Sweet, comic valentine (for infants!)

After spending about 90 minutes of my precious and rare free time this evening tearing “Toy Story” and Disney Princess valentines apart; and doing the same with accompanying sheets of stamp-size stickers; and inserting the stickers – with surgeon-like precision – into tiny, diagonal tabs on the valentines; and folding the valentines in half; and affixing a heart-shaped sticker to keep them closed; and signing Lily or Neve’s name onto each one, I finally wondered, “What the hell am I doing?”

The answer, of course, is that for some inexplicable reason, I’m choosing to participate in the weird, self-perpetuating, down-the-rabbit-hole annual holiday ritual of parents – OK, fine, mothers – who have little ones in daycare, and thus have kids that are “instructed” in the ways of Valentine’s Day before they can even crawl. (I’ll add here that I love the kids’ daycare center, and my guess is that these rituals were likely, ironically, parent-driven originally more than driven by those who work at the center. I’ll also submit that I should, in the future, by kids’ valentines that require less assembly.)

Consequently, tomorrow, during a preschool Valentine’s Day party, Lily will randomly distribute 55 impersonal, unaddressed, grocery-store-bought valentines to kids who will probably look at them briefly, if at all, before they end up in the trash or recycling (all that painstaking sticker insertion for naught!); and Neve – presumably with the help of her caregivers, since the extent of her powers just now max out at “drooling like a waterfall” and “sitting up unassisted” – will give out 16 of the same cards to her cooing comrades in the same daycare center’s baby room.

So much effort – for what, exactly?

I was all uber-rational about such things when Lily was a 9 month old in the baby room. Yes, I got the pre-emptive Valentine’s letter that stated how many kids were in each class, and how we shouldn’t send candy or treats, but I ignored it – as I assumed the other “baby room” parents would – and brought a big fat bowl of nothing on Valentine’s Day.

Now cut to me picking Lily up later that day and finding a brown paper bag full of little valentines, signed with the name of her classmates (these babies had astonishing penmanship, I might add). After we arrived home, I stared at Lily’s pile of valentines with a mixture of bafflement, guilt, amusement, gratitude, and anger. For there was something undeniably sweet about this adults’ game of pretend – this puppet show of affection and good will that we parents played out through our infant children. Continue reading

Right on, 5 year old feminist!

I love this clip – and not in a a clucking, “aw, isn’t she cute” kind of way.

No, I love this video because I have great hopes for this girl’s future. Billions of cultural products – from ads to movies to music – will inevitably cross this girl’s path in the coming years, and just about all of them will try to “instruct” her regarding the crowning role that a man/partner/love will play in her life and her happiness. But if this girl is starting out with her eyes on the prize, so to speak – which is to say, establishing financial independence, and putting herself first – than hopefully, she stands a fighting chance at keeping such messages in check.

Indeed, from a wholly practical, financial standpoint, it just makes sense for young women to focus first on a career that they might find both fulfilling and fiscally sustaining. Because as we all know, love doesn’t always work out; and to this day, too many women are stuck in lives they don’t necessarily want because of their economic circumstances.

Finally, I’ll confess to having deeply personal ties to this video as well. Though I wasn’t 5 when I started saying such things, I did, at a pretty young age, repeatedly state that I would never marry or have kids, and that I just wanted to find a job I felt passionate about. Admittedly, the former things were said partly as a defense mechanism – I was afraid that no one would ever find me attractive in any way, so my answer to this was to act as romantic love was of no importance to me – but I did honestly have a desperate desire to be successful and do something I loved, too.

As it happened, I was fortunate enough to snag both a career and a partner that I loved beyond reason as I grew older. It wasn’t an easy path through early adulthood, of course, but I’m grateful to my younger self for having the right priorities from the get-go – certainly a benefit of growing up in the “Feminism Now!” ’70s. (There had to be some benefit – how many times can I look at the floppy-collared shirts and feathered hair we all sported back in the day without shuddering anew?)

Hand-wringing, of course, followed this video going viral, and some argued that this girl was merely parroting what she’d heard, and that she might be shutting herself off from love and other possibilities. Nonsense. As I noted above, I said similar things and found my own circuitous path to a career and my marriage; and even if she is parroting what she’s heard, as far as I can tell, only good can come from the central message she’s voicing: focus on yourself, ladies, and let the other stuff come as it may.