A Little Boy’s Haircut

I’ve been procrastinating writing this post for a month because I wasn’t quite sure what direction I wanted it to take.  If it’s a mess, I apologize in advance (and also: welcome to my life, where most things are a mess).

When my husband came home from his last haircut a little less than a month ago, my son suddenly announced that he wanted a “daddy-sized” haircut.

My husband and I looked at each other.  My son’s crowning glory was his hair, the first things people always remarked on – dirty blonde, wild, curly, and beautiful.  Aside from trimming his bangs for safety reasons, he had never had his hair cut – we decided early on that, so long as health and safety wasn’t a concern, he would let him take the lead and make his own choices about his body, including his hair.  Until that moment, he’d never expressed interest in getting it cut.

But he was insistent.  We want to respect our son, but his also three, and his whims and wishes can change on a near-constant basis.  We compromised and told him that if he still felt that way in three days (which would be a Saturday), we would take him that morning to get his haircut.  He seemed cool with that.

So we waited.  And each day, we asked him if he still wanted to get his haircut, and the answer continued to be a resounding and increasingly enthusiastic “yes.”  So, that Saturday morning we gave his curls one last shampoo, loaded him into the car, and headed to the barber shop.

Now, I was already experiencing a sort of, let’s say, melange of emotions – excitement for Bear growing up and asserting his bodily autonomy, anticipation of what my little guy would look like with his newly shorn locks, and a little sadness and trepidation at this very concrete sign of my baby growing up.  I wouldn’t say I “got emotional” – I didn’t cry – but I felt things, you know?  Good things, proud things, bittersweet things.

Unfortunately, some less-than-positive feelings crept in once we got to the barber shop.

I probably should have expected it; maybe on some level I did.  I had a history with this place; I’d started going there a few years prior myself, because they gave a good haircut for significantly cheaper than the stylist who I went to for years, primarily out of a misplaced sense of obligation.  My stylist was a wonderful woman, and very talented, but she couldn’t seem to wrap her head around the severity of the cuts I would ask for.  I eventually figured that going someplace accustomed to giving primarily masculine cuts would be better suited to my needs.  I was right; they gave me exactly the cut I wanted.

But they asked my husband’s permission, first.  Like, checked in to see that it was okay.  And then, insisted that I had to be wrong when I told them I wanted a number 1 razor cut (1/8 of an inch, which is what I sport to this day), because “that’s really short.”  But, regardless – I got it.  They did it, to my liking, and it was cheap to boot.

And then they reassured me that it still looked “feminine.”  Which, first off, no it didn’t, and that was part of the point, but secondly – I sought out a severe razor cut at a barbershop.  Why do you think I need or want reassurance about looking “feminine?”  Say it looks good, say it suits me, but please, don’t feel the need to reassure my “femininity.”

The barber – who was new since our last visit, and whom we didn’t know – did a double-take when he saw my son – I’m pretty sure he thought Bear was a girl, and was having trouble wrapping his head around the cut we requested for him, which was an unpleasant case of deja vu from my own experiences.  The other barbers, who remember me and my son, expressed amused surprise that they were confused because “they thought I had a boy.”

They cajoled my husband – “I bet you’re happy to finally get this done!”  “Bet you’ve been waiting for this!” “You’ll have a son again!” – while we were left to just smile and continuously repeat, “It’s his body, so we left the choice up to him.” “His daddy had long hair for years.”  “We weren’t going to push him if he liked his hair long.”

I want to be fair – I want to be fair to them as people and as professionals without letting them off the hook.  There was not – in any way, or by any means – any trace of intended malice behind their words.  They were not sneering, they were not judging, they were not admonishing.  They were gentle and patient with my son.  They were understanding of my feelings as a mom, seeing her baby taking a significant step into older childhood.

That does not erase my discomfort.  That doesn’t change the fact that I spent the whole time hoping upon hope that my son wasn’t listening and internalizing the message that little boys can’t have long hair, or that little boys (or girls, or anyone above, beyond, or in-between) can’t present themselves in any damn way they please.  That it had to be mom, holding tenaciously to his long hair.  That dad must be rejoicing in finally “having his son back.”

