Dressing our Daughter in Pink & other modern parenting dilemmas

Back in a time before Baby, I had a lot of opinions about parenting.

One of the things I developed a fairly strong opinion on in the run up to starting a family was gender-neutral parenting. What modern ‘liberal’ free-thinking middle-class woman hasn’t thought about how to give children positive messages about the fluidity of gender and enable them to make informed choices in their life which are  unconstrained by social conceptions of gender even if they are eventually conforming? I am keen to make sure traits and preferences are not gender-coded; that all clothing  and job choices are seen as valid options. I want blue and pink to just be colours, fairies & dinosaurs to be fun. But what if we overdo it, I worry that our little family is not equipped to demonstrate and articulate expressions of traditional femininity  – girly isn’t really our thing…
Then I look at the reality that snuck up on us.
A lot of the clothes we have for baby are second-hand or are gifts from relatives. Financially, it is daft for us to even contemplate not taking the help we have been offered. So pink it is.
Plus it turns out not only do some people just love buying girly stuff, only those with female shaped (and coded) babies been happy to donate clothing and actually it is surprisingly hard to buy things other than in very gendered blue or pink (ie no blue flowers or pink robots or green well anything)
But as I watch relatives and complete strangers flail around desparately trying to gender our child if they cannot see blue or pink cues I realise that this is not a battle that can even be fought just with accessories – perhaps it is more important that Small realises that even when they have to dress to conform for safety or other reasons that doesn’t restrict the way they fee lor their intrinsic worth.

One of my most difficult dilemmas is parent naming.
Small has 2 mummies and a daddy. But should the mummies have different names to her? How should we introduce ourselves? How should I enforce making relatives give Mummy W appropriate recognition? What if neither of the mummies have ever been entirely comfortable with the idea of motherhood? What if Daddy is wrapped up in a very traditonal 2 parent model?
And this is the key area of difficulty what are the boundaries and responsibilities of 3 parents? And how can we make that work for a small human who has her own needs?

Socks

Everyone knows about the legendary ability of single socks to disappear in the laundry in order to confound your ability to look tidy …
Many people have noticed that when you live with someone this problem is increased and complicated by the greater number of possible pairings (little known advantage of same-sex partnerships/same-size feet partnerships.. – more forgiving miscellaneous sock combinations). What is perhaps less widely considered is the two houses issue.
Two partners, two houses (albeit somewhat overlapping), two washing-machines worth of laundry… a never-ending parade of partnerless socks.
Just saying

On Spending Christmas Alone

I have two beautiful partners and a wonderful family but this year I am spending Christmas at home with my dog and some beer.

I have spent all but 2 Christmases in my memory with my parents [one with the in-laws and one with my wife in our new house]. With the exception of the year my sister was in hospital, these have been stereotypical and near idyllic – think plenty of food and booze, stockings, everybody pitching in with the cooking, lazy evenings, open fires and board games… Its amazing and almost what I would want regardless.
That said, I have fantasised about the kind of christmas my chosen family and I could have if we had the option and the peace. The delight of just having our family together; of making our own time special. One day I will work my backside off to make their holiday dreams come true (together, separately or both) but I don’t know yet when that will be.
This year, however, I will pretend to be a bachelor. For the first and maybe the only time in my life I am spending christmas without expectations or traditional trappings. I have plans… insofar as I have food and alcohol to consume and a dog to walk. On the other hand, there will be very few of the things typically associated with the christmas festival (with the notable exception of the required phone calls) and no need to socialise or pay attention to the world. Despite both job and relationship configuration I am by nature a shy introverted individual and I need to recharge. After a year of trying to get my thesis finished and juggling my obligations the idea of being completely alone and commitment free if both exhilarating and terrifying.
I am looking forward to both sleeping and crying .. ridiculous though it sounds the release is needed and I think this will work.

On the other hand I can’t wait to have my loves back safe home and serve up a pile of pigs in blankets!

Grounding

When stress and work constraints get the better of you it is easy to let family time slip away.

Today I was reminded how much difference it makes just to sit down and eat together.
My wife made a beautiful sunday dinner – it was nothing short of a gift for B & I, warming, homely and thoughtful (not to mention damn tasty). I hope that she felt good to be able to share that with us.
I take for granted the moments we sit and laugh together and I shouldn’t. Stopping to eat together or watch trashy tv has always been a way to escape even when our relationships were at their rockiest and no matter how painful and personal the process is we are closer for it. I think on balance I am glad for separate spaces (extra cleaning but better escape clauses) but sharing is good.
Thankyou my loves

2012 – Summer Update

So somewhere over halfway through the year, how is my 2012 goal list going?

