Friday, 30 March 2012

Once upon a time, there was a princess with a career plan ...

Welcome to March edition of the Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival, hosted by Authentic Parenting and Mudpiemama. This month’s topic is “Discovering Through Books”. Please scroll down to the end of this post to find a list of links to the entries of the other participants. Enjoy! 

 “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

Some of my best friends are books. This isn’t a joke. Books are – and have been for as long as I can remember – an enormous part of my life. My intense love of books is the reason why I am now a writer and editor. 

I lived inside books, as a child. I diligently tapped the back of wardrobes, I kept a look out for white rabbits, and I fervently wished for an underground twin sister who would take me horse-riding. 

As you can maybe tell from the above, I had a particular penchant for ‘other world’ books, those stories where the central character finds a crack in reality – a rabbit hole, a secret doorway, even just a change of perspective – which allowed them to slip into an alternate reality. I did everything in my power to find my own way into another world. I’m still looking now. 

 Zen toddler has inherited zen mummy’s love of books, and she’s just at the stage where she’s beginning to understand narrative processes. She wants to hear stories continually: ‘tell me the story of Shrek, tell me the story of the three little pigs, tell me the story of my new shoes, tell me the story of when I went to Grandma’s house, tell me the story of when I was in your tummy’. And re-enacting. Lots of re-enacting. I want her to have that same magical relationship with books. I want to give her the key to a secret door. I want to help her find her to navigate the many parallel worlds she might be lucky enough to find her way to. 

And at the same time I’m developing an increasing awareness about the stories I tell her and the books we read. Fairy tales feel like the essential background to a rich imagination, but however you spin it, Cinderella is the quintessential passive princess-in-waiting. Domestic goddes she may be, but Snow White is hardly aspirational. And Sleeping Beauty? Was ever an individual less proactive? So many classic children’s tales are deeply mired in disappointingly predictable gender roles: mummies make the tea while daddies go out to work. So I find myself scanning the library shelves for books that try to break those stereotypes down, even just a little. There’s no such thing as a banned book in our house, but I aim for a better balance: fairies and princesses are allowed, but we complement them with cow-girls and tractors. 

Am I worrying too much? Will too many fairy tales turn my girls into passive, prince-hunting gold-diggers? To what extent do the stories we hear – and the stories that embroider the fabric of our society – shape our sense of who we are and what we might do? Right now, I don’t have the answers. But I’m hoping that with humour, and a little bit of gentle discussion, I can make sure that my girls don’t see ‘princess-in-waiting’ as a career goal. Cinderella is a story, after all, not a manifesto. 

PS: I’m also on the lookout for books that espouse the principles of natural parenting. Aside from the odd instance of baby-wearing or breastfeeding, I haven’t come across many. Any recommendations?

Visit The Positive Parenting Connection and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in the next Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival! Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Juno Magazine: a natural approach to family life

Where have you been all my life, Juno?

Previously, I'd peeked at some of the articles online, I'd bought a sample issue in the past which I loved, but for some reason it has taken me until now to become a Juno subscriber.

My first issue arrive this week and, well, YES. It's like they opened up my head and peeped inside my brain (but less icky).

For a while now I've been thinking about making my own cleaning products, for reason of economy and toxicity. I've 'invented' a multi-purpose spray cleaner that I use on everything from babies bottoms, to my face, to the kitchen surfaces (I change the cloth between cleaning baby's bum / my face / the kitchen, of course. You knew that, right?) but I've yet to expore other product options. And lo, there's a lovely article by Natalie Roberts on that very topic.

I've been making a more conscious effort to do more journalling, in order to process my thoughts more clearly, stay mindful, explore the ever-shifting paradigm of balancing the needs of everyone in the family, and develop ideas for articles and blog posts.  Lynn Blair's account of how journalling has seen her through some of the tougher moments of motherhood -- as well as being a fantastic record of the beautiful moments and random minutiae that you want to preserve for posterity -- had me smiling and nodding all the way through.

And if I'm blessed with a little pocket of free time today I'm planning to immerse myself in Ruth Meyer's piece 'The blossoming of language'. Words are my passion, and I'm fascinated with how a child develops their sense of themselves and the world around them through linguistic expression, so I've been saving this article for a quiet moment when I can really appreciate it. 

Juno magazine. You really should check it out.

[ps: this is not a sponsored post, nor am I affiliated with Juno Magazine in any way. I am simply a very impressed subscriber :-) ]