My son, thankfully, seemed too entranced with is own changing reflection (and asking the barber literally a dozen questions a minute) to really take in the conversation going on around him.  That was a relief.  My son left the barber shop smiling, pleased as all get-out with his new haircut, and we went home.

Again, I’m not trying to paint these people as villains, or the experience as life-changingly traumatic – they are people or a certain age and a certain disposition, and I was at best annoyed and at worst uncomfortable – and my son didn’t notice at all.  But I also don’t want to let them off the hook.  People need to be aware of what they say around children.  People offering a service need to have some sort of awareness of their customers circumstance and be sensitive to it.  Gender is a complicated subject for me, I readily admit that, and I don’t necessarily expect people to realize that on an individual level.

But that’s just it – gender is a complicated subject.  Gender presentation (and personal presentation in general) is a complicated subject.  Discovering who you are and how you want to express yourself in the world is a complicated subject.  Be aware of that when you speak.  Especially in front of a child, whose joys and passions and pride in self can be so easily squashed be a few careless words from grown-ups telling them it’s not something they can/should like or do because of what they were born as.

(Oh, but also – consent is not complicated.  When I said it was my son’s choice, I meant it.  Please do not gloss that over and assume I must have been either pressuring him or holding him back.  He made a choice.  Don’t dismiss it).

Friday, Fri-yay: July 27th, 2018

& (1).pngTrying a new graphic out.  I’ve used the phrase “Fri-yay” on social media before, and yet it wasn’t in my head when I made the original graphic for my Friday posts…?  Don’t know why.  Anyway, I think “Fri-yay” is a good in-a-nutshell take on what I post about in these entries, so we’ll see how I feel about it given some time.

Also, holy crap, have I honestly gone a week with nothing?  No posts?  I’d really hoped I’d have found my groove by now, but to no avail, I suppose.  Well, anyway.  Not going to let this get me down.  NOT ON FRI-YAY, DAMMIT.

Thursday marked the second-to-last day of summer session for me; I’m on-site on Tuesday, and then on our plane on Wednesday.  That’s been enough to buoy me up, but beyond that:

First, I’ve been looking around for on-the-plane distractions for me, since flying makes me nervous, and discovered that Dollar Tree carried Extreme Dot-to-Dot books.  I’m not going to purchase any for the flight itself, because when they say extreme, they mean it, and I’d want a steadier hand to complete the pictures, but wow.  Some of the picture number close to five hundred dots, and the books retail on Amazon for between $8.85 and $12.95, so if these books sound intriguing to you, keep your eyes peeled.

Second, SDCC happened, and we got the next new episode of Steven Universe, called “Legs from Here to Homeworld.”  It’s… it’s a lot.  And yet, so very little.  But worth watching, if you then don’t mind having to wait until who-knows-when to see the rest.  It was originally an app exclusive, but is now free to watch, no log-in required, on the Cartoon Network website here.  (We also got a movie announcement, which is squee-worthy on it’s own, but I’m still a little bitter that we get a CN movie and Teen Titans GO just got a theatrical release, grumble grumble).

Third, GISH starts tomorrow!  One positive thing about not having posted all week is that I now have a couple of half-finished entries that I can hopefully power through tonight and cue up for the next ten or so days, because I will be leaving mid-GISH (which I expect to take up most of my time pre-vacation) to head to Florida, and between those two things (and daily life duties) I will have time for basically nothing else.  Anyway, I am hype for GISH and really happy with my team this year.  I will be posting about the experience afterwards, but if you have questions, I once again recommend the official website.

That’s all for this week!  I will be in Florida next Friday, so I likely won’t be posting, but expect an extra long Fri-yay post the following week!

How is everyone out there?  What’s keeping you all going?

