Sunday, 26 October 2014

Pink is a colour

"What's your favourite colour, Eleanor?" I ask.

"Pink," comes the reply.

(Actually, it's 'pint' because she can't pronounce k yet. But if I'd just typed that you'd have thought she'd misheard my question and assumed I was asking about her favourite unit of measurement.)

Anyway, back to the point.

'Favourite' is still a very fluid term for Eleanor so her 'favourite' colour changes on a daily basis. Today it's green. But pink does tend to be the one that comes up most regularly. And that bothers me.

But why does it bother me?

I'm not keen on pink personally. I have a distinct memory of saying my favourite colour was pink when I was little, but not really meaning it - I just thought that's what girls were supposed to say. When I got a bit older and developed more of a sense of self I moved onto green, then blue. (Interestingly, both of these colours are regular contenders for Eleanor's favourite.)

I mean, as colours go it's OK. I even own a few items of pink clothing. And actually it didn't really bother me until after Eleanor was born - her 0-3 months wardrobe was almost exclusively pink and white, mainly because most of her clothes were hand-me-downs or gifts from other people, but we did buy some pink items ourselves. She still has a fair amount of pink in her wardrobe, again by virtue of mostly wearing second hand clothes that came in big cheap bundles so I didn't have the heart (or the cash) to say, "actually, just the non-pink clothes, thanks."

But I often see a lot of resistance to pink, and I totally understand that. It has become synonymous with 'girly', which in turn has become synonymous with 'decorative, focussed on appearance, with a bit of a princess complex'. (I've dealt with my hatred of princesses before, and may one day have a big rant about how exactly 'girly' came to be associated with one narrow form of femininity, but that's a bit tangential.) And sometimes I feel a bit uncomfortable dressing Eleanor in pink. Especially when she seems to be starting to show a preference for it.

But why? It's just a colour. One of many.

And that's the crux of it, isn't it? It's one of many colours, so why is it so over-represented in clothes and toys intended for girls? And even more under-represented in clothes and toys aimed at boys? It's just a colour. Surely there should be just as many red, blue, green, yellow, brown, purple, turquoise toys and clothes, for both genders?

The second hand clothes thing is emblematic of the issue. Eleanor wears a lot of pink because I bought clothes from a few other mums whose daughters wore a lot of pink before her. And maybe they wore a lot of pink because if you walk into the girls section of any high street clothes shop there is a lot of pink. And maybe a lot of girls say pink is their favourite colour, but OF COURSE they will if they've been exposed to pink more than any other colour in their early years!

I remember about a year ago I was playing at the park with Eleanor. There was a woman playing with her grandson, and another boy in a salmon-coloured top. He was clearly a boy - his clothes were of a boyish cut, he had a boyish haircut. When the grandson nearly bumped into salmon-top-boy, the woman said, "Be careful of that little girl!"

"He's not a girl, he's a boy," replied grandson. And yet, just moments later when they nearly collided again (are toddlers magnetically drawn to each other? They do seem to crash into each other a lot) she said again, "Be careful of the little girl!" Consciously or subconsciously, she had taken issue with the notion of a boy wearing a top of a pinkish hue.

But why? Pink is just a colour.

This is why I wish retailers would offer more diversity of colours, so that children are given true choice and can decide what their favourite colour is without being swayed by their gender - or a social construct of their gender. If a girl likes pink, great. If a boy likes pink, great. If both reject pink for a fetching shade of teal, also great.

What are your feelings about pink? Or blue? Or any other colour, for that matter??!

(As an addendum to this, on Wednesday I took Eleanor to her playgroup and she dressed up in a blue Cinderella outfit. I cringed a bit at the Disney princess link, but cheered up when she told me she was sad that the dress had a pink trim and declared that her favourite colour is blue!)

Friday, 10 October 2014

Babywearing in Books - a post for #IntlBabywearingWeek

I've been meaning to write this post all week but a certain person is going through a nap-refusal phase! Anyway, I'm getting it in now before it's too late!

