Her Bad Mother

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Give Peas a Chance

So, seeing as the last post caused, apparently, some headaches, and gave at least one person the spins, I figured that it might be time for a light photographic essay or two.

If U Ask Her What She Had 4 Breakfast
This is What She'd Say...

Starfish and coffee; maple syrup and jam...

...Butterscotch clouds, tangerine...

And a side order of ham.

Okay, so that last one was a banana. But you can trust me that the one before it really was butterscotch cloud infused with zest of tangerine. Organic, of course. The starfish was fresh-water farmed. And the coffee? Decaf.

That's how we do things Chez Bad Mother.

(I'd wanted to do some sort of literary commentary here, pairing up WonderBaby's foods with Great Works of Literature - War and Peas! Banana Karenina! - but it seemed forced. Prince lyrics, however, can never be forced.)


These blocks are currently WonderBaby's very favorite thing in the world. If she catches the slightest glimpse of them, or even hears the clack of wood block on wood block as Mommy's foot knocks by them (because, yes, I am lax, lax, with the tidying), she will hoot and whoot until she is within grasping distance. Preferably sitting up, with the box at hand to pull the blocks out of, but propped up on elbows on tummy will sometimes do. And she will sit and play with them for loooong stretches of minutes. And Mommy sits on the floor and plays with her for a while and then brings laptop and coffee to the floor and the two ladies sit quietly together, occupied with their letters. And it is good.

But I've recently noticed that some of the blocks - which have letters, numbers, and simple pictures stamped into them - are a bit odd. The numbers and letters are straightforward enough, but some of the images, well...

Okay, so that creature in the middle of the left column, that's some kind of stylized horse, right? That's my guess, but I'm not sure. The creature on the bottom right block is what, though? Whiskers but no ears; legs and a stubby tail. The head is seal-like, but the rest of it?

And the one on the uppermost right? A factory, maybe? Workhouse for children with smokestack? Or is it a rocket?

The uppermost left block is, the Husband says, a gondola. Which strikes me as an odd subject for a picture that is stamped on a child's wooden toy block. But then I thought that it was a bunny with a spear through its head, sitting on a hunk of mouldy cheese, so what do I know?

I don't even have words, funny or otherwise, for the picture on the block that is middle of the righthand column.

And the bottom left image is clearly a bottle of Ambien or Xanax.

So what, I ask you, is a child (or a parent, for that matter) supposed to make of these? What will I tell WonderBaby when she is old enough to ask what the pictures are? That's a picture of the bottle of little pills that help Mommy sleep, sweetie...

I suppose that the beauty of these blocks as playthings is that they will encourage her to make up words and to invent explanations for the pictures. A rockethouse! A kittyhorse! A jar of magical beans!

But until she is old enough to explain these pictures to me, I'll have to turn to you. Please, anyone, WTF are they?

Bad Mother Math

Sunday, April 23, 2006

'Cause sequels are... New and Improved!**

**There have been a few late-breaking amendments and tweaks to this post. These were not intended to be late, but when one hits Publish prematurely and then is denied publishing for hours and hours and hours by Blogger after making the desired changes... well, that's how it happens. So this is the minorly amended un-sequel that replaces the sequel that never was...

Note that this is likely not worth re-reading unless a) you are addicted to all things Bad Mother, and/or b) you have way too much time on your hands.

So I had big plans for the sequel to Bland Ambition Part I, big plans. There were so many Big and Important Thoughts swirling around in my bulbous head that one post simply could not contain them. I needed two posts! Three! I would discuss feminism, all waves; the force of liberal capitalist ideals of success and the construction of the bourgeois woman; philosophy and sex and the impossibility of the Mother-Philosopher; and, finally, the meaning of happiness, traced back to the ancient Greek understanding of eudaimonia and all the way back 'round again to the post-modern hedonism of contemporary Life in America Including Canada. And these would all be addressed within the context of my personal struggles as a Woman in the 21st Century. It was going to be epic, I tell you. Epic.

Then I thought, who the fuck cares?

Not me.


I was inspired and provoked last week by all of the passionate and insightful discussions of feminism, masculism and other isms relevant to mothers and fathers. And I said my piece about my own struggle with the exigencies of feminism and the politics of being a female whatever - student, teacher, partner, parent, professional - in this day and age. But although I had - have - much more to say on these topics (see above for some indication of the many mind-numbing directions I was going to fly off into), I've decided to give it a rest. For now. In part because, as I forged ahead with my magnum blog opus, I started to bore myself. You know that it's time to stop writing whatever it is that you're writing when a little voice inside your head starts whispering who fucking cares who fucking cares who fucking cares and you start talking back and you say, well, not me, that's for sure. Blah blah blah big words blah blah oh my struggle blah Big Thought blah. Only solution: log out now. Go directly to Writer Jail: do not Save as Draft, do not Publish Post, do not collect 200 comments (ha).