 

Feel Good Friday/Friday Faves: July 20th, 2018

onnie & CaroleFriday again!  This week has been punctuated by a renewed sense of being on top of things, thanks in no small part to my checklists system (though that system is still far from perfect).

Today, however, is a Bear and I day, and I have to admit that, for whatever reason, I’m feeling especially on edge today, and I don’t know if Bear’s obstinance today is the cause or result of my short temper.  Either way, I’m here, trying to take a breather (and hopefully regain my cool), and I thought I’d tap out what’s kept me going this week.

First, in a search to see if anyone had ever done a Christopher Pike podcast, I came upon Teen Creeps, a podcast covering young adult pulp/genre fiction, and oh my God, ahhhh, so many memories.  This is not a new podcast – they’ve been running since, I think, 2016 – but while I listen to a podcast or two, it’s usually because I stumble upon them in my search for something very specific.  I’m not a podcast connoisseur who’s up-to-date on all the last podcasting developments and releases.

Anyway, the show is wonderful, sometimes more tangent than book discussion, but both the book relevant content and the tangents are highly entertaining, and I really recommend it, especially if you loved these books as a kid.

Second, I found a link to BlueQ absolutely buried in my bookmarks and had to revisit them.  I love so much of there stuff (their bags especially; I’m think of buying a few as holidays gifts).  I don’t have much use for decorative dishtowels as dishtowels, but I can’t help thinking that the would be ideal to frame; if I wind up ordering from there for the holidays anyway I might pick one up and test that out.

Third, I actually got back to the gym on Wednesday for the first time in, uhh, like six months, and it felt awesome.  I’m woefully, shamefully out of shape, but it felt good to go back.  I’m back on Lose It! as well, and I think I mentioned in a previous entry, and welcome friends, if anyone who reads this is also using the service.  The link to my profile is here!

That’s it for this week; Bear is alternately pinching my face and trying to climb in my lap, and I think that means it’s time for us to go and do some chores.  What got you through this week?  Comment below and let me know!

Bear’s Weekly Book Haul: July 19th, 2018

Bear's book haulWe had several set backs involving Bear’s book-borrowing, the first of which is, the library we use asked us for updated information and we had to give them our current address – which is no longer in the same city as said library (we’ve moved to a neighboring city since the card was issued).  That’s not a big deal – we’re part of a consortium, and can borrow from any of the participating libraries on any card – but we do have to have a card issued by our hometown library.

This happened last Wednesday while we were choosing Bear’s books, and we were not allowed to check them out until we got our new card.  The librarian said she would hold the books for us until then.  It took Andy until this Wednesday before he had the time to get to the library and make the change, and by the time he made it to pick up the books, they had just (within the preceding half-hour, according to the librarian) released them.  Ugh.

No great tragedy though, since this allowed Andy to pick out some new books, a few of which were chosen specifically in anticipation of our Florida trip in less than two weeks.  Bear’s been on a plane before but he was 8 months old, and slept/nursed through most of it, so this will be the first flight he (may) be able to really remember.

Anyway, on to the haul!

Oh!  Before I forget: highlight of last haul was unequivocally Crunch, the Shy Dinosaur.  It was yet another participatory book, where the reader interacts with Crunch, and my son – who loves chatting people up, making noise, and dinosaurs – adored it.  He even brought it to bed with him and “read” it to himself more than once.

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Ok, now, this week for real!

Harriet Gets Carried Away, by Jessie Sima
GoodReads:  Harriet loves costumes. She wears them to the dentist, to the supermarket, and most importantly, to her super-special dress-up birthday party. Her dads have decorated everything for the party and Harriet has her most favorite costume all picked out for the big day. There’s just one thing missing—party hats!  But when Harriet dons her special penguin errand-running costume and sets out to find the perfect ones, she finds something else instead—real penguins! Harriet gets carried awaywith the flock. She may look like a penguin, but she’s not so sure she belongs in the arctic. Can Harriet manage her way back to her dads (and the party hats!) in time for her special day?

