Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wait- Who Said You Could Make Your Own Decisions? I Did? Well, I'm An Idiot...

Saturday morning found Kaia and I having our usual debate about whether or not she would come to the grocery store with me. I swear, by the way she reacts whenever I ask, “Are you going to come to the grocery store with me?” you would think that “Grocery Store” was the euphemism that we use whenever we are secretly taking her for shots or something.

You may be wondering why I am so desperate to take a 4-year-old out to the grocery store, especially a 4-year-old who has been known to publically embarrass us on one or two occasions. There are several answers to that, the first being that the drive to the store takes over 30 minutes (Jakarta is a huge city, and yes, I drive to the other side of town to shop at the grocery store that is geared towards expats. Whatever. I like my fancy olive oil and my gourmet cheese, deal with it.) and is rendered painfully boring due to my cursed inability to read in vehicles without feeling the urge to vomit within minutes.

The second reason is that Jabiz gets up with the kids on Saturday mornings, and I swear that even farmers don’t wake up as early as our kids. Seriously, there are few things worse than dragging yourself out of bed before the sun has even thought about coming up on a WEEKEND. I have to yank my kids out of bed kicking and screaming (literally) during the week, but on the two days when they can actually sleep as late as they want to, they decide that complete darkness is the new morning sunlight. Anyway, when Kaia comes to the grocery store with me, Jabiz is able to go back to bed for a bit while Skye takes her nap. If Kaia doesn’t come with me…well, let’s just say that there is no napping to be had, no matter how many times you explain that Daddy is reeeeeeeeeeeeally tired and just needs half an hour of quiet time to get some sleep, for the love of god. No matter how many times you BEG for her to just go in the playroom and color for a little while. No mater how many times you threaten to take away her afternoon treat if she doesn’t. None of this matters, because you will still (STILL!) be woken up by requests for juice, or to find the scissors, or to go upstairs and help her get something out of her closet….I'm serious, the list of requests is endless. End. Less.

Lastly, I feel a strong, compulsive need to expose my kids to the mundane, everyday things that they would be exposed to if we lived in the US, even though we live overseas. I don’t want them to grow up never having been to the grocery store, or not realizing that mommies and daddies cook, or not knowing how to make a bed. I admit that this thinking is probably brought on by the Midwest girl that still lives inside me, but I run my own errands, and gosh darn it, my kids will, too!

Anyway, I want her to come shopping with me, yadda yadda yadda, and as a result, I have resorted to bribing her to come. I am not proud of that fact, but a few innocent weeks of my request for companionship followed by, “We can stop at the bookstore after!” and “Hey- afterward, we can go and get some hot chocolate!” have come back to bite me, because my precious daughter is very, very smart and has therefore figured out that saying yes to me straight away is counterproductive, as it does not result in her coming home with a belly full of chocolate or a bag with a new book in it.

Last Saturday was no different, as our apr├Ęs-grocery expedition ended (yet again) at the bookstore. Now, I love going to the bookstore. I REALLY, REALLY love going to the bookstore. I love taking my kids to the bookstore and watching them look at books and choose which ones they find appealing. I am one of those people who believes that buying your kids as many books as your bank account comfortably allows is not spoiling them (and living overseas, we don’t have neighborhood public libraries. If we did, I might feel differently about purchasing so many books for the kids. However, we don’t, so off to the bookstore we go!), but enriching them. Up until recently, Kaia has been pretty good about choosing books that I think are both beautiful and educational. She has also been pretty good about being influenced by MY opinion of what is beautiful and educational!

However, the past few times we’ve gone to the bookstore have ended with conversations such as the following:

Me: OK, Kaia, you can pick one book that you want to get. Aaaaaaaaaany book you want! (Steering her towards the chapter books and artistically illustrated section)

Kaia: I want this Disney princess book.

Me: Disney Princess? Really? Wouldn’t you rather have this one? It’s about a girl named Pinkalicious, who is teased for liking pink, but she stands up for herself, anyway, and doesn’t care what the other kids say. Doesn’t THAT sound like a good book?

Kaia: No, I want the Disney Princess book.

Me: But you love pink, too! And this one teaches you a really, really good lesson about being your own person and not caring what other kids say.

Kaia: That’s nice, but I want the Disney princess book.

Me: OK…this one is about some kids who travel all over the world and learn about new things. Doesn’t that sound interesting?

Kaia: No, the Disney princess book sounds interesting.

Me: Well, what if you could get the Pinkalicious book AND the book about the traveling kids?

Kaia: Can I get the Disney princess book, too?

Me: Well, no.

Kaia: Then I just want the Disney princess book.

