressing up in glamorous grown up clothes, and maybe princess play is just an extension of that. So all I can do for now is use it as a launching point to talk about being beautiful on the inside too. And instead of fighting the princess takeover, I'm still trying to find stories from around the world that feature princesses that are brave, or mischievous, or adventurous - even in a beautiful dress. I suppose the Disney Princesses will be in good company here. Read More

Make Milk, Not War

Posted by on Nov 8, 2011

Welcome to the November Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids in the Kitchen This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how kids get involved in cooking and feeding. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
I was SO excited to give my first daughter, The Princess, food to eat. I carefully sourced out organic foods and I made the food myself as much as I could. I wanted her to have the best, the healthiest, the purest food possible. We started out with oatmeal - not real oatmeal, but that powdery stuff that's made especially for babies and has the constancy of glue when you mix it up. Yum. The Princess didn't really care for it - not a fan of glue, I guess. She ate a few bites, then played with her bowl. Nothing exciting - almost disappointing - certainly no classic photo ops. We kept giving it to her, and when she didn't seem to take to the powdered oatmeal, we tried powdered rice and powdered barley too. Still, she didn't seem to enjoy the food at all. As a nervous mother, I was upset that she wouldn't eat like a "normal" baby. I asked my doctor why she wouldn't eat the oatmeal, and my doctor replied, "maybe she doesn't like oatmeal". Honestly, I don't think I knew that was an option. I responded that my baby just wanted to nurse instead. My doctor told me that my baby was obviously brilliant because she knew she was already getting the good stuff. My doctor is awesome like that. So we took The Princess home and tried other foods, like toast crusts, Cheerios (the organic knock off, of course), and some gourmet baby purees, made by yours truly. I spent a lot of time carefully picking out the best organic produce I could find, gently cooking it - with extra love - and then blending it into a delightful baby slurry. I was so proud of the delightful feasts of mush, but The Princess really couldn't have cared less. I kept trying to feed her, but she refused to eat much at all. After a while I stopped bothering with homemade food and switched to jarred food instead - after all, if she wasn't going to eat it, why bother going to the trouble of making it myself? Sometime after she turned a year, I took her back to the doctor to make sure she was okay. My awesome doctor was gone - I think she was touring Europe with her daughters for half a year - and I was passed on to a resident doctor. Being a student, the resident had a lot less experience in general and no kids of her own, and she was much more concerned about my daughter than my own doctor had been. The resident had me come back a month later to follow up, which led to another check up the month after that, and another one the month after that. I was passed around to different residents who were all upset that my girl was slipping down the growth charts, at one point falling into the bottom 3%. One resident gave me literature about eating issues that included information on Failure to Thrive - that seriously almost gave me a nervous breakdown. Looking back, I wish I had demanded a second opinion from a seasoned doctor instead of letting a bunch of students freak me out. Meal times became more and more stressful for us and I tried in vain to coax my daughter to eat. There was a good six month period where she would insist on sitting in my lap during meal times, probably because she sensed how tense I was and instinctively needed to be close. Have you ever tried to eat a meal with a toddler in your lap? For a child who didn't want to eat food, she sure enjoyed playing with mine... I remember a dietican calling me because one of the residents had referred us to her. I'm sorry to say that I was a bit rude. I told her that I wasn't going to drag my child to her clinic for no reason and we could chat on the phone instead. She started the usual spiel about variety being good for children and all the foods that she needed in her diet - she was very kind, but the information she gave me was kind of a no-brainer. I cut her off and asked if anyone knew how to make a child eat these wonderful foods. There was a long pause. No. I told her to call me when they figured that out. Needless to say, we never made it up to her office. Eventually my doctor came back and offered some reassurance. Some one has to be in the bottom 3%, she said, so why not my kid? Besides, she pointed out that I'm a skinny minny myself, so why would I expect my child to be different? The only suggestion she offered was to cut back on nursing. Give up her beloved milk? The Princess would have none of that. And I was thankful that she nursed for so long, because for years I was sure it was the only source of nourishment she was getting. If I had quit breastfeeding her, she'd probably have come down with scurvy or some other random illness like that. That would have really freaked the residents out. Tomorrow my daughter turns four.  I wish I could say that I've figured out how to make her eat healthy, but she is still an insanely picky eater. I still look for tips and advice about getting her to eat, but I have a hard time not rolling my eyes when I hear the same suggestions again and again. Have her help prepare the meals? Grow food together in the garden? Let her see you eating healthy foods? Cut the food in fun shapes? Yeah, none of those ideas work. I mean, c'mon - this is a kid who spits out Flintstone vitamins, and those things are pretty much just candy. Now my second daughter is nine months and shows no interest in eating. Deja vu! I often offer her bits of what we're eating - yogurt, porridge, toast, apple sauce - but she just doesn't want to eat it. But as long as she's happy and active and I can give her a steady supply of "mama milk", I'm not interested in fighting a daily battle. Honestly, life is easier when you don't have bath your baby three times a day to get the mashed potato/creamed corn/apple sauce out of her hair. This time around, I'm just enjoying the solid food delay, and if some residents want to stress out about milestones and growth charts, that's their problem. Some day they'll have their own kids - then they'll understand.  
  Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting! Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:   Read More

