Sunday, November 7, 2010

Joie de Vivre

I've been on a blogging hiatus, of late, because life has overwhelmed me. Moving, helping my mother move, trying to get adjusted to a new town, trying to help my offspring adjust to the changes... it's been a hectic couple of months.

It's easy, I think, to get bogged down. I, for one, am very guilty of missing the forest because of all these troublesome trees. That is when I'm the most grateful for the presence of a preschooler in my life.

The view from about three feet above the floor is a lovely one, full of optimism and promise. Everything is very straightforward, people are either good guys or bad guys, and the people in charge always have a plan- and it's usually a darned good one, too! If you have an available preschooler, and can take the time to actually explore his or her point of view, you'll be amazed at how uplifting it is.

The flat out JOY is the best part. Joy over everything... joy over nothing. The scruffy, smelly, sometimes ill-behaved dog becomes "the goodest goodest dog in the whole wide world!", and inspires an impromptu songwriting session. A visit from Grandmama leads to whooping cheers of "I'm so excited!!!!! I'm so excited!!!!!", even if she just saw her grandmother yesterday. Every birthday gift is greeted with open mouthed wonder.

Small One is not unique in this gift of joy.When she was a small person, MC was exactly this exuberant. We called her Tigger. (Now we sometimes call her Darth Tigger, but that's another story, for another day.) I look at her sometimes and feel a great tenderness for the little girl who used to be so inordinately happy over the tiniest things, and I hope she still retains some of that in her soul. I honestly can't imagine how the parents without preschoolers make it through the surly teenage years.

I want what Small has. I try to remember to share in her joy, because that kind of ebullience feels wonderful! I can't even explain how easily a bad day is lightened after I've joined one of Small's games or jokes.  It's even scriptural- "the joy of the Lord is your strength", "rejoice always".  Remembering to take a minute and just appreciate the world the way she does, immerse myself in the joy of it, I will confirm, I do feel renewed and strengthened.

Yesterday, I was under the weather, trying to fight off a cold, feeling pretty low. I decided the best course of action would be to stay home and try to rest as much as possible, so I put a movie on for Small, and snoozed while she watched it. Afterward, we practiced letters on an erasable book she has, and then she played in her room by herself for awhile, with me happily listening in on the conversations between bears, the songs being sung, the fun being had. In a little while, I suggested we go downstairs for a snack, and some coloring.

You would have thought I'd invited her to the circus, and told her she'd get to ride the ponies and fly with the acrobats. She began jumping up and down, waving her arms in  giant circles, yelling "Yaay Yaay Yaay! I'm SO excited!!!" I told her we could have apple slices and cheese. Blissed out hysteria ensued. She asked if she could have a banana, too. When I answered in the affirmative, the crowd went wild. (And by "the crowd", I mean Small, her teddy bear, and the always eager to participate dog. You know, my homies.)

As we entered the kitchen, Small still whooping, cheering, and waving her arms, I noticed we were out of bananas. I turned to her and said "Uh oh, no bananas.". She froze in her tracks, arms still up in the air. She didn't move a muscle as she asked, "Can we still have apples? And cheese? And color?" I said yes, and she went back to her previous routine. "Yaay yaay yaay! I'm so excited! I'm so excited!"

When faced with the little disappointments of life, I want what she's having. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Halloween and Gender Bending

Almost two months of absence, and now I'm back and ready to be controversial. I joke, but seriously, I'm going a little deeper tonight than my usual lighthearted silly business.

Through the magic of facebook, this blog was brought to my attention earlier this evening. In it, a mom describes going to the preschool Halloween party with her son, who was dressed as a girl, specifically Daphne from Scooby Doo. The costume was her son's idea, he's five years old, and the other moms were mortified. The blog writer is troubled by this reaction from the grown ups, and asserts in her post that she doesn't think dressing up as a girl when he's five means her son will grow up to be gay, but if he does, she's ok with that too.

This blog, my blog, is not going to address homosexuality. I, personally, have a pretty firm "don't ask don't tell" policy that applies to people of all gender and orientation equally. I do not want to know what you do behind closed doors, nor with whom you are doing it, so please do not share, unless you are in my top tier of girlfriends, in which case you know who you are, and I still don't want detail without a disclaimer beforehand. I, in turn, will not tell you what I'm doing, unless, again, you are in that top two percent of besties, and you ask. So no, I'm not going to state my positions on anyone's sexuality.

What I am against, though, is crazy madness. When did the world become so bizarre? When did it become normal to speculate on the sexuality of a five year old? Five year olds are learning their letters and numbers, they're learning how to navigate basic social customs like not picking their noses in public... I hardly think this is the time to wonder about their sexuality.