Physical:

  • Lose 1-2 Stone
    Still 13st and a bit… aargh. I want to be get down to 11 and I can’t seem to drop into the 12s – I have gained 10″ round both bust and waist since I was 17. I hate it.
  • Create (and stick-to @ least 4 days a week) a daily exercise routine that incorporates both shoulder physio and some muscle toning (pilates/yoga & weights?)
    fail 😦
    Need to work on managing the pain
  • Walk at least either 1 Munro or 1 Alpine 4000;
    Looks unlikely with knee probs 😦

Mental/Academic

  • Submit! 
  • Write, deliver & publish my conference paper
    Wrote and gave, hopefully once the thesis is submitted….

Emotional

  • Commit to another round of counselling (as booked through Talking Therapies) and/or psychiatrist
    Tick – not sure where to go next tbh. I’m ok I think so?
  • Take 1 week off each with W & B and ideally 1 week with both together
    Malta with W in Jan, a couple of days in Cornwall with B and a couple with W already achieved and a week in Scot for the three of us planned…….what else?
  • Get my F***ing sleep pattern under control.
    bugger!
  • Make sure my weekly time routine is balanced for all involved
    Not sure  – ask them.

Domestic

  • Puppy!
    Woo Hello Rory!
  • Actually successfully grow some vegetables…
    Potatoes done, spring onions done, spinach done, strawberries and raspberries also harvested
  • Finish the painting
    About half way there
  • Celebrate mine & W’s 10th Anniversary
    Its not til Oct.

I am trying to decide if I need to add to these goals and revise them…I think that I not only need a few more specifics but also stuff to build on longer term. Please bear with me.

Pets are Child Substitutes: Kids – Part 2

Apparently popular wisdom tells us that the human drive to have a child is so great that all those doomed to be childless make do with animals.
Unsatisfied single women become Crazy cat ladies (this sometimes happens to effeminate single men too) Gay male couples are also assigned cats and for some reason chickens, lesbians of course have dogs and bachelors have something that will attract their desired sexual partner.

As a bisexual woman about to adopt a dog I of course take exception to this stereotype…

On the one hand I have seen in many people (and recognise in myself) the desire to lavish attention and affection  on a creature somehow both beholden to you and unconditionally accepting of you – I have indeed seen too many cases of people abusing that love and trust and/or deluding themselves about the extent of its return.
But on the other I would argue that the companionship of an animal and its role in one’s life are so utterly different to that of a child who will (one hopes) grow to live without you and outlive you that the two are incomparable. I cannot imagine how the desire for one could ever be fulfilled by having the other… fairly sure I can’t take a child for walks, bury my face its fur, complain to it without a word of complaint in return, sleep with it curled at my feet; nor teach my dog to read or listen to it tell me stories.

I will however note some similarities about dogs and babies – they both require you to rearrange your house and buy special equipment in anticipation of their arrival and subsequent mess creation and breakages, they both expect you to keep anti-social hours and limit your holiday plans, they both cost you more than you can ever plan for, eat you out of house and home and demand unending love.
As you might guess we have been busily removing low-level clutter and breakables, stocking up on cleaning products, blankets and food and otherwise getting ready for the arrival of our rescue dog this weekend!

Wind damage and Puppy Dreams

As you may have gathered from my last post W & I were away for the weekend.. well Britain has been a little breezy these last few days and I have to admit to fretting a little about our garden.
I shouldn’t have really worried so much; its a small garden really, bordered by those of the other terraces and pretty sheltered. Our plants are ok – still growing, still working towards feeding our little tummies. Hurrah.

In other news, W & I are looking at adopting a puppy – well an elderly dog from a rescue kennel to be more accurate. As a result I am frantically dog-proofing our house so that we pass the home visit and get approved. Its not cheap and it won’t be easy – I think perhaps it will be more work than either of us remember but I have never seen my wife so excited by anything before. It makes me happy to think that I can help her achieve this ambition even if I did laugh when she told me it meant she too would have a boy to cuddle up with while I am with B.
And lets be honest I miss having pets around (I like the mice but never really bonded with them – I guess because they seem in a world of their own in their safe little cage and I am always just an interloper even if I pet them). I grew up with animals around and it seems like the right thing to do.
So cross your fingers that we get approved, that he settles in, that he and B get on, that he doesn’t destroy the garden and that nothing else goes wrong…

April showers and May sunshine?