This is when I realize that encouraging my kids to figure out what they like and pick out their own stuff kind of sucks. Not that there is anything (much) wrong with her Disney princess obsession, though I admit that I am not thrilled about it. I’d just like to limit it to costumes and dolls and leave it out of our literature selection.

But I had a choice to make- I could stand there and keep trying to convince her that what she wanted was wrong and do god-only-knows-what damage to her fragile self-esteem, or I could give in and buy the damn princess book. After all, I’d told her that she could get any book that she picked out, NOT any book that she picked out, pending my approval.

So what did I do? I’m not going to lie to you all- I bought the princess book AND Pinkalicious. I couldn’t help it. I will try and let my kids develop their own preferences, but I will also continue to subtly try and exude a little, tiny bit of influence over them. I’m their mother, after all- that’s what I’m here for!

What are some things that YOUR kids like that drive you crazy?


  1. Oh brother here we go again with the Disney debate. We have had it before here, so I will keep it brief. I understand letting kids make decisions, but at some point, I feel, you have to guide and steer (control) some aspects of their choices.

    Before, I continue, let me say how impressed I am by the books we (really you) have chosen for Kaia. Her library is epic, so a few Disney pulp fictions titles is not the end of the world.

    But as her parents, I feel it is our responsibility to help her avoid things that are bad for her. Now we can debate for years, what those things are and who decides, but we do it all the time. We don't let her drink coffee or watch extremely violence, because we feel these things would damage her growth.

    I just feel that this obsession with Disney, while it may be "healthy" and "normal" is dangerous for her. I want to keep her away from it if we can.

    I agree that giving in to a few dolls is okay, but where do we draw the line? Curtains, bedspread, books? We are her parents and at the end of the end of the day we set the boundaries.

    Maybe I am the asshole but she knows that I do not let her get those books when we go out.

    Great conversation. Is it weird that we are publicly blogging our parenting strategies? Maybe, but I am curious what others add.

  2. Oh I am so glad to read @mairinraisdana's parenting tale. From twitter and parenting blogs, I was pretty much certain that everyone had this parenting thing figured out and I was a complete idiot for the way I handled (and still handle) everything.
    I can COMPLETELY relate. My daughter is now 11, but when she was 4 the princess fad was in FULL swing. It was everywhere. Limiting exposure to disney was like preventing exposure to air. Most other parents treated me like I was some kind of monster when I refused access to Disney. My daughter's father felt we should let her watch all the movies, read the books because it is her culture and she would be an odd ball if we didn't let her explore those things like her peers.
    The only way I could cope was to counter every single Disney story with the original stories: Grimm, Hans Christen Anderson, ad nauseum. Those versions are not so sweet and light. The result: she now has a fascination with the dark side of stories. Did I do the right thing? Who knows.
    My biggest realization with parenting is that although I helped create this wonderful small thing of beauty: she has her own mind, is her own person and own opinions. There's only so much influence I can assert.

    Thank you for writing about this so honestly. At the end of the day, we do the best we can.

  3. So, good work Mairin. For what it's worth, I think you did the right thing. I for one, am treasuring this time. Disney, the corportation sucks- We all know that. However, our little girls dressed up and twirling doesnt. Morgan dangling off the end of the bed so her hair will look like "papunzle" is priceless and this too shall pass. I for one, am taking my kids to Disney world next summer. I love it. I stop thinking about the money grubbing, trickery, and disguistiness that is the consumer driven life that IS disney and I'm that kid who saved coins in a jar for a whole summer to help pay for our trip. Waiting in line and planning our path around the park is FUN for me. Everything doesn't have to be deep and meaningful. Somethings things can just be fun and silly..... Some things. I'm not giving in to brats or toy guns... just saying. I love you Raisdanas! If you want to go to Disney next summer, you're in! We're already planning now!
    p.s. check out my sisters recent Disney experience.... pretty fun!

  4. I'm wondering how you guys feel about Disney World/Land??? Have you told the girls it exists? If you were back in LA with a day of spare time, would you dare go? Oliver is not quite in the same interest bracket as your girls, but now at 10 weeks, his favorite thing is his stim mobile which we've hung over his changing table. I could SWEAR the picture that interests him the most and consistently makes him smile and giggle is the CAR (I test this by moving the car to different places on the mobile and he KEEPS going back to it! He makes smiley faces at it! I am so out of the "boy things" (I know, I know, I'm perpetuating here...) loop that I admit it makes me a little scared-- do I REALLY have a childhood of cars and trucks and getting as dirty as possible because you can ahead of me? I am so curious about how all these interests come about, how much of them are socialized and how our little ones learn what they love.