My Small One was a cupcake for Halloween, which is, admittedly, girly.

In the grand scheme of things, though, she's not at the top of the girlymeter. Her favorite color is red, for example. While this doesn't seem to have a gender slant- (who doesn't like red?)- you'd be surprised at how difficult it is to find red toys, decor, even bikes that are made for little girls. If there's a primary colored bedspread, it's much more likely to have trucks and footballs on it than anything gender neutral. Go to the "girl" section of any toy department, and you'll be accosted by a wave of pink and purple. (And don't get me started on the concept of gender divided toy stores, because we'll be here all night.)

When given the choice to be a princess or a fire chief for her preschool party, she chose fire chief. The Man insists that this was not a non-girly choice, because girls can be fire chiefs if they choose, but come on. This is a traditionally male costume.

I don't care, though. Sometimes she feels like being a fire chief. Sometimes she feels like being a princess, or a cupcake, or a fairy. Sometimes, she apparently feels like being a fire fighting fish on the way to the Emerald City. Who am I to judge?

My brothers dressed up as girls. (Well, ok, we dressed them up. Potato Po-tah-to.) My youngest brother once went for portraits with his nails painted a tasteful coral. (Mom forgot about the nails when she was getting him ready.) Both of my brothers are flamingly straight. Happily married with beautiful wives. No bi-curious tendencies, to my knowledge, but feel free to suggest it to one of them, if you'd enjoy a knuckle sandwich. (Just kidding about that, they're pretty peaceable guys.)

My Eldest played with dolls, dollhouses, tea sets- whatever he wanted to play with. Middle Child played with trucks and skateboards, in addition to dolls and fairy wings, and she once went to a little girl's costume party as a gorilla. They've both expressed a healthy interest in the opposite sex. Small One has a Disney Princess lunchbox full of Matchbox cars, and she doesn't know the difference between boys and girls yet. As far as she's concerned, they're all just "friends".

People decry intolerance and lack of acceptance. Others decry the sort of political correctness where we're obliged to accept everything without question. I have a different theory, though, as to why the world's gone crazy. I don't think the issue is with acceptance. I think the issue is with imagination.

Small One is probably not going to grow up to be a firefighter, or a fairy, or a princess. I am 99% sure she is not going to grow up to be a firefighting fish. But right now, her mind is open to all those possibilities, through the glory of her imagination. Eldest didn't grow up to throw tea parties, but he has grown into exactly the sort of sensitive man that I'll be proud to see become a daddy.

My brother did not grow up to be curly-haired orphan, running away from the orphanage in a flowered dress, curls peeping winningly from under a kerchief. He did, however, grow up to be a creative, intelligent man with a vivid imagination. Our mother believed in the power of imagination, and we were encouraged to make our own fun, invent our own fairy tales. Television and video games were limited, reading was encouraged, and plenty of time was afforded for free play.

Our society is very technologically oriented. The media is everywhere. Preschool children are becoming consumers, wanting the things the commercials tell them they should want, playing games increasingly based on specific characters and marketing devices. True imagination becomes a precious commodity.

High schoolers are so inundated with the "it's ok to be gay" message that it seems to be a conclusion that gets jumped to far too often. Certainly it is not ok to bully gay students, or ostracize someone because of their sexuality, or taunt someone who seems different. But assuming that someone is gay because of their taste in music or clothing, or deciding you're "bi" because you find a friend of the same sex attractive seems to me indicative of a serious lack of imagination.

It bothers me, in many different arenas. It bothers me that if a boy likes musical theater, his sexuality is immediately questioned. It bothers me that if I voice a political opinion, I'm labeled immediately as being a member of a group. I have a lot of opinions, and they don't fit into neat little boxes. It bothers me that we, as a society, seem to want to label everything and put it on a shelf. It bothers me to think that children are growing up so inundated with images and information that they seem, more and more, to be losing the ability to think for themselves. Everyone knows what the "right" answer is, if you want to be considered a reasonable person by this group or that group.

A hundred and fifty years ago, boys wore dresses in early childhood. They grew up to be, for the most part, manly men. Supporters of families. Pillars of society. But then again, that was before we had television and video games and movies to let us know how we were supposed to dress, and behave, and think, and vote. That was back in the day, when people were expected to have imagination. Those people, with their imaginations, created the world in which we live today. I honestly think, if there is not a movement to bring imagination back as something of value, the progress we'll make in the next hundred and fifty years will pale in comparison.