This week is International Babywearing Week. For those of you who haven't seen my guest post about my love of babywearing - and toddlerwearing - you can check it out here. But today I want to write about this love in relation to another love of mine - children's books!

It's hard to find images of babywearing in children's books because pushchairs, prams, buggies etc are so much the norm here. It's something that bugged me when Eleanor was younger as it was quite hard to find images she could relate to her own life - lots of prams and bottles, which were totally alien to her, but hardly any slings or boobs! Then last Christmas her godmother bought her a box set of Shirley Hughes books - and while reading Alfie's Feet I was delighted to see this picture:

OK, it's not a great representation of babywearing - how exactly is the baby not slumping out of the side? What's keeping the carrier up? But still, this is BABYWEARING! By a MAN! In a children's book from the EIGHTIES! Wow!

A few months later, my brother sent Eleanor a fantastic book called Around the World with Mouk by Marc Boutavant. It's a really bright, cartoon-style picture book which is fab for teaching - and learning - about different countries. And in the section about Burkina Faso (I know!) there's this cute little image of babyhippowearing:

Books about other countries and cultures tend to do well at showing babywearing, probably because it is so much more common in other parts of the world. Take these pictures from Mama Panya's Pancakes, a lovely story about Kenyan life:

Or there's these pictures from Off We Go To Mexico, a book which has made Eleanor desperate to visit the country:

Although it's great to see babywearing shown in other cultures (and it should be noted that the mother and baby in Off We Go To Mexico are tourists) I would love to see more books showing it in the UK. There is a growing popularity for slings and baby carriers and it would be great for babies who are carried to see more images they can relate to.

Do you know any other children's books feature babywearing?

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

A little victory

I'm feeling pretty proud of myself at the moment. To the point that I actually feel the need to write a whole blog post about it. (Egotist, much?)

This morning was challenging. We went to a playgroup. Eleanor is still potty training (that's 'still' pronounced with a laboured groan) and prone to accidents when we're out so I put her in training pants. Almost immediately upon our arrival she started doing her 'need the potty' dance (you all know the dance, right? Or is that just my child?) so I put her on our portable potty and she did the world's smallest number two. (Sorry, dear daughter, I'll delete this post before your friends are old enough to read it, I promise.) The little dances continued so we visited the potty FOUR TIMES to no avail, then eventually she went in her training pants.

Then when we left the group, which she'd been very good-humoured at, she realised she hadn't had chance to play dress up and promptly broke down. After about ten minutes of trying to calm her down and persuade her to walk home, I strapped her to my back (not ideal as I have major SPD pain today) and marched home. When I got home, already late, I was rushing to make lunch when Eleanor announced she wanted to play with glitter pens. I got them out and went to get the lunch things, then she demanded my assistance with said glitter pens. As I helped her to squeeze out the glitter, she announced that she'd done a wee. It was a big one. I peeled off the wet tights and training pants and was dashing around trying to find a laundry bag to put them in when I turned round and saw that she'd grabbed the cucumber off the table, where I had dumped it in order to help her with her flipping glitter pens, and she was trying to chew through the plastic wrapping.


A week ago I'd have shouted. I'd have REALLY shouted. I felt so stressed by this series of events and I just wanted Eleanor to stop being a nuisance while I got things sorted. And recently my method of getting her to stop being a nuisance has been shouting.

But I've been really frustrated with the amount of shouting I've done recently and I've been trying to stop myself this week. And today, when I was really feeling at the end of my tether, I did stop myself. I wasn't wholly calm, I did tell Eleanor how stressed I felt because I want her to know that people do get stressed and that's OK. But I was able to stop myself from losing it, get things sorted out and get lunch on the table without shouting.

That, to me, is a win. And it's one I'd like to celebrate.

Anyone else had a parenting win today?