Archive for March, 2013

On sharing

March 21, 2013

Maybe I have become tougher and meaner in my old age. Or perhaps things are genuinely getting a bit out of hand out there in the world of parenting. I’m not sure, but frankly, I’ve had enough of sharing.

Kids these days have to share everything. Playgroups, playgrounds, playdates and kindergyms are awash with parents insistent that their children and, moreover, the children interacting with their children, share every toy, every activity, every space they lay their hands on.

Whatever happened to waiting your turn? Respecting the fact that another child was there first and was enjoying their own game? Maybe they don’t want you to join in and that’s ok. I have seen countless scenarios where mothers have shot angry glares as their clumsy toddler is refused entry to an older child’s game. The older child was there first, playing something too sophisticated for the toddler to grasp, and simply didn’t want their game – or space – invaded. This should not be a crime. The toddler’s mother should have respected the older child’s space and re-directed her toddler elsewhere. She should not, as so often happens, expect the older child to automatically and graciously include the toddler and share the game. When this does not happen, she certainly should not, as so often happens, shoot angry glares at the older child’s mother as if to say “Your child is not sharing with my child. Shame on you”.

This happened to me today, and instead of intervening when I saw my son (the “older child” of the piece) getting frustrated at the clumsy toddler, I waited to see if the toddler would get the picture and move away. Thankfully he did, but not before his mother had looked at me sternly, clearly expecting me to step in and insist that my son let the toddler on the play equipment. Well, I’m sorry if I’m being unreasonable, but my son was there first and was having a perfectly lovely time on his own and would have happily moved away and let the toddler play on the equipment if he had just waited his turn. At that point in time, it was his space, and a little bit of respect for that wouldn’t go astray. With two older brothers to contend with every day of his life, a few minutes alone on some play equipment isn’t too much to ask.

I’m not calling for a complete ban on sharing. Just some perspective. Share the box of crayons? You bet. Share the enormous sandpit? Of course. You’ve got half a watermelon there? That’s plenty for all of us. But share the space you have created for yourself under the slide for an imaginary game of baddies versus goodies with any child who feels like joining in? Not necessarily. That’s not being selfish, it’s being self preserving.

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Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder

March 19, 2013

When I was in my late teens I had a relationship with a guy which lasted for about a year and was, for the most part, reasonably fun. But of all our times together, one argument we had still resonates to this day because it summed up for me what is wrong with our society’s concept of beauty.

We were sitting in my car after a night out, when the topic of conversation somehow segued its way onto beauty and the modeling industry. Elle Macpherson – “The Body” – was everywhere at the time and the media’s lascivious obsession with her was a particular bugbear of mine. Any criticisms I had of the idolatry lavished upon Elle and the industry as a whole were often met with accusations of jealousy and spite. I asked my boyfriend earnestly whether he thought I was beautiful. This was not a clumsy attempted prompt for flattery, but an honest question in a fitting conversational context. Giving it some consideration, his reply was no. How could I be, realistically, given that the criteria for true beauty was set by Elle Macpherson? In his rationale, I did not look like Elle Macpherson, ergo I was not beautiful. When I suggested that he was setting the basis of his conclusion on a set of artificially determined criteria he completely missed my point and simply said “You’re just jealous”.

Needless to say, this conclusion did not do wonders for our relationship and it wasn’t long before we broke up. But the admittance to me in the heated angst of that car all those years ago compounded my anger. Anger at how media depictions of women and how we should look have resulted in the creation of a hierarchical definition of what constitutes beauty and “perfection” which in my mind is utterly false. More than false. It is totally irrelevant.

Call me radical, call me deluded, but I don’t believe you can define beauty in absolute terms. I don’t believe there is a set criteria which must be met in order to be deemed worthy of the beautiful tag. I do not believe that the Elles and Giselles and Naomis of this world represent some upper echelon of unattainable physical perfection which we mere mortals can only dream of. I don’t believe there is an unattainable beauty superior to a “real” beauty – the “plus” size 12 models the industry thrusts at us as if to say “It’s ok. We think you can be beautiful too but only if you look like this and of course you’re still not that beautiful”.

This is the hierarchy that I’m talking about. The “perfection” that the designers parade in their seasonal shows with an insulting, elitist air that is lapped up and fed to the masses by the papers and magazines, followed by a shallow, sniveling attempt by the same press to reassure their readership that they can be beautiful too but under a different set of guidelines which are only slightly more broad and still strictly defined. Woe betide the multitude that fall outside these narrow standards: we, the great unwashed, must spend our lives aspiring to fit an artificially created mold by purchasing the necessary products and behaving in necessary ways in a never ending loop which keeps the entire industry afloat. The idea that beauty can be defined and its criteria dictated is the very scaffold upon which the modeling industry and fashion magazines are built.

That we are fed these subjective definitions as objective absolutes and succumb to their influence is a travesty.

Perhaps I’m old fashioned, or a bit unusual, but I believe beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. I despise terms such as “The Body”, “supermodel”, and “perfect beauty” when used to describe women in the popular press. I don’t believe in a universal notion of what constitutes beauty and I think it is evil that the fashion industry and its obsequious press conspire to formulate definitions of something that is objectively indefinable. The subjective cannot be objective:  what is one person’s plain is another person’s pretty and that is just the way it should be. But if this idea caught on an entire industry would cease to exist, and what a shame that would be…

It can happen to anyone

March 14, 2013

Today my three and a half year old son had one of those massive, intractable tantrums that you see young children have every so often. The classic screaming meltdown. We were in the markets, sitting at a busy eatery on a major walkway intersection, next to some burly be-suited businessmen trying to eat their beef rendang in peace.

Son 3 has hitherto not been prone to the screaming meamies so I was torn between several reactions: intrigue, as to how it would manifest in his otherwise normally level temperament, pity for the men seated nearby, but also anger at their looks of disdain in our direction. I felt that momentary sensation of wanting to be sucked into a black hole. Self consciousness is a strange animal. It creates the illusion that a room’s entire energy is focused on you whilst simultaneously slowing your perception of time. So you feel like every person within earshot is staring in silence and horror at you for an inordinately long period of time, when in fact a few people would have looked at you ambivalently for perhaps ten seconds.

It took me about a minute, after pathetically and pointlessly attempting to reason with him, to accept that Son 3 was fixed in his tantrum and there was great potential for the screaming to get even more severe. So I hightailed it out of there with him on my hip and started pointing at fruits, vegetables, nuts, mushrooms, sausages, fish and funny hats until he was calm enough to talk. Removing him from the scene was the right thing to do. It didn’t take long, and being focused on him like that helped me forget about what we had just exited. Forget about the grumpy suits. Forget about the awkward stares. We were both calm. We sat back down. All was right once more.

The episode made me think about what a great world it would be if tears and tantrums and extremes of emotion, particularly in children, were accepted as part of living in a community.  Where parents, when faced with their offspring dissolving into a meltdown, could simply shrug and say “I’m not giving her the lollipop” without fear of judgement or social reprimand about their child’s extravagant display. No one likes to see an hysterical child, but we’ve all been there, either as a parent or – remember when? – as a child ourselves. It’s not great when it interrupts your lunch break, but a wry smile would always be more welcome than a frown. A wry smile that says “I live in this community too and you are welcome here”.

 

Check it out.

March 7, 2013

Missrepresentation.

I saw this doco last night and found it utterly compelling. This is something we should all do something about.