Prickly Hedgehogs! by Jane McGuinness
GoodReads:  When the sun has set, Hedgehog’s day has only just begun. She’s out and about, snuffling through layers of leaves and twigs as she searches for bugs and other things to eat. Young animal lovers will enjoy following Hedgehog and her little hoglets through towns and gardens, parks and woodland, as they sniff-sniff-sniff for food.

Dinosoaring, by Deb Lund
GoodReads:
  But to get airborne, they need a plan. They dinoblow. They run, push, leap, flap-and take flight! The sky becomes their stage, as they join an air show. Zipping and zooming and dancing on wings, the dinos are soon upside down and dinosick! They decide to bail, hoping their dinochutes will work. They dino-do!

Planes Fly!, by George Ella Lyon
GoodReads:  Take to the skies with this fun, rhyming book about all that planes do! From jet planes to puddle jumpers, from the cockpit to the rudders, this book explores it all—and the bright, dynamic illustrations will keep even the youngest of readers engaged.

My First Airplane Ride, by Patricia Hubbell
GoodReads:  A first airplane ride can be very exciting! Watching planes take off and land, going through security, walking the jet way, finding the right seat, watching out the window as the plane taxis down the runway, and flying up high in the sky and then, at the other end, Grandma waiting with a hug!

The Town of Turtles, by Michelle Cuevas
GoodReads:  When a solitary turtle decides to make some renovations to his shell, he doesn’t have a blueprint, only a dream for a better life. He starts by building a deck—though he figures the deck could use a fireplace. And a fireplace needs wood, so naturally, he plants a garden. But it isn’t really a garden without a pond . . . Soon, Turtle can barely recognize his own shadow.  Finally satisfied with the intricate world upon his back, word begins to spread of the magical “Town of Turtle,” attracting newcomers from far and wide. All are welcome in Turtle’s town, where life is a little less lonely, if only you come out of your shell.

First the Forest, Now the Trees (an Update)

organizing my lifeI have trouble compartmentalizing my life.  I guess it makes some sense; in some ways, the different threads of my life weave together in a really obvious, organic way.  The state of my home, for instance, affects how stressed I feel, which affects my sleep, which affects my work performance, which affects my feelings of self-worth, etc. etc., but by the same token, struggling slightly or hitting a stumbling block in one area shouldn’t completely waylay my progress in any given other.

But it often does.  This is a continuing issue I need to work on – dusting myself off after a set back, moving forward, and forgiving myself for stumbling.  But it’s also very much an internal struggle that is not the focus of this entry, though I do imagine I will write about it, eventually and possibly extensively.

But right now, I’m still in the early stages of macro-organization: just establishing a routine for the most mundane, bare-bones, most-people-don’t-think-twice-about-these-things aspects of my life.  Checklists to make sure I take a shower, pick out my clothes, brush my teeth, get a good meal in, do my chores, and have a chance to have some creative/restorative time to myself.  As I’ve said before, having to lay out many of those things probably seems ridiculous to some people, but for me, I need to see it written down in black and white and be able to check it off to ensure it gets done.

I used my checklists for the first time today – specifically, my Morning Routine checklist and my Before You Go checklist.  It was not a perfect first outing; my “wake up at 5:30” didn’t get checked off (I woke up at 6:05), but hey – I did morning pages.  Nothing, sadly, got checked off under Get Moving, but I glanced at the list – pinned to the fridge – as I prepped breakfast, and I downed a big glass of water to start the day.  And, I remembered everything I needed to bring to work, including earbuds and a book (which I always forget) that made the two hour-plus-long waits that bookend my work shift infinitely more enjoyable.

So, not perfect.  But without those lists?  So much worse.  I’d have been plagued with morning breath, dehydrated, stressed out, and bored, all before one pm.  I’d say Day One was a success, in that, the system works.  The system made my day objectively better.

And maybe it’s time to move on to more focused aspects of my life – specifically, my relationship with food and exercise.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a whole extensive history there – which, again, I will share eventually – that is not going to be suddenly resolved with schedules and checklists; internal struggles and issues that will take time and support to overcome.

