my tragic right hip

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September 2nd, 2011

Notes From A House Frau – A Summer Diary

We had a crazy thunderstorm last night. The sound boomed so loud that it shook the entire cottage. Lightning lit up the whole lake in shock after shock. I was a little scared, lying in bed, both of my boys sound asleep (the thunder had woken the baby up once; he went right back to sleep), wondering what I would do if the weather turned truly scary, and had to resist the impulse to pull the RRBB out of his slumber and into my arms, like that would be any safer.

The summer has been glorious. The RRBB’s halfway to walking, crashing his head on anything that it lands on, and barrelling through it all, and having awesome falls. They made me incredibly upset at first. Especially the one where he landed so hard on his face that he had the imprint of the carpet on his forehead. But he was, and is, fine. There’s a moment before he falls, a big fall, not just a bump on the bum, where I look at him and think: “This isn’t going to be good.” And then, crash. He’s got the stool on top of him and his wailing and the only thing that will calm him down afterwards seems to be a good book. I read a long while ago in my What to Expect the First Year tome that young babies don’t like storybooks. That little soft, chewy, baby books are best for bed time and/or sleep routines. Yet, we have been reading a lot of storybooks and the baby seems to be enjoying them — a lot. He skips over the baby books, with the exception of a couple Baby Einstein books that my aunt bought him, and goes right to The Gruffalo.

So, what does a 10 1/2 month-old actually understand? I find it amazing that he recognizes the books and illustrations that are his favourites: Tubby (which is a baby book), Grumpy Bird, Boo Hoo Bird, Not a Box, the list goes on. We introduced The Gruffalo a few weeks ago and he didn’t take to it at once. Just like he refuses to pay attention to all of the Peter Rabbit board book that I bought. At first he didn’t sit through the whole thing. Then last week when we got to the point where the Gruffalo makes his appearance, he cried. I mean, he makes strange with people, sometimes, but never with an imaginary creature in a book. He’s 10 months old. Only he won’t stop choosing The Gruffalo. He picks it out of the pile of books. He turns the pages in advance of where we’re reading to see the monster, and then, when it appears, he makes a stink face that’s hilarious. I’m amazed and intrigued at the same time. What does he understand? Is he actually scared or does he enjoy the monster enough that he craves it now? Either way, I am going to keep reading it to him, and assume that he likes most of it, just not the part where the Gruffalo actually shows up. Cracks me up.

So, bully to you WTETFY, because my baby seems to like all kinds of books, not just baby books, but maybe I’m showing my own preferences too much. I can’t stand silly books. I can’t stand silly books for adults, tolerating them for kid seems hard for me. I spent most of his infancy reading Mister Men books. While he won’t sit still for those any more, he consistently pulls out Oliver Jeffers and Russell the Sheep, all books for toddlers. And he’s the one picking the books, we put them in a pile in front of him and he chooses, one after another, until we’ve gone through the stack. He’s turning the pages (prompted by me, of course) and he sits still throughout six or seven books, even gets very grumpy when story time is over and it’s time for bed.

In a way, I’m pushing him to be a reader. I know that. I’m trying so hard to instil a love a books into the boy that I’m afraid I’m not ruining it for him forever. Although we may need some new material. It’s probably time to start hitting up the library for more gems. I look happily for suggestions from other parents out there about their favourites.

Annnywaay, the picture’s a little blurry but I love, too, how he’s surrounded my dozens of toys all the time and here’s what he chooses to play with: the camera case (as pictured), shoes, my glasses, my hair, the carpet, the fiddly metal things on the chest in the living room, his father’s belt, any socks, and all kinds of other things that we have to consistently pull him away from. And he’s such a boy. For a long time, when I was in university taking feminist philosophy, I read so many books about gender, nature vs. nurture, and all kinds of interesting theory about personality development. Now, ten months into motherhood and I’m about to declare it all bunk. This is revolutionary to me. I prided myself on all kinds of political correct arguments about innate behaviour and how it’s our society that does all kinds of damage where gender is concerned. Now, I can’t argue with any of these valid points. It’s a bit frustrating for me that when he was born, I said to myself, “who cares how he’s dressed,” but the fourth or fifth time he was mistaken for a girl in his yellow jumper, I decided enough was enough. He has lovely musical toys that he adores. He has wonderful bits and bobs that are great for any baby. But he also has trains and trucks and he gravitates to them. I’m not sure he knows what they are or why he likes them, but it’s hard when you are blessed with the gifts of second-hand toys, which to me is more important than what the toy actually is as long as its safe and he likes it, to complain that they’re all “boy” toys, you know?

I am imagining it’ll be a good philosophical experiment, raising a boy, to see how much of his nature we can influence — to raise him to be respectful of women, to raise him to believe in equality, to raise him to understand that everyone has a right to sexual and gender freedom, to raise him up to be strong with good manners that aren’t archaic but familiar and comforting — all of these things that seem to be separate from his utter “boyish” nature, things that we are meant to teach him as his parents, things that I feel are important. Perhaps I shouldn’t have gotten rid of all those feminist textbooks after all. Maybe I need to remind myself of why I believed those arguments in the first place. Or maybe I’m just rambling at the end of a long, beautiful summer with my delicious little boy at a place I love with my family, spending time raising him up, watching him crash back down, and then cuddling him within an inch of his desperately short little life.

One Response to “Notes From A House Frau – A Summer Diary”

  • Carrie says:

    I always wondered where my oldest (a boy) had learned car and truck noises, which he would do from a very early age (ie. around the age of your son), while playing with toy trucks and cars. Amazing. And his sisters never played that way.

    That said, I’ve dressed my baby boys in “girl” colours, and girls in “boy” colours, and they seem to come out knowing exactly who they are, even if others don’t. And we have funny conversations about what makes a girl colour or a boy colour, and how arbitrary that coding really is. My youngest (boy) still gets mistaken for a girl because of his long curly hair. He knows he’s a boy, and he’s pretty confident about it, and so far it doesn’t seem to bother him, and he wants to keep his long curls. He’s three.

    Also, on reading: I have a very happy boy reader in my ten-year-old. He was slower to learn to read than his sisters have been, but once he took to it, he really took to it. The big kids read to themselves for bedtime now. They enjoy a good peaceful hour of down time, just reading, before sleep. And we love the library. Story-time (me reading out loud) is still popular with all of my kids.

    And my three-year-old also loves The Gruffalo. I enjoyed action books for the 1-4 year-olds, like Eric Carle’s From Head to Toe. We also loved A Day with Nellie. And I have a long list of children’s books that the kids know not to ask me to read. I’m picky. Nothing based on a television show or movie. And I strongly dislike kids’ books with an obvious moral to the ending. C’mon! Just tell a good story! Obviously harder to do than it would seem.

    Oh, by the same author as The Gruffalo: The Smartest Giant in Town, well-loved by all my kids.

    Sorry for the super-long comment! Get me talking about children’s books and gender issues, and you can’t get me to stop!

    your old friend from grad school, Carrie


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Girl with titanium hip will rock. Girl with titanium hip will write. Girl with titanium hip will read. Girl with titanium hip will battle crazy-ass disease called Wegener's Granulomatosis. Now stuff that in your spelling bee!

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