I ♥ Breastfeeding (Regardless of How that Makes You Feel)

Posted by on Aug 5, 2011

I'm that mama that unabashedly loves breastfeeding. I'm the one wearing the nursing shirts with slogans praising mommy milk. I'm the mama who chooses to breastfeed in the food court of the mall instead of using the nursing room upstairs (although I *do* love those recliners). I'm the one who gently makes fun of the people who complain on Twitter about moms nursing during the church service (Jesus nursed too! Also, get off your phone!) or at Starbucks (café au lait anyone?). I'm the mama that nursed her first daughter for more than three years, and the mama that nursed through pregnancy and tandem nursed, and the mama that looks forward to breastfeeding her six month old for at least another year and a half. And for some reason this rubs people the wrong way. In fact, there has been a lot of backlash against advocates of breastfeeding lately. Some people say that the benefits of breastmilk have been blown out of proportion. Some women complain that they couldn't nurse and are angry that breastfeeding advocates try to make them feel guilty. Some people label nursing advocates as "Breastfeeding Nazis" for pushing their agenda down everyones throat. But you know what? I don't really think much about parents who use formula. Honestly, apart from my random rants about the evils of formula companies, I actually don't think about formula much at all. I'm certainly not at the airport handing out samples of domperidone trying to win converts over to my side. When I push the Breast is Best line, its because I'm thinking of all the moms out there who truly do want to breastfeed but are insecure. Lack support. Feel alone. I'm thinking about the mothers who are struggling for a good latch under a cumbersome cover, convinced that everyone is staring at them. I'm thinking of the moms who are mortified because some one has asked them to go nurse in the bathroom. I'm thinking of the women who think twice about going out after they hear absurd stories like the mom asked not to nurse near the pool for fear of contaminating the water. I'm thinking of the dedicated moms who sit in the boiling hot/freezing cold car to nurse their babies because they don't feel confident enough to nurse elsewhere.  And the many moms who just don't leave the house at all because they want to be able to nurse their child if needed. I know there are tons of women like this out there - they tell me so when they run into to my store between feedings. Breastfeeding can be beautiful, but it can also be hard. I know that. Isolation makes it even harder. So I will continue to offer my support to moms who may need encouragement. I will smile happily at all the moms nursing in public because they do society a great service. I will keep wearing my shirts so that other nursing mothers might feel a teeny bit proud, maybe for the first time. Happy World Breastfeeding Week to us all! How about you? How do you support the mothers (breastfeeding or not) around you? Read More

Breastfeeding: Take A Picture, It Doesn’t Last Forever

Posted by on Jul 18, 2011

About half a year ago (give or take a couple months), Facebook deleted someone's account because she posted a picture of herself nursing her child - in fact, Facebook has done this many, many times. In a show of solidarity, mothers across Facebook were called to change their profile pictures to ones that showed them nursing their children. I was appalled at the nerve of Facebook to mark such beautiful images as "obscene", and I immediately went off to find a picture to upload. But I could only find two. Two! I had been nursing my daughter for three years at that point and apparently I only have two pictures to show for it. Even worse, they were both from the first couple of months. I admit that I generally don't like to have my picture taken, but I still have lots of pictures of me and my daughter - just not of me nursing her. Breastfeeding was so special to both of us, and I'm sad that we don't have any pictures of that special time. I won't make the same mistake this time. I've already made sure that I have pictures of my second daughter nursing so that we can look back on this time in the future years and remember how beautiful it was. Lucky for me, I now have a huge fan of breastfeeding with 3 years of nursing experience who is happy to take photos of these special moments when ever she can. :)

Read More