But my usual pitfalls – not being able to “find time” to exercise, not having a plan for any given meal, not having healthy snacks on hand (whether I’m home or out and about), not looking at restaurant menus ahead of time to be informed of options – these are all things that can be, at the very least, helped with some thoughtful planning to create useful resources.

My first steps – I’m back at the gym, and I’m making a pick-and-pair chart for lunch and breakfast foods designed to maximize satiety and mindfulness, and minimize impulse binges on crappy foods.

Wish me luck.  I’ve now got an indication that this system is effective, so I’m hopeful.

Feel Good Friday/Friday Faves: July 14th, 2018

onnie & CaroleYes, yes, I know – it’s Saturday again.  I keep doing this.  This week, my excuse is that my whole schedule has gotten flipped upside down.  I spent a week out of work, and then had to adjust to a weird schedule of working only Tuesday and Thursday; we spent our Wednesday as a family out and about (which made it feel more like a Saturday), and to top it all off, my husband was covering a co-worker’s vacation and was working 2pm to 11pm instead of his usual 8am to 5pm.  So my whole week – and concept of time – has been thrown out of whack.

Here is what’s kept me grounded:

First, Wednesday was spent at Kimball Farm, which was a blast.  I hadn’t been there in several years (we did a community outing there during one of the other ESY programs I worked), and it really has something for everyone.  Bear got his first taste of mini-golf, he got to see some animals (and pet an alligator!), and spent some time earning tickets in the arcade.  He ended the day with a huge scoop of Orange-Pineapple ice cream.  I have a couple of small pics on Insta here.

Second, my sister spent hours online last night messaging me eBay links to long forgotten tech toys we had as kidsThe Teach-Me Reader and The Videosmarts Learning System to name a couple – and ended the evening by announcing that her 1984 Whiz Kid Toy Computer would be arriving on Thursday.  Seriously?  I still can’t believe she actually bought it, but I’d be lying if I pretended I wasn’t going to play with it.  I had one prior to first grade, and I loved it.  We can learn to spell together!

Third, Andy ordered me laminating sheets and I’m going crazy thinking of things I need to laminate.  All my checklists from my previous post have already gotten the treatment, and I’m busy designing both additional checklists and organizers for me, but also piecing together a preschool curriculum for Bear that we can get started, hopefully on Monday.  He’s looking forward to it, and so am I.  I plan on spending a big chunk of time after he turns in tonight getting some of those tasks completed.

Finally, the GISH registration has been extended and my team is starting to take shape (yeah, kind of late this year).  If you don’t know what GISH is, click the link or Google search its previous incarnation, GISHWHES.  It’s a massive multimedia international scavenger hunt interested in subversive art and acts of kindness.  This year it runs July 28th through August 4th.  I’m thrilled to see it brought back – we thought last year was the end!  – and am participating for the seventh year in a row.

That’s it for this week!  What’s kept you going through the week?

Preschool Shows that Don’t Drive Me Crazy

Guys, sometimes, I just want to sit.  That’s it. I want to sit and not have to do anything for an hour.  And I don’t care what your attitude is toward screen time, but come one – those are the moments television was made for.  

With a pre-schooler, though, I have to be careful what I put on.  We do have a small repertoire of “adult” shows that we can watch around Bear (we are very conscious of on-screen content (violence, sex), but are more lenient on curse words – if you want to know my philosophy about kids and cursing, here’s a great article on Scary Mommy that sums it up pretty well), but more often than not, it’s just easier to turn on a show for Bear and just veg out.  But man, some of those shows will drive you up a wall. Like, I literally watched one episode of Word Party and swore – out loud – “Never again!”

I’m always on the lookout for good shows for Bear that won’t drive Andy and I up a wall.  Here are some we’ve found so far, and if you have a favorite or two, please share with me in the comments below!