  5. I don't want to hijack this thread; I have said much of want I want to say in the link I shared above. , But Melanie I do think that much of what kids learn is socialized, and I think Disney and other corps spend a lot of time, energy, and money on dominating that experience. This is what scares me.

    Kat, we have to agree to disagree on some things I guess. I think Disney and the image they portray is worse than just their consumerism. I don't like how at 4 Kaia associate much of her self worth in the fact that she is "pretty." I know this is a phase, and I hope I can help it pass, but in the meantime it sucks to have her come home and tell us that her friends are telling her she doesn't look enough like "Belle." WTF? She is 4. But then again, I see everything as deep and meaningful; it's a disease.

    But I wasn't going to hijack. What do my kids do that drive me crazy?

    Not eat their food....that one is a tough one for me.

  6. Mairin, I doubt you know this (although I suspect Jabiz does) but I am a huge Disney fan. I love the movies, the parks,the music (although I will admit most of the books are pretty vapid). I would say that Jabiz and I are probably perfect opposites on many things. I don't think very deeply about Disney, it is simply, to me, entertainment.

    While I do believe media and culture have a lot of influence on what we value (or at least perceive value in), I bet my beliefs and attitudes are much more likely to be reflected in my kids beliefs. If I tell them that they are pretty, will that keep others from hurting them when they say they are ugly? Of course not, but they know I think they are pretty. Guess which one will mean something in 15 years?

    I have no problem with your taking a stand against commercialism and corporate created social belief structures. In fact I encourage you to do so if that is where your focus is. Someone needs to keep an eye on them.

    I would also say that like Jabiz I have no trouble telling my girls no when I want to. I have had my share of experiences where they have created public scenes that would embarrass anybody. When my oldest daughter (now 20!) was five I carried her kicking and screaming out of Shoney's while she screamed, "Don't spank me" at the top of her lungs. We were all the way in the back when she started..... We sat in the car for an hour waiting for the rest of the family to finish their meal (and no I did not spank her, I was way too mad to do that). She and I still talk about it to this day. The embarrassment I felt was very short lived, but the message I sent to her lasted a long time.

    Sorry about my writing a novella...

  7. Oh, yes, Kaia DOES know that Disneyland exists, and I am not going to lie- I WILL take my kids there as soon as we have the opportunity. In fact, we are contemplating a trip to Hong Kong Disney next Spring Break. That may sound hypocritical, but there are a few reasons for this:

    1.) It is an awesome amusement park, and we love amusement parks.

    2.) There is cool stuff there! I have seen the pics, I've heard about it from friends who have been there, and it sounds amazing.

    3.) It will make my kids supremely happy, and I enjoy doing things that make my kids happy, for a few days. Going to Disneyland is a once every few years kind of thing, so I don't have a big problem with it. It's not like if we go once, we'll be spending every holiday there.

    I don't have a huge issue with Disney, I just have more of an issue with the Disney princesses of days gone by. I know they are classics and all, but they just seem like such crap with horrible messages to me (Why are the mothers always dead? Why are the stepmothers always evil? Why are the wicked witches always SO jealous of pretty girls? Why are they always trying to KILL the pretty girls? Why are they always sitting around waiting for princes/kisses to save them? I could go on...). I love The Princess and The Frog, as well as Rapunzel. I feel like they are more modern, stronger versions of the princess genre.

    I also feel like the Disney Princess theme has taken over the planet! Everywhere you look, there is something with their faces plastered all over it, and I am just not a huge fan of having everything with a character on it. I think Disney stuff can be a slippery slope- you give in to a few things and the next thing you know, your kids want EVERYTHING with it.

    So, I will continue to walk the line between steering my kids towards things that I think will be a positive influence in their lives, and the things that they want that I am not crazy about. I think that if I just maintain that balance, all of it will work out in the end.

    But we will be rejoining this conversation again very soon, because Kaia has made it very, very clear that she really, really, REALLY wants a Barbie for her birthday!

  8. I have loved reading this discussion!
    There are things about Disney I love and things I absolutely hate!! However at the end of the day, it was my daughters face as she went on the rides, watched the fireworks and hugged the princesses that brought me the most joy! Yes it's true, that damn Disney formula is sort of sickening! Shame on them for studying the development of kids and using it to their benefit (kids 4-11 who have never even heard of Disney or the princess stories will still play pretend by being orphans, or having a trial they overcome, and what child doesn't want to be beautiful)-but sheesh people have taken the princess phase way OVERBOARD!!
    I don't know if you heard Rapunzel will be the last Disney Princess so hopefully you won't have the same stress with Sky-it will be something else! Good Luck!