But also because it began to seem to me that I didn't have much else to offer on this topic, at this time. (Read: any and all Big Ideas bandied about by me during the above-described thinking and writing process may be trotted out at a later date under similar or entirely different pretenses.) In the first place, I began to feel uncomfortable with my stance, my voice, as these took shape: I was writing, am writing, as an extraordinarily privileged woman. White, relatively affluent, educated, very happily married - I have almost every advantage imaginable, save, perhaps a penis (well, one that is attached to my body. I have borrowing privileges on a pretty good model that is always ready to hand, no pun intended.) And I'm writing to an audience of similarly privileged peers: you're not all white, you have varying levels of education and material wealth and differing levels of satisfaction with your relationships (and you may, in fact, actually have penises attached to your bodies) but you are all, dare I say it, privileged. You, we, all have voices - forceful, articulate voices - and you, we, know how to make those voices heard. So I asked myself: is poring over my privileged challenges (challenges that are afforded only by privilege, like, I was shamed for not going to Cambridge when I had the opportunity, OMFG) and using my voice to worry over and dissect those challenges really advancing or helping the cause? I don't want to suggest that my quote-unquote problems are completely insignificant - they are, it might be said, extreme cases that prove the insufficiency of feminist gains over the last half century (privileged white women still struggle, too!) - but really? Boo fucking hoo. There are more important stories that need to be told; more important work that needs to be done.

And there is still much, much work that needs to be done; as Mrs Fortune pointed out last week, the truth about the world that our daughters will inhabit as women is that it is one in which they cannot do anything that they want. But, it must be said, the daughters of women like me (and probably you, too) will probably be able to do almost anything that they want - they'll have many more opporunities, for example, than most, if not all, underprivileged boys. Our world is not a just world, but injustice crosses the boundaries of sex. So, my wish for my daughter? That she grow up to wring her hands over - and do battle with - injustice from the sort of privileged position that her mother occupies now. It's not an unrealistic wish. She'll probably even outdo me on the privilege. And for that, I should be profoundly grateful.

There was a second thing... Oh, yeah... (gawd I ramble)...

In the second place, it was becoming apparent, as I sorted out my many heavy thoughts and stories, that not all of these thoughts and stories - perhaps none of these - illuminated or were illuminated by the Greater Question Concerning Feminism in the 21st Century, Whatever That Question May Be. Maybe I'm wrong about this. Now that I think about it, I probably am wrong about this, or at least a certain breed of Women's Studies major would tell me that I am: I am a woman, and everything that I do in this male-dominated, sex-oriented world is, for better or for worse, defined, determined and circumscribed by the fact of my sex. But doesn't that just drain so much life out of who I am and what I have to say? Even if my ideas, my stories, can only be fully understood within the context of my femaleness or femininity, that doesn't mean that they are best understood, or appreciated, that way.

I complained, in the prequel to the sequel that will never be, that my actions, my choices, as a young woman were being made political by otherwise well-meaning feminists. I suggested that, even though I would always remain aware of the restictions imposed upon me by my sex, I wanted the freedom to think and act and speak and choose as a person, that I wanted to live my life without the oppressive shadow of politics. I suggested that I did not want to feel pressure to ensure that my actions and choices always accorded with someone else's idea of feminism, that I did not want to have to constantly ask myself what a 'good' feminist would do, that I wanted to define my own feminism through my own, happy life. And that, however difficult or perhaps even utopian this might be, I wanted - want - this for my daughter as well. It only belatedly occured to me that by attempting to frame and understand my stories within the context of feminism I was, in fact, imposing politics upon those stories myself. This is not to say that to do such a thing is wrong - it may be, in fact, that doing so is necessary, or at least important, to a healthy understanding of myself as a certain kind of woman living in this age. It's to say that this is not what want, at least not right now. I want to explore these stories to understand more about myself as a person - one who is, inescapably, a woman, but first a person, a thinking, loving human being whose ideas and actions have force as the ideas and actions of a human being and not 'just' as those of a woman. And to someday share these stories with my daughter, who I hope will understand me as both a person and a woman, and who I hope, fervently hope, will always celebrate herself as both a person and a woman.

And as an inspiration to milliners everywhere. Isabella Blow, watch your back.

Tomorrow? Back to what really matters. Tune in for Visualizing Whirled Peas: Revolution through Baby Gastronomy.

WonderBaby starts her own Peas Movement. Diapers and jumbo wipes are on hand.