It was a very wet few weeks in my neck of the woods.. the wettest April for a long time and a pretty soggy start to May but I think summer is settling in.
I think I mentioned that with reference to the beer festival but it is also true that its made a world of difference to our garden.

Sadly not all of our seedlings have survived to this point – the basil required more tenderness than our slightly disorganised lifestyle could manage and the chilli just seemed to want either more warmth or moisture than we gave it (although we are still coaxing the last tiny seedling along). On the other hand plenty of tomato seedlings have lived to make the move to gro bags and maybe Basil (mk II) will survive..

Unsurprisingly the potatoes have adored the rain and their bold shapes have made our garden amazingly green. I am also really pleased that the pear tree and the gooseberry bush have settled well into their new homes despite the trauma of being moved from the allotment – no flowers on the gooseberry yet (I suspect we won’t see any this year) but the beginnings of fruits on the pear. A solitary raspberry cane that survived the move has also both added a junior and is starting to show buds.

However, it is these last few days of sunshine and warmth that have really seen the new growth – a bed that had just been showing a burst of salad onions now has Cos growing in it, spinach is springing up so fast we may have to thin it sooner than I expected. Borage and peas are beginning to poke their heads up and our strawberries are starting to have their first flowers.

From the concrete wasteland we inheirited I am immensely proud to be growing fruit and herbs and veg for our family. Maybe this year we won’t have much of a harvest but we are still very much amateurs with I hope many years to practice.

The Ups & Downs of Visiting the Family Home

The place and house I grew up in are incredibly important to me and I am lucky that my loves feel a similar way but visiting presents a number of challenges.

Not least there is the issue of alternative lifestyles in a rural village – and trust me two women having sex is still pretty alternative round here, so we haven’t yet got to 3. That is not ever to say that the people I grew up with and the community in general are not open and welcoming and capable of embracing their own protectively against those who would scorn or injure them just that these things are dealt with subtly, slowly and ineffably.

More importantly however there is the issue of my parents. For various reasons, less to do with the attitude of my parents and more to do with self-esteem (only a hundred times more complex than that sounds), I am not openly poly to my parents. 80% of the time this is not the slightest problem since they are not actively involved in my life on even a weekly basis and I often visit them alone.
However, there are two main problems – the first is that when my parents are around B gets nervous and the second is that any time W, B and my parents in the same place W & B are both separately twice as anxious as they would be simply in the presence of the aged ones alone. B’s basic parental anxiety is based on a worry that he will slip up and reveal our relationship either through saying the wrong thing or because his instinct to hug, kiss or otherwise touch me might go unchecked. It is exacerbated by the knowledge that he wants them to like him but doesn’t know how to handle their easy generosity. W’s normal anxiety is her normal anxiety – that everyone around her doesn’t actually like her, and being my parents they might extra dislike out of some say underlying homophobia or more likely because they want “something better” for me. When the 2 of them come together in my parents’ company W worries firstly that they prefer B to her (and thus everything he does makes her feel inadequate) and secondly that she will become irrationally angry at his existence and his usurpation. B of course becomes more paranoid that something he will do will upset someone including me and begins to feel that he is completely outclassed by W both because my parents accept and welcome our relationship and because she can keep pace with my father intellectually even after a few drinks.

So how do you keep two people from escalating a competition that is entirely in their minds and steer the conversation to safe topics? If I’m honest I haven’t the faintest idea. I want them to get on with the folks, I want them to enjoy my home but what I don’t want is to make life difficult and make either of them miserable. Maybe I need to back off some more and allow my 2 families to stay at a respectable distance or maybe the answer is small-scale exposure.

On the other hand I still get to share the joy of my home and its quirks with the people I love and that makes me happy

Gardening

So one of the goals for this year was to try and make a real effort to grow some of our own vegetables.
In the past the wife and I had an allotment but the combination of distance to travel with an unhealthy dose of depressive anti-socialism meant our dedication slipped and returns were low. In the end when we moved into our first home and got a patch of soil of our own it seemed fairer to relinquish the plot to those on the waiting-list. Since moving-in it has take some time to get the garden to the point where anything could be grown but this year I am hopeful.
Last summer we dug out the concrete and paving slabs and then made decking and a water feature, in the autumn we made raised beds and now, partly courtesy of a christmas present from my parents, have filled them with soil..

So this week early potatoes can go in and we can get going with indoor sown seedlings like chilli peppers..
I’m looking forward to it.

Wish us Luck