Peppa_PigPeppa Pig:  I was shocked – shocked, I tell you! – when I learned that Peppa Pig was a divisive show.  Some people think it’s cute and charming, and some people seem to think that the show (or at least Peppa) is obnoxious.*  Personally, I love how simple and linear the stories are, how they’re just small, simplified, slices of life that are easy for even the littlest kids to appreciate and  relate to. The animation and character design is very reminiscent of the drawings of young children (lines are always just a little hastily drawn, done in bright primaries, and heads attach directly to bulbous middles, with stick figure arms and legs), and the stories are very, very small (in both scope and length) and self contained (and minimally narrated), so that even the youngest viewers can follow them.

*Honestly, I find Peppa to be probably one of the more honest portrayals of a pre-schooler I’ve ever seen.  She’s not especially twee, she’s not incredibly precocious, and she’s mostly well-behaved with a bit of a bossy streak (if anything, maybe too well-behaved).  You want an obnoxious children’s show character? Watch Callilou. Lord. I never understood the Callilou hatred until I had reason to watch the show. He is obnoxious, shrill, and unbearable.

39b4ae343e1bd7c525491c1a99efa07b--school-tv-pre-schoolSarah & Duck:  This is a show from the BBC that we stumbled upon on Netflix, and it’s wonderful.  Sarah is a little girl who seemingly lives alone with her duck companion, Duck, in a quirky, pastel-shaded world of magical realism:  ordinarily mundane things like a trip to the park, visiting a neighbor, or buying bread are livened up by charmingly odd characters and idiosyncratic storylines: objects spontaneously gain sentience, neighbors live in houses constructed of knitted wool, noisy pipes take to being conducted like an orchestra, etc.  The animation and characters designs and unique and dreamlike, and when we first discovered it, Andy and I watched this show long after Bear had gone to bed.

pegcatPeg + Cat:  This one is a lot more blatantly “edu-tainment,” but that’s not necessarily a bad thing; honestly, Sesame Street is technically “edu-tainment,” and it’s a cultural touchstone.  Peg is a young girl who solves logic, math, and various mechanical problems using reasoning and trial and error, along with her pet cat, Cat, and an eclectic cast of characters (including Beethoven, Cleopatra, a pair of giants, and a opera-singing pig who loves triangles).  It’s quirky, has fun musical numbers, and can be surprisingly clever. I also love that Peg eschews feminine stereotypes (she enjoys and is good at math, etc.) and has moments of true gender-nonconformity (wear suits instead of dresses, etc). The show airs on PBS Kids and can be watched through their (free) app.

puffin-rockPuffin Rock:  Surprisingly educational and full of lovely Irish accents (including narration by Chris O’Dowd, who I have loved since The IT Crowd) and sweet stories, I love Puffin Rock for the same reason I like most of the shows on this list – it’s a nice break from the frantic, fast-paced media I feel like kids are confronted with all the time.  I mean, there’s a time and place for that stuff, I’m not “morally opposed” to it or anything, it’s just… nice to have a break from it. The stories are simple narratives with clear problems and solutions, and introduce and teach about a number of animals that are native to the region. The stories are about problem solving and friendship without being preachy or overly sentimental.  

truerainbowTrue and the Rainbow Kingdom:  This, I think, is also going to be divisive, but I think this show is a-freakin’-dorable.  The animation style is somewhere between Japanese “kawaii” design and an Emoji aesthetic, full of vibrant colors and cute creatures.  The show is a faster paced show and a lot more visually busy than many on the list, but it really is super, super cute, with fun songs and enjoyable characters.  True solves problems through the use of wishes, little creatures that serve very specific purposes according to her very specific needs, but really, she solves problems by taking a step back, clearing her mind, and talking through the problem at hand.  That’s nice. It’s a refreshing change of pace from the heros who charge ahead with no forethought and no plan, and I think it’s important that my son sees someone who makes it a point to center herself and reason through things before charging ahead.

What are your favorite shows to watch with your kids?  Old favorites, new finds